The Difference Between Natural and Synthetic Gemstones
Natural gemstones are truly unique masterpieces of nature. Each one is unique, and whilst some of them may be ‘enhanced’ to bring out their best, when you own a natural gemstone, you own a unique piece created by millions of years of nature’s efforts.
It can be difficult, when making jewelry or gemstone purchases, particularly when terms are used to describe the origins of a gemstone that you might not quite understand. When we hear “synthetic”, particularly when it comes to jewelry, you may think the gemstone is fake or an imitation.
Synthetic gems are manufactured in labs whereas natural gems are mined. Commonly known as “man-made gems” or “cultured gems,” synthetic gems earned their name because they are scientifically created or “grown” in a “lab setting.”
The significant differences in the price of natural, synthetic, and imitation stones can easily turn what looks like a good deal into a costly overpriced purchase.
Know that it is natural to ask the seller about the origins of a gemstone and if there have been any treatments and enhancements. Should you ever have jewelry repaired in the future, this is information you need to give to your jeweler so they are aware of what they’re working with.
When we talk about a ‘natural gemstone’, we mean one that hasn’t been interfered with by mankind. If you’ve ever seen a show called Opal Hunters, you’ll know that the opals they find have been dug out of the ground/caves by the ‘hunters’. It’s not a stone that has been manufactured in a lab, which can sometimes be the case when we talk about ‘synthetic’ gemstones.
These stones can often look identical to their synthetic counterparts, which is why when you are purchasing one, it is vital to ask the jeweler/seller if it's natural or synthetic. Often the price can be a giveaway but unfortunately, there are not always honest people out there, and they may well be selling synthetic gemstones for the same price as what a natural gemstone would sell for to make more money.
What Are The Most Commonly Found Synthetic Gemstones?
Synthetic gemstones that are most often found include:
- Pearls - Up to 99% of the pearls currently on the market are cultured pearls. An x-ray is required to determine if pearls were formed naturally or cultured.
- Emeralds - These are widely available and immensely popular for their depth of color.
- Sapphires and rubies - These are widely popular and often found within the jewelry market. Synthetic Sapphires and Rubies offer vivid colors and Star sapphires are commonly found in synthetic form.
- Diamonds - Synthetic Diamonds are currently being manufactured, but the production cost is still very high, prohibiting them from being a viable less-expensive option than natural diamonds.
Other commonly used words for synthetic jewelry include cultivated, man-made or cultured.
What Are Synthetic Gems Normally Made Up Of?
Synthetic gemstones are generally made from plastics, glass, resin, and dyes, these substances are used to imitate the color, shape, or look of a natural gemstone.
Additionally, you may find glass and plastic cut and dyed to resemble natural gemstones ranging from sapphires to opals. These are called imitations because they, other than trying to mimic a color or similar characteristic, have no actual chemical similarity to the natural stone. Synthetics can often be had for a fraction of the cost of a naturally occurring gemstone.
But, here is where the confusion may lay when discussing natural and synthetic gemstones. Synthetic gemstones, while created in a lab, have the same chemical composition as natural ones. For instance, a diamond is made out of carbon.
The only difference between a natural diamond and a lab-created diamond is how that carbon was compressed into a gem, either by nature or by technology.
Knowing these differences will make you a more informed and discerning gemstone and jewelry buyer.
At the end of the day, it is totally up to you as the buyer what you may prefer. It may come down to price or some people prefer their gemstones to come from the earth. It could also depend on the aesthetics. The jewelry market provides a wide variety of options for you to choose from and gemstones are a wonderful piece to admire and wear.
In our store we like a mixture of high quality synthetic stones as well as the natural stones. Almost all of our pieces have natural obsidian for the eyes. Come and shop today and find the next piece of jewelry to adorn your collection.