Natural vs. Lab Stones

More and more often we are seeing lab created gemstones in fine jewelry stores. Those amazing prices on sapphires, emerald and rubies? Most likely if you read the fine print those stones were created in a lab. So what is the difference between natural and lab grown stones (also known as synthetic, man-made, artificial)?

Gemstones form naturally over long periods of time and pressure from minerals found in the earth’s crust. Some, like peridots, form deep within the molten core itself. Others, like opal, form when water seeps through minerals and settles into hollow spaces within rock. All are unique and beautiful. But as with most things, man finds a way to copy creation. Using the same minerals found in natural gemstones, scientists have been creating gemstones in the laboratory for over 100 years. There are different methods, but the stones they create are chemically and optically the same as stones formed in the earth.

Why Wear Synthetic?

*  It is chemically the same as a natural stone

*  It is significantly cheaper than natural stones

*  Lab created stones tend to be flawless, not having inclusions or fractures

*  They reduce the carbon footprint created by traditional mining practices

Synthetic Sapphires

Why Wear Natural?

*  Natural stones are all unique, no two are alike 

*  They are more valuable than lab created stones

*  Many in the gemological community believe lab stones are not “real” stones  

Natural Topaz

What is My Personal Opinion?

I prefer natural stones but when it comes to the big 3 (sapphires, emeralds and rubies), I see many advantages to lab created stones. Emeralds, in particular, are very fragile stones, have lots of inclusions and cracks and almost always are oil treated to hide flaws and enhance colors. In fact most all natural gemstones undergo some form of treatment to enhance their color or durability. Stones are regularly heat-treated, irradiated, oiled, even dyed and stabilized with fillers. So if natural stones undergo treatments in a lab to enhance their beauty, we should not dismiss stones created entirely in the lab. Even DeBeers is creating lab grown diamonds. You no longer need to be royalty to wear emeralds and rubies. And stones that are rare and expensive like Alexandrite now have an affordable option. So choose the stones you love and love the stones you choose, whether natural or synthetic.