Want to know about synthetic diamonds and gemstones?[Image]
You have come to the best place!
Here, you are going to get information about:
- History of natural vs. lab-created diamonds and gemstones
- Difference between natural and lab-grown diamonds and gems
- Merits and demerits of handmade jewelry
Ready to know if lab-created jewelry is worth it or not? Let’s jump right in![Table]
To start off, let’s discuss getting to know more about the synthetic gemstone industry.
Recently, the lab-created gemstone industry has gained ground, growing at almost 15% every year. The demand for striking pieces has grown to increase beyond that of natural stones.
Some people may not really think or even consider a lab-created gem, they may not be able to recognize the difference between a real gem and an artificial one, and only a trained eye can do it. There are several advantages of settling for an artificial gem including its cost and environmental friendliness.
The Difference between Lab-Created and Natural Gemstones
Gemstones manufactured in the lab are similar to natural gemstones when it comes to physical, chemical, and visual properties. An average person cannot easily see the difference between these two stones.
The best way to notice the difference between a real and an artificial stone is to look at the inclusions or impurities. Because of the controlled conditions in the lab, lab gems normally look clean to the eye; you will not find them having any cracks, clouds, or color changes.
Gemstones mined from the ground have blemishes resulting from the process of crystallizing. Minerals and gases mix in the molten stage making the stone appear cloudy. Someone who has worked with gemstones for a long period can notice natural blemishes that differentiate a lab stone from a mined one.[Image]
It is a norm for jewelers to come out clear about the kind of gemstone that was used to make a jewelry piece. They state whether it is real or lab-made. In the USA, the Federal Trade Commission makes it mandatory for jewelers to state whether they used lab-grown stones. It is considered deceptive practice if the origin of the gem is not stated.
Several other organizations regulate how lab gems are used in jewelry globally. Such organizations include the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICGA), the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA), and the World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO). All these agencies require their members to adhere to strict guidelines for labeling any lab-created gems.
Read Here: Difference between Lab and Real Diamonds
The History of Lab-Created Diamonds and Gemstones
Artificial diamonds and gems are not new in the jewelry market. The first-ever lab-created gemstone (ruby) was manufactured in the late nineteenth century. It was specifically made to be used in industries since it was tougher than steel and can do well in moving metallic parts.
In 1902, Auguste Verneuil pronounced the development of the flame-fusion process used to synthesize rubies. During the same period, a young boy called Carroll Chatham was also trying to create diamonds in his back garage. Works done by Henri Moissan, the Moissanite founder, inspired his efforts.
Unfortunately, Chatham was not successful in creating diamonds but he created emeralds while in college. In the late year of the 1930s, the process was perfect and he created opals, alexandrite, and sapphires. In the end, he managed to come up with his own label that still is the leading manufacturer of gemstones today.
The first-ever lab-created diamond was grown in 1955. Several scientists had tried the procedure but General Electric was the initial company to bring to the market diamonds for industries. The diamonds could be reproduced and verified.[Video]
Lab-Created Gems Vs Gem Imitations
Lab-created gems look similar to their naturally mined counterparts but stimulants or imitation stones are very different. Gem imitations resemble gemstones but their physical and chemical properties are different. These stones are always less expensive than both real and lab gems. Some of the common materials used to imitate gems include:
- Synthetic spinel is normally used to imitate several colored stones like peridot, aquamarine, and sapphire.
- Cubic zirconia is the most common diamond stimulant that comes in several colors that resemble other gems. Keep in mind that cubic zirconia is not a lab-grown diamond; it is a mineral on its own but looks exactly like a diamond, thus its imitation.
- Synthetic rutile has been in use since the 1940s to imitate diamonds as well as other gems.
- Yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) and gadolinium gallium garnet (GGG) has always been used since the 1960s both as clear and as colored gem stimulants.
- Strontium titanate was common in the 1950s as a diamond stimulant.
- Quench crackled quartz is a naturally occurring colorless mineral. This material is normally heated using a process called quench crackling. It is then submerged in a cool solution to create cracks that can be dyed.
- Colored glass has been in use for ages and is a common substitute to several gemstones. Unfortunately, it cannot withstand heavy-duty, wear and tear.
- Synthetic moissanite came into the market in the 1990s featuring clear to green colored stones.
You will find gemstone stimulants commonly being used in cheap jewelry and costume pieces. Many people like them because they can easily be replaced in case of loss and because they are affordable too.
The Process of Creating Lab-Grown Gemstones
The exact principles that led to a natural stone forming in the ground are applied in the laboratories. While natural gems require many years, heat, and pressure, lab stones will use just a small fraction of the time. The cost of creation will also be lower than that of producing a real gemstone.[Image]
Under the right conditions, a gemstone will grow to perfection when the mix of minerals is perfect. In the lab, the environment is controlled where pressure and heat can be carefully adjusted to hasten the process of creating a gemstone. There is a variety of processes used to when creating lab-grown gems in the lab.
Flame fusion; This is also referred to as the Verneuil Process and is an ancient and affordable way of manufacturing gemstones. In this process, the powdered chemical is dropped through a furnace or flame. The chemical then melts and falls on a rotating platform. Over time, a crystal is formed from the melted chemical. Some of the imitation gems made from this process are spinel and corundum (sapphire and ruby).
- Crystal pulling
Crystal pulling is also known as Czochralski Process and was originally used to create artificial diamonds in the early twentieth century. Here, there is a chamber with high heat intensity where minerals are melted. A gemstone seed is then added in the mixture, which then slowly grows into a full crystal. Common artificial gems made using this method comprise garnet, corundum, alexandrite, and chrysoberyl.
