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Frequently Asked Gemstone Questions


12. What About Synthetic And Simulated Gemstones?

What Are They, And How Are Synthetic Gemstones Made?

Natural gemstones of high quality are rare, valuable and always in high demand.  This creates a situation where prices tend to be very high for fine natural gemstones.  For many centuries men have been producing what are essentially “fake” gemstones.  These materials look like natural gems but are made by men in factories in laboratories - they are the synthetic and simulated gems.  Centuries ago the quality of these fakes was low and anyone who's seen the real thing could easily spot the difference between a fake and real gemstone.   However, modern technology has made a huge difference and in laboratories we are now able to produce crystals of the exact same chemical make up and form as the real thing.  Now sophisticated scientific instruments and well-trained personnel are required to spot the difference between the naturals in the fakes.  This page will give you a little primer on man made gems, both synthetics and simulated stones.

First, simulated stones are those materials which look like a real gem but are not made of the same elements and materials.  Thousands of years ago Egyptians were able to produce a blue opaque glass similar in color to turquoise.  However it was not hard to spot the difference.  Perhaps the best-known simulated gem on the market today is cubic zirconia, a man made stone which simulates the appearance of a diamond.  When a cubic zirconia first hit the market, a number of very experienced diamond sellers were robbed by substituting cubic zirconia stones for real diamonds.  The jewelers were simply not able to tell the difference by looking at stone.  It brought on a need for sophisticated equipment which can tell the difference between the two.  Now a new synthetic material, moissanite, is able to fool some of the instruments used to differentiate between cubic zirconia and real diamond. Moissanite, the latest and most sophisticated diamond simulant to hit the market is nearly as hard as diamond and shares many of its properties. Simulated gems range the full gamut from cheap plastic and glass to high tech, expensive simulants like moissanite.



Synthetic stones are those man made gems which consist of the exact same elements in the exact same crystal form as a natural gem. They are more difficult to distinguish from natural gems because they are the same material, just the crystals are grown in a laboratory or factory as opposed to the natural gems which grow in the earth. Some sort of solute which dissolves the elements of the gem crystal is created, the elements of the gem are added, and the conditions of crystal growth are closely controlled to produce a high quality product. Sometimes the solute is superheated water under pressure, in many cases it is a molten chemical salt under high heat. Generally, because the synthetic crystals grow slowly, synthetic stones are more expensive than simulants, but there are exceptions to this, such as flame fusion grown rubies and sapphire that grow quickly and without any solute. Most all of the well known gems have man made synthetic equivalents, including diamond, ruby, emerald and sapphire.

While both simulated and synthetic gems can be beautiful, they are not rare as the engineers can just crank up the factory production and make more crystals as demand requires. In all cases, synthetic and simulated gems are considerably less expensive than the fine natural stones they are trying to look like. Because of this significant price difference, without question, any sales person who sells synthetic or simulated gems must clearly identify the stones as man made, and explain the difference. Although they can be attractive in appearance, jewelry made from synthetic and simulated gems is considered by many as simply a higher class form of costume jewelry.







Nevada Outback Gems

Find out more by checking out all of our links below:
Our Free Colored Gemstone Information Encyclopedia Amethyst and Citrine info Aquamarine information
What Really Is A Gemstone? Apatite information Chrysoberyl information
How are Gemstones Mined? Diamond information Emerald information
What About a Gemstone Makes it so Valuable? Garnet information Morganite information
What About Investing in Gemstones? Opal information Peridot information
Nevada Outback Library and Bookstore - Learn more! Ruby information Sapphire information
The Rockhound's Corner for Gem Hunting Spinel information Oregon Sunstone info
Take a virtual tour of our Nevada Turquoise mines Tanzanite information Topaz information
Rare Crystals and Gemstone Rough, including Turquoise Tourmaline information Tsavorite information
Natural Gold Nugget Photos: Big Nuggets, Crystal Gold Turquoise information Zircon information
Chris' Gold Prospecting Encyclopedia Nevada Outback Gems Homepage Nevada Outback Gems Site Map