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Tumbled Stones Meaning of the Grades

glass dish of unakite tumbled stones with more around the base. Pictured on a white background

Tumbled Stones What the Grades Mean

Collecting tumbled stones is a great way to build a large and varied collection of rocks and minerals without the need for a huge amount of space.

Although sometimes called tumbled gemstones this term is misleading.  The grade of material used to produce tumbled stones is never gem grade.

Tumbled stones are produced in huge quantities before being shipped around the world en masse. Being stored in large open containers means they're handled extensively before being purchased.

The grading system used for tumbled stones varies depending on where in the world they’ve been produced.  Triple A (AAA) is often used to describe the finest grade. It demonstrates a stone is a higher grade than AA which in turn is higher than A.

Many businesses prefer to just use A, B, C or D. I do occasionally use the term “AAA grade” if a stone is really exceptional but otherwise find A, B, C or D is sufficient.

Rocks and minerals tend to be graded according to richness or uniformity of colour and the presence of impurities and inclusions.  In translucent or transparent crystals clarity is also taken into consideration.

A tumbled stone with a lower grade is not necessarily any less beautiful than a AAA grade stone. It may just have a different appearance.  In many cases the characteristic that causes a stone to be a lower grade can make it even more striking.

We have prehnite tumbled stones in our collection that are sold as AAA grade because they're virtually inclusion free.  We also have prehnite that's classed as grade B because it's heavily included.

Although I like the grade A stone because of its colour, I also really like the grade B because it's far more distinctive and the inclusions make every piece unique.

A tumbled stone could be classed as grade D because it's heavily included, because of its colour or because of another natural imperfection.

Some stones such as rutilated and tourmalinated quartz and also star rubies and sapphires are graded according to the quality of their inclusions.  Material that's lightly included is likely to be given a lower grade.two photos of prehnite tumbled stones, the stones in one photo are inclusion free, in the second photo they're includedInclusions and anomalies in a rock or mineral offer a glimpse into its journey through time. A distinctive mark or different colour is a good indication of the presence of another mineral or substance.

Internal fractures and surface reaching fissures often occur the during the crystal's early formation.

Many retailers nowadays only want to sell the finest crystals and minerals.  I've seen countless websites that state "we only sell the finest grade stones". For many the thought of stocking something lower grade would be out of the question.

Not only are these materials not within everyone's budget but as you can see from this article, different grade stones exhibit different characteristics.

There's a common misconception especially amongst those who use crystals for their healing properties that only the finest grade tumbled stones are worth collecting.

It’s worth noting that if a crystal is being used for its healing properties grade is irrelevant.  The healing properties of malachite will be the same whether you’re using a AAA grade stone or a low grade piece that’s broken.

The late Judy Hall author of the hugely successful Crystal Bible books says a broken or damaged crystal will often be even more powerful.

Whilst the finest grade rocks and minerals can be very beautiful, never be put off because something is a lower grade.  Each piece carries its own unique charm and geological significance.

Embrace the diversity of rocks and minerals and appreciate the nuances.  Part of the beauty in nature is nothing is the same and nothing is perfect. 

Happy collecting!
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