- Flux Growth
You will hear this process is identified as the solution process in most cases. This gem creation method takes a longer period than other procedures but the result is bright, beautiful gemstones. Using special equipment, this procedure takes from six to twelve months to create a stone that can pass off as a natural gemstone.
Flux refers to a solid substance that when melted can dissolve other minerals like those used in simulating gems. When the mixture cools down, the artificial crystals detach from the flux. Some of the stimulant stones made from this procedure include ruby, emerald, spinel, sapphire, and alexandrite.
- Hydrothermal Growth
Like the flux growth, this method is also slow and costly and produces high-quality stones that are flawless. This process makes use of very high heat and pressure levels like those found in the earth.
In this process, the nutrients dissolve in the water solution. As the water gets cold, crystals start to form. Gemstones made using hydrothermal growth include diamond, corundum, quartz, emerald, malachite, color-change spinel, alexandrite, and opal.
Merits of Lab Gems and Diamonds
Picking an artificial gem over a natural one comes with several benefits. Below are a few of the reasons why lab-created gems are taking over the jewelry market.
The price of natural gemstones is usually up the ceiling because of the costly process of mining. For a natural gem to fully grow, it takes very many years. The cost incurred in extracting it from the ground, polishing, and cutting is also high.
On the other side, lab-grown diamonds and gems take only a few years or sometimes weeks. You do not need any mining tools for these stones. These are less costly options and can sometimes cost 50% lower than real diamonds and gems.
Shops such as Clean Origin are specializing in selling lab-created gems and diamonds. Looking closely at the comparison image below, you can see the price difference between a synthetic and a real diamond with similar characteristics.[Image]
It has been known for a long time that diamond mine deposits have taken advantage of laborers by not paying for their services. On the bad side, some of the workers are children. Some diamond stones coming from regions facing civil wars and high poverty indexes. Conflict diamonds or otherwise known as blood diamonds are mostly sold and proceeds used to fund such activities, insurgency, warlord, or an invading army.
With lab-created diamonds and gems, you are sure that they originate from the lab and you can rest assured that nobody was harmed or exploited in the process of sourcing the stone. Highly skilled personnel in first-class countries manufacture most lab-grown stones and they receive wages and benefits for their services.
You most likely have heard that lab diamonds are environmentally friendly since they decrease the carbon footprint. However, FTC is anti this thought since there is no proof that this is actually true. Synthetic diamonds are made using HPHT and CVD procedures. These methods use high amounts of energy gotten from energy grids that are powered by gas and coal.
During the formation process, natural gemstones accumulate flaws like discoloration, clouding, cracks, and other blemishes. Lab gems are often made to be free from all these inclusions. They always look clear or with uniform color. They also have no cracks or other imperfections that can be seen easily.
If you want pure, blemish-free stones, lab gems are your best bet. They are not easily differentiated from real gems and their clarity is better. Lab gems always have metallic impurities and not crystal inclusions. Metallic inclusions are hard to see. This is the reason you will rarely see an I clarity synthetic diamond.
While you will find a limited color range for natural diamonds, synthetic diamonds come in endless colors, bright and bold. Artificial gems also have unique and spectacular colored stones. With natural gems, you will only find the color ranging from champagne to rose.
Similarly, if you are interested in a particular cut stone, most jewelers are willing to flex when it is a lab-grown gem, unlike natural. If by bad luck the cut does not come out as intended, you will not suffer so much loss as you would with a real gem. The whole process can be done again using a similar stone.
When you wear a piece of jewelry that has a natural gemstone, there is a likelihood of the gemstone being stolen or lost. Most of the natural gemstones tend to be irreplaceable. With synthetic gems, you can easily get an identical stone on one that looks almost similar to the lost one.
Because of this, lab-created gemstones is the best choice for almost any event, whether formal or casual, day or night. You can also adorn these gemstones when traveling.
Demerits of Synthetic Gems
The benefits discussed above are quite tempting, but there is no denying that lab gemstones also have disadvantages over real gems.
Lab-grown gemstones are made to perfection and cannot be easily distinguished from other gems. Real gemstones have different blemishes, imperfections, and flaws that make each stone unique.
Loss of Value
Natural gems, especially the rare ones retain almost half of their total sale value after buying. Lab-created stones depreciate as time goes by. Manufacturing technology improves at a high rate and in no time, synthetic gems created in the past will become obsolete and lose their value significantly.
Leads to Loss of Jobs
Countries like Canada, Zimbabwe, Russia, and others directly depend on the diamond industry for economic growth. Lab-created diamonds lead to many jobs being lost in these countries, particularly for the people who are not well off socioeconomically.
Final Say on Lab-Created Gemstones
Despite the above-stated disadvantages of synthetic diamonds and gemstones, largely, these stones are as good as their real counterparts. They are really becoming the best choice for jewelry lovers, unlike natural gemstones.
Artificial stones are cheaper than real stones and the process of manufacturing them has a lower effect on the environment than extracting the stones from the earth. Furthermore, you can rest assured that the gemstones originated from ethical sources and that you are not supporting any illegal activities.
When it comes to their appearance, many people cannot tell the difference between a real and a lab stone. The physical and chemical composition is similar for both stones. The difference comes in the conditions for growth. Lab gems are formed under ideal conditions that reduce imperfections leading to a gorgeous, inclusion-free, and vibrant stone.