How to Grade Gemstone Bead CutGemstone beads almost have as many different style cuts as gemstone and material variety. Variations on cuts are common, and to a beginner a similar style of cut on a cheap bead will look very similar to a bead commanding 10 times the price. So where to begin?The first thing is to be aware that gemstone beads are almost universally made from gemstone material that is considered too flawed to be cut into loose cut gemstones, or it is material left over after cutting a gemstone.
Only exceptional top grade briolette beads will be gem quality. Because of the lower grade gemstone quality, looking for windows, crown and pavilion proportions and all the usual criteria for judging a gemstone do not apply.
When looking at faceted beads the predominating value factor is the sharpness of the facets. What you ideally want is sharp, precise facets, or uniform precision, even size and spacing. Facets like these on transparent stones like topaz, quartz varieties, sapphire etc will make you beads SPARKLE.
As we are discussing grading the cut of beads, you will generally be looking at more than one bead. Therefore uniformity of bead size and shape is also very important to consider. Perfectly matched faceted gemstone beads pairs are a rarity involving a lot of skills, therefore be prepared to pay for it. Once again this is generally seen in the higher end of gemstone beads.
Not all beads are faceted. There are all manners of smooth rondelles, smooth briolettes, smooth nuggets etc. The key with smooth gemstone beads is look for the absence of visible polishing marks, and again bead uniformity. High end smooth gemstone beads are usually comprised of topaz and quartz varieties (amethyst, prasiolite, citrine..) and come paired not only with impeccable polishing but outstanding eye clean gem quality and colour…be prepared to be pay extra for these ones too.
Another key note is bead holes. Look out for crooked holes that vary in size from one side to the other or are drilled at odd angles. These will also bring a bead value down depending on how poorly drilled they are.
As a general rule of thumb, grades are as follows (this is the scale we judge our beads on…..most other suppliers are exceptionally more lenient)
- AAAA Gemstone Cut – Outstanding lapidary workmanship, exceptionally rare to come across in gemstone beads
- AAA Gemstone Cut – Exceptional quality, facets are sharp, even and precise. Bead holes generally straight and even. We wish this was the standard for faceted beads. Or exceptionally smooth polishing with no visible polishing marks
- AA Gemstone Cut – Good quality - sharp and even facets, some small variability in facet sizes. Bead holes generally even but sometimes not straight.
- A Gemstone Cut – Nice faceting, but facets could be sharper and more even. Bead holes may vary a little
- AB Gemstone Cut – Faceting still nice but average sharpness and variability in size and precision. Bead holes variable.
- B Gemstone Cut – Poorer quality faceting, facets appear soft, rough and are exceptionally uneven. Bead holes variable.
Difference between low and high grade rondelle cuts. Note the poor uniformity of poorer quality beads and the “softness” of the facets.