Amethyst Clarity: What’s Pleasing to the Eye
If you’re thinking about buying an amethyst gem, chances are, you wonder how to get the best quality for your money. After all, stores carry a dizzying array of amethyst rings gold, as well as earrings and necklaces. How do you choose your perfect stone? Here’s a quick guide to amethyst clarity, which should help you understand the value of your potential purchase.
As its name suggests, the clarity of a gemstone is determined based on what inclusions it has. In other words, how “clear” does it appear to be under different conditions. For diamonds, clarity is very strict: because even small inclusions can detract from the sparkle of the cut gem. In the diamond trade, prices are heavily influenced by this clarity grade, and buyers hoping for a bargain will often purchase a stone with less clarity.
Colored gems are different, and the extent to which a gemstone can have visible inclusions without losing significant value is quite different depending on the type of gem. Rubies and emeralds tend to have a lot of inclusions, while amethysts and aquamarines are typically clear.
Clarity and Amethyst Value
Generally speaking, faceted amethysts are what gemologists and jewelers call “eye clean.” This means that when looked at without magnification, the amethyst doesn’t have any visible inclusions. That’s why amethysts are usually cut to eliminate most of the inclusions that exist in a crystal when there’s a reasonable chance of doing so. Then, the resulting gem is made into amethyst jewelry. Within the “eye clean” category, the darker stones are the most valuable.
Of course, a light-colored stone with good clarity is also an attractive gemstone for amethyst jewelry. The trouble is, for these gems to be valuable they have to be cleaner than the darker gems. Remember, with amethysts the value is in how clean it looks, not how clean it is. That’s probably the biggest reason why deep purple amethysts tend to be more valuable.
Amethyst that’s included enough that a gem cutter can’t reasonably increase the clarity is often used for other purposes. For instance, amethyst beads can be cut out of what people call “amethyst quartz,” which is layers of amethyst with white quartz in the middle of it. These beads are lovely for costume jewelry, but wouldn’t be considered good enough for fine jewelry. Another alternative is cutting an included amethyst into cabochons, polished and shaped gems that can bring out the beauty of a lesser-quality stone.
Types of Amethyst Inclusions
While it’s easy to say that an amethyst gem should be eye clean, it’s also interesting to know what kinds of inclusions can occur in amethyst crystals. After all, some of them are unique and beautiful in their own right, even if you wouldn’t make this type of material into a rose gold amethyst ring.
Also called fingerprints, feathers in amethyst are an inclusion of clear liquid. Generally, they look like fine lines or feathers, hence the name. These are one of the more common inclusions in amethyst, and they tend to allow light through the crystal. In other words, feathers don’t really make a stone “opaque” unless there’s a large number of them.
Fairly frequently, an amethyst crystal will “run into” another, smaller crystal while it’s growing. Typically, that other crystal was there first, but quartz, in general, has a way of growing around other minerals. Crystal inclusions will usually look like a spot of another color inside the stone, and are identified by the crystalline structure of the inclusion.
Another common inclusion, needles can be larger and distinct, or smaller and look like silk. Some stones, such as rubies and sapphires, have a whole bunch of needles arranged in such a way that they form a star. In amethyst, these generally make the gem opaque and lower in value. However, deeply colored amethyst gemstones with needles are beautifully made into carvings or cabochons.
These are less common inclusions that often occur in synthetic amethyst. As the name suggests, they’re basically small pieces of dust or dirt that get trapped in the amethyst crystal as it grows. In synthetic gems, they’re often the “seed” used to grow the lab amethyst crystal.
If an amethyst gemstone has a “pit” in it that wasn’t removed by polishing, and which opens to the surface of the gem, it’s called an “indented natural” inclusion. Essentially, this is a sign that the cutter was maximizing finished gemstone size.
Similar to the indented natural, a cavity is formed when another type of inclusion falls out during cutting and polishing. These are problems that happen even when a gem cutter is being careful. Amethyst rings white gold might have them hidden behind a prong, making them hard to see.
These are long and thin spaces in the amethyst crystal that look like drill holes. It’s difficult to remove these by cutting and polishing, and they make the stone weaker.
Amethyst Clarity Scale
Although there isn’t a set clarity scale for all colored gems, as a rule, they are rated on a scale from AAAA to B. AAAA stones are untreated and eye clean, with deep amethyst color. AAA fits the same description, except that they may be heat treated for increased clarity. This process doesn’t harm the stone in any way.
AA amethysts are less than eye-clean, having a small number of visible inclusions. They are sometimes less intense in their color, as well. A and B grade amethysts have significant inclusions and are increasingly lighter in color.
Generally, grades AAAA through AA is considered suitable for facets, especially if an AA stone is a deep purple.
At With Clarity, we only use AAA stones. These are the finest in terms of clarity, and deep purple. However, unlike their AAAA counterparts, they’ve been subjected to heat treatment. Heat treatment is applied to all but the finest quality amethyst rough, and untreated stones are extremely expensive. For that reason, you can be sure that an amethyst engagement ring we sell is top quality. So are amethyst wedding rings.
Questions? Our experienced gemologists are ready to help you select the perfect amethyst jewelry.