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Differences between the GIA and the AGL clarity grades


The GIA clarity grades:
VVS – (Very, very slightly included). Minor inclusions somewhat easy to see under 10X magnification. Usually invisible to the unaided eye.
VS – (Very slightly included). Noticeable inclusions, very easy to see under 10X, sometimes visible to the unaided eye.
SI1-2 – (Slightly included). Obvious inclusions, large and/or numerous under 10X. Usually easy to see with the unaided eye.
I1 – (Imperfect). Moderate effect on appearance or durability.
I2 – Severe effect on appearance or durability.
I3 – Severe effect on both appearance and durability.
Del – (Declass). Stone not transparent.

The AGL clarity grades:
FI – Free of inclusions with the unaided eye.
LI1-2 – Lightly included with the unaided eye.
MI1-2 – Moderately included with the unaided eye.
HI1-2 – Heavily included with the unaided eye. Inclusions are obvious.
EL1-3 – Excessively included. Severe effect on beauty, transparency, and/or durability.

If you are familiar with diamonds clarity grades, you might be surprised at how much lower the grading standards are for colored stones. The GIA and AGL systems don’t even have a separate grade for colored stones that are flawless under 10 power magnification. That’s because although diamonds can be flawless or near flawless, but most colored stones are not. Also, unlike diamonds, a flawless colored stone does not command a higher price than the next grade (VVS or FI). In fact, it may be less desirable due to the importance of inclusions in determining if stones are natural or synthetic. When you shop for rubies and sapphires, do not expect the same degree of clarity as you would for a diamond.

You don’t need to memorize the above definition. Just use them as a reference and notice the ways the jewelry trade categorizes gems so that you’ll understand price differences. When you judge clarity, also keep in mind that grades can be misleading. In spite of the fact that the GIA diamond grading scale is used internationally, some salespeople may, for example, misgrade an SI2 diamonds as a VS2.

Clarity gardening for colored stones can be even more misleading because there is no one accepted system. There are many grading scales and even the grades used in them can be deceptive. For example, a store might use a system range from AAAAA to A with A being equivalent to a GIA I3 or an AGL E2.

Instead of asking jewelry salespeople the clarity grade of a colored stone, you might ask them how its clarity compares to other stones of the same gem type in the store.  

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