Gemstone Grading

Gemstone Grading
by Doreen, Manager, Product Management Group and Dev, Expert Gemologist
Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

Our buyers are experts in the field with years of accumulated training and maintain ongoing training of industry standards and availability of gemstone materials. This article is offered to create an understanding of the intricacies of gemstone beads grading and an assurance of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' diligence in grading, identification and enhancements on your behalf.

Below are the general attributes we seek when determining the grade of a bead.

1. Identification:
The identification is always the first determining factor. Many gemstones, including amber, have peculiar traits that make them beautiful. Although there are A grades of gemstone beads, the largest and best-quality gemstones are generally used for faceted gems in the high-end jewelry industry. Bead cutters will "high-grade" the rough and use the better materials to cut the A grades, and according to the stone variety separate into the B and C grades, and so on.
Identifying Gemstones

Identifying Gemstones 2. Color:
We look for the saturation of color according to the gemstone being examined, by grading the color based on the highest standard for that particular gemstone. For example, with amethyst, depending on the country of origin the color will vary. The color saturation can be dark, medium or light. The optimum color for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads amethyst is a vibrant, rich deep purple, but not overly dark. Untreated stones are graded higher because of their untreated state.

3. Clarity:
This is based on the gemstone's natural characteristics. Different species and their varieties have certain natural inclusions (or are inclusion free). For example, emerald (Beryl Specie) will most always have some inclusions whereas,
aquamarine, also from Beryl Specie, can be inclusion free, so grading is based on the absence of, or the heaviness of inclusions depending on varieties of different species. Another example, best-grade smoky quartz (Quartz Specie) can be inclusion free whereas best grade citrine and amethyst will almost always have minor inclusions. Again, the better grades will have brilliant, evenly distributed color, good cutting and fewer inclusions. Opaque stones will generally be graded higher with a rich saturation, or good contrast of color depending on the stone variety. For example, a better grade bloodstone (Chalcedony Specie) will be semitranslucent to opaque dark green with spots of brownish red to red. Fire Mountain Gems and Beads offers many books and our EncycloBEADia® to reference stone types with their traits and even Metaphysical properties.

4. Cut:
Is it faceted or smooth?

Faceting adds sparkle to translucent and opaque gems, and is generally performed on the better grades and harder materials. Fire Mountain Gems and Beads carries two types of faceted gems; machine and hand-faceted. On the best grades of machine-faceted beads, the cutting will be precise, uniform, well-polished and well-drilled. The smaller the facets the more reflective brilliance a bead will have. Because of the human element added to hand-faceted, hand-polished (handwrought) beads, the facets still provide light reflection and sparkle, however the beads will be less uniform in shape and facets. This adds allure to a handwrought finished product. Because most handwrought beads are originally sold by carat weight, you will note the drill holes are usually small to keep as much finished weight as possible. Fire Mountain offers expert stringing materials for all types of faceted and smooth beads.
Identifying Gemstones

The best grades of smooth beads should have a high-luster polish and a smooth surface, free of pitting, voids or surface imperfections (unless a characteristic of the natural material).

The grading of gemstone beads has its own set of standards different from high-end faceted gems. Because there are few regulatory standards on gemstone beads, Fire Mountain Gems and Beads has developed our own, and employs three on-site Graduate Gemologists (GIA--USA) to ensure accurate standards of grading and authentication of our gemstone materials. Fire Mountain Gems and Beads is a charter member of AGTA (American Gem Trade Association) and adheres to their standards for enhancement codes for all gemstones.

You will see a grade designation in descriptions of gemstone beads. When shopping on either the website or in the catalog, grade designations are included with the gemstone descriptions, Mohs hardness classification and other information relevant to that specific stone.

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