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This guide defines the fiveessential characteristics of gemstone quality. By understanding thesecharacteristics, you'll be able to shop with confidence. Print this helpfulinformation and take it with you shopping so you can make the best choice on abeautiful piece of gemstone jewelry.

Color

The jewelry industry recognizes the highestquality gemstones by purity of their hue, the depth of tone, and the colorsaturation. The best value is in colors that include "slight" tracesof other colors, are not too light or dark, and have a lot of saturated color.Blue Nile offers some of the highest-quality colored gemstones available.Nearly all gemstones today, including Blue Nile stones, have been treated toenhance their color. The most common methods of treatment are heating, nearlyalways seen with aquamarine, citrine, amethyst, sapphire, ruby and tanzanite,bleaching commonly seen with pearls, and irradiation performed on nearly allblue topaz.

Clarity

Almost all gemstones contain inclusions. Eventhose most highly prized have at least some inclusions. Flawless gemstones arevery rare and very expensive. The best value is found in gems that are lightlyto moderately included, like those in Blue Nile gemstone jewelry. Emeralds aretypically treated with colorless oil, wax or resin to minimize surface-reachinginclusions.

Cut

Unlike diamonds, with gemstones there isn'tan "ideal" cut geometrically configured for maximum brilliance. But ahigh-quality gemstone cut is one that presents the most even color, exposes thefewest inclusions, and displays the majority of the gemstone weight when set in jewelry.

Size

The carat weight of a gemstone is notnecessarily an accurate gauge for gemstone size. To help you judge the size ofa gemstone, Blue Nile lists the diameter of the gemstone when viewed from above- since if the gemstone is set in jewelry; this is the only part of thegemstone that is visible.

Enhancements

Nearly all gemstones on the market,including gemstones offered by Blue Nile, have been treated to enhance theirappearance. Gemstones that have not been treated but exhibit desirable colorand clarity command extravagant prices. Some enhancement treatments are almostuniversal, are permanent, and require no special care of the gemstone, such asheat treatment to enhance color. Other treatments are common, and may requiremore or less special care to avoid damage, such as infusion of colorless oil,wax or resin to improve clarity.