'Sapphire Clarity Grading | Sapphire Education'
What is Sapphire Clarity
Sapphires are mined in locations around the world and are a unique gemstone in that they are available in a rainbow of colors. Heat, minerals and very specific natural conditions come together to facilitate the formation of a sapphire. Each natural sapphire has a unique look due to color varieties, types of positioning of inclusions. Heavily included sapphires can look less beautiful than those that have minimal clarity inclusions. Oftentimes, these types of sapphires are both rare and expensive. Typically sapphires have better clarity than rubies although both are formed of a similar mineral structure. When evaluating sapphires, the size, location, and look of the inclusion is taken into account. These inclusions can also impact the visibility of the gemstone's color. Learn more about sapphire color.
Types of Inclusions in Natural Sapphires
A variety of different inclusions can form within a natural sapphire. Each has different implications on the gemstone's visibility and sparkle or light performance. Inclusions can typically be seen with the naked eye, while others can be seen with a 10x microscope.
These are long and thin mineral inclusions. Often times, these needles occur in groups and look like striations in the gemstone. In this way, they are called silk as they intersect with each other. They have a silky looking whitish texture. Sometimes they can be clear or see through as well.
These are light or dark crystals that are trapped within the gemstone. When small they do not very negatively affect the look of the sapphire, but it is important to avoid sapphires that have large crystal inclusions. White crystals are more desirable because the sapphire's color can mask them. Dark or black crystals can dull the color of the sapphire, making it look opaque.
These smaller inclusions have the look of wisp or feather and are typically whitish in color. They can impact the structural integrity of the sapphire if the size is large or open. They break the surface of the sapphire. Feathers are typically microscopic, thin breaks in the sapphire. They offten have little impact on the color and visibility of the sapphire.
These are quite common in sapphires. The inclusions are clustered together and look like small human fingerprints. Because the inclusions are small, they are less likely to impact the quality of the sapphire. Only if they fill the sapphire up, then you can have issues with the light perfomance and blue hue.
Most sapphires are primarily blue but do have other secondary colors. Uneven colors is when the color does not look uniform across the surface of the sapphire. Inclusions can often cause color zoning making portions of the sapphire look white. Color zoning is also something impacted by the cutting of the sapphire. Cutters try to preserve the blue hue and tone to make the color even.
Sapphires are typically graded on a letter scale with AAA being the best and ranging down. With Clarity uses only AAA graded sapphires. These are the top 5% of natural rubisapphirees that are available. They have minimal eye-visible inclusions and a beautiful transparency. Because of this, they are also structurally sound and durable, making them easy to work with. It also ensures that light can reflect through the sapphire and both the color and the sparkle of the gem can shine through. AAA sapphire have the perfect blend of color, clarity and cut and are the perfect quality for use in any kind of jewelry. Avoid lower grade sapphire as they can be opaque, included and lifeless.
Clarity Enhancing Treatments
Untreated sapphires are the most rare and expensive types. They are less than 1% off all the sapphires that are found in the world.
Heated Sapphires: Sapphires are heat treated to improve both their color and clarity. Heat treatment is a natural process that is similar to the intense heat that sapphires experience while forming within the earth. No chemicals are a part of this process, and no foreign materials enter the sapphire. The improvement in clarity and color for the sapphire is permanent. As this is a natural treatment, it is widely accepted and used for sapphires used in jewelry.
Beryllium Treatment: This is a process involving beryllium which are introduced to the sapphire and penetrate it. Through this treatment, the color of the sapphire is enhanced and saturated further. It can be used to intensify the colors of orange, yellow and other lower-grade sapphires. With Clarity does not use any sapphires that have been beryllium treated.
Surface Diffusion: In this treatment titanium is used to coat the sapphire so that the color and the brilliance is enhanced. The treatment does not penetrate as deeply as the beryllium treatment. Repolishing the stone later may remove part of the chemical enhancement and lighten the color. With Clarity does not use any sapphires that have surface diffusion treatments.
Cavity Filling: In this treatment, cobalt infused glass is used to fill cracks and fissures that are from the top of the sapphire through within it. The glass fills the cavities in the sapphire and the cobalt retains the blue of the sapphire. With Clarity does not use any sapphires that are created by filling cavities as these treatments can be non-permanent and introduce foreign materials into the natural sapphire.
With Clarity sapphires are hand-picked to have the optimal quality of clarity, color and sparkle. The only treatment they undergo as do 99% of sapphires is heat treatment. This is natural and permanently enhances the color and clarity of the sapphire.
While looking for a good quality sapphire, check that it has no inclusions that can be seen with the naked eye. The less visible the inclusions are, the better and higher the grade of the sapphire is.
Sapphires are quality checked and graded depending on the inclusions which can typically be seen with the naked eye or under a 10x microscope. The size, location, and look of the inclusion are what will affect the final evaluation of the stone.
Sapphire is a precious gemstone that is second to diamonds in terms of durability. Not only are sapphires mined, but they can also be grown inside a laboratory. While the popular version is a blue color, sapphires can also be found in pink, yellow, green, and purple.
Sapphires can be purchased from $25 per carat to over $11,000 per carat depending on many factors, preferences, and budgets. Blue sapphires around the 1-carat mark can also range in price, so you can look at shelling out anywhere between $450 to $1500 depending on the quality.
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