If you’ve been shopping for a diamond (or many other kinds of gemstone) you might have run across “manmade” or “lab created” diamonds or gems. You might even think that this means they’re fake or “paste.” But that’s not true.
In fact, while there are differences between natural and synthetic gemstones, which doesn’t mean that synthetic gemstones aren’t real. Here’s what you need to know.
Organic and Inorganic Gems
The first thing you need to know is that even in nature, there are two main types of precious materials or gems: organic or inorganic.
Organic gems are things like pearls, ivory, coral or amber. They are produced by living organisms, which in this case are oysters, elephants, coral, and trees. Without those animals or trees, we wouldn’t have most of those types of material.
Inorganic gems are still created naturally but are made up of chemicals rather than being produced by animals or plants. So, for example, when carbon is subjected to pressure and heat (often in volcano pipes), diamonds are the result. Other gemstones like rubies, emeralds and sapphires are produced in much the same way, but with different chemicals.
Natural Versus Synthetic
As we’ve established, stones like diamonds are already inorganic (which means they are not made by a living creature or being) but that doesn’t mean they are not natural.
Natural gems are created without human intervention. The right minerals and chemicals happen to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right conditions. Over time, those conditions change the original material into what we know as a gemstone.
But, thanks to science, we know how those stones are created, and thanks to modern science and technology, we can replicate those processes in a lab.
This is where we get synthetic gemstones. They’re made of the same compounds and elements, but instead of being formed accidentally in nature, they’re made in a lab, where we can control the exact conditions, so we get the result we want – a beautiful, shiny, sparkly gem!
How to Tell the Difference?
Synthetic gems are made of the same materials, and under the same conditions as natural inorganic gems, so it can be hard to tell just by looking which one is which. In fact, unless you’re an expert and have a microscope, it can be impossible to tell either way.
However, because we have more control over the process that creates synthetic gems, they actually tend to be larger, clearer and brighter than their natural counterparts. So, a lab created synthetic gem might actually look better than the natural version!
One of the biggest differences between lab created, synthetic gems and their naturally formed counterparts is their value.
Natural gems are rare, and it’s their rarity that gives them value. We might be able to make bigger, better, clearer, and brighter stones in a lab, but they’re easy to get, so they are much cheaper.
Of course, that might not matter to the buyer. If you can get a stone that looks the same and has the same chemical composition for much cheaper, and exclusivity is not a factor for you, you might well consider synthetic stones a better deal. But if you want something truly special that took millions of years to form and is a true miracle of nature, natural gems are the only way to go.