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Created Gems Guide
 

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Created Gemstones

Created (or “Synthetic”) gemstones are grown in a laboratory instead of being formed in the ground by nature. They are physically and chemically identical to natural-grown gems but cost much less to produce and to buy.

Just like natural gems, synthetics vary tremendously in quality. Using low-quality processes, synthetic sapphires and rubies can be created for less than a dollar a carat, whereas high-quality synthetics can cost a hundred times more to create and sell for several hundred dollars a carat at retail.

Should you consider buying a synthetic gemstone? This is a difficult question to answer. To some people, nothing can replace the urge of owning a beautiful and unique product of nature. To others, what they see is most important and — thanks to high-quality created gems that everyone can own a “museum quality” gemstone at an affordable price.

You don’t have to become an expert in synthetic gemstones, but it’s important to understand what you’re buying.

There are many different production methods used to create synthetic gems, but they all fall under two major types: Melt growth and Solution growth.  

Melt-Growth

Two common melt-growth methods are Verneuil flame fusion (or just “flame fusion”) and Czochralski pulled-growth.

(a) Flame Fusion

The first technology utilized for growing gemstones in a laboratory, flame fusion is still very widely used to create rubies, sapphires, and spinel. It’s inexpensive, but yields low quality gems. These created gems are often used in “class rings” and cheap jewelry found in discount stores. It’s relatively easy for any competent jeweler to detect synthetics created by flame fusion methods because the “dripped” molten material forms “growth striae” (thin, narrow grooves) as it hardens.

(b) Pulled-Growth

Czochralski pulled-growth is also commonly used to create rubies, sapphires, and spinel. It’s a more complex and costly method, and creates better gems than flame fusion.

Still, both these methods yield gems of questionable quality. Because they use very high temperatures, it is difficult for manufacturers to achieve uniform color (particularly in rubies and blue sapphires). The mechanical action of melting and reforming crystals introduces non-uniformity’s in the gems, which scatter light and give the stone a “dead” look — like a piece of colored glass.

Solution-Growth

Some believe that solution growth leads to higher quality gems than melt-growth. There are two common solution growth techniques: flux and hydrothermal.

(a) Flux Method

In addition to creating the “big three” (emerald, ruby, and sapphire), the flux method is used to grow spinel and alexandrite. This method uses a supersaturated chemical bath to form the crystals. Flux Method or Flux Fusion — not to be confused with Flame Fusion — creates the highest quality and most expensive synthetic corundum (rubies and sapphires).

(b) Hydrothermal Method

High quality emerald, as well as the less common aquamarine, morganite, and beryl, can