With the introduction of lab grown stones, many questions have been raised. We hope to cover some of the most common questions in this post, but if you have further questions, be sure to leave a comment and we’ll do some research!
Q: When did lab created gemstones start being manufactured?
A: The earliest record of synthetic, man made gemstones appeared during the 1830’s. These gems were too small to be used in jewelry, but kickstarted research into how to make them suitable for jewelry. By the turn of the century, A. V. Vernuil discovered a method called flame fusion, which produced rubies and blue sapphires, and later other colors of sapphire. Gem size emeralds have been produced since the 1940’s, and in 1955 the first synthetic diamonds were successfully made.
Q: How are lab grown stones created?
A: There are several methods:
- Flame fusion: Powdered raw material is melted at about 3,630 degrees Fahrenheit. The molten material drops land on a rotating pedestal, where they crystallize and form a pear shape. That is then split, and cut to be a proper stone. This is the most common and least expensive method.
- Pulling (Czochralski): Nutrients are melted, and the synthetic crystal grows from a seed that’s dipped in the nutrient melt and pulled away as it grows.
- Flux: Nutrients are dissolved by chemicals and crystallize as they cool.
- Hydrothermal: Nutrients are dissolved in an acid solution of water and chemicals at high temperature and pressure. The nutrients crystallize on seed plates. This method is used to produce synthetic emeralds and is an expensive process.
Q: What are the benefits of lab grown stones?
- They drive interest in natural stones that aren’t accessible due to production or cost.
- They have a lower price point compared to their natural counterparts.
- It’s easier to get a larger stone with fewer inclusions when it’s lab grown.
- They have the same chemical composition and crystal structure as the natural gem, so they maintain that level of durability.
- They are made in labs, so there’s less ethical questions about such things as the mining process.
Q: What stones can be produced?
Ruby, sapphire, diamond, emerald, alexandrite, spinel, moissanite, and opal are the most common lab grown stones.
Q: What’s the difference between imitation and synthetic stones?
A: Although lab grown stones are the result of processes that approximate natural conditions, they are not natural gemstones. Having said that, they do have the same properties as the natural stones they’re based on. They are required by the Federal Trade Commission to be referred to as simulated, lab grown, and other terms that clearly state their nature, so there’s no confusion. Cultured pearls also fall into this category.
Imitation stones, on the other hand, only look like a natural stone. They don’t share the atomic makeup. There are natural look-alike, glass, assembled stones glued together, and plastic stones used as imitations. The Federal Trade Commission states that you must inform customers that the stone is an imitation.
Some information has been taken from the GIA Colored Stones Essentials Course