Have you ever heard of the term ‘synthetic gemstones’?
Chances are that you have. Also, you may be under the impression that synthetic gemstones are not real; however, in the world of gemstones, the word ‘synthetic’ does not mean ‘fake’. The word has been derived from a Greek word which means ‘to put together’. Thus, synthetic gemstones are those that are man-made. This means that they are manufactured or grown in a laboratory and have the similar physical and chemical properties and appearance to their natural counterparts. In some cases, however, synthetic gems may contain additional compounds. Synthetic gems that are somewhat dissimilar from the natural ones include opal and turquoise.
Synthetic gems look exactly like their natural counterparts and only a well-trained or experienced expert can distinguish a synthetic gemstone from a natural one.
The production of synthetic gemstones is not a new phenomenon, as many believe. Their production started around late 19th century mainly due to their industrial usages, such as in the fields of microelectronics, laser technology, and communications. They are also used as abrasives. However, they soon started to be used in the jewelry industry as well. The first known gem that was successfully produced in the laboratory was ‘Ruby’.
How Are Synthetic Gemstones Grown?
Yes, you read it right!
Synthetic gemstones are actually grown (the accurate term used within the industry). This is done in the laboratory. The process entails combining various chemicals in a particular environment so that they automatically arrange themselves–without any human intervention-in a particular manner so as to create the same structure as that of real gems.
Some of the processes that have been used for growing or producing synthetic gems are:
- Verneuil Process. In simple terms, this is known as the ‘flame fusion’ process. It is the oldest and the cheapest method of creating synthetic gems.
- Czochralski Process; also called ‘crystal pulling’.
- Flux Growth
- Hydrothermal Growth
- Skull Melt Process
- Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD)
- High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT)
The most commonly grown or manufactured synthetic gems are Sapphires, Diamonds, Quartz, Opals, Emeralds, Ruby, Spinel, Alexandrite, Amethyst, Ametrine and Citrine.
Simulated Gemstones Are Different From Synthetic Gems
A lot of people use the terms ‘synthetic gemstones’ and ‘simulated gemstones’ interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two.
As mentioned above, although synthetic gems are made in the laboratory, they mostly have all the same properties as that of natural gems. However, this is not the case with ‘simulated gems’. These are actually the fake stones. They only look like the natural gems, but their physical and chemical properties are different.
Plastic or glass is used for the production of simulated gemstones. This is why they are available at extremely low rates.
So the next time you go for gemstone shopping, always remember that synthetic and simulated gems are two different things. It is a simulated gem that is fake, not the synthetic one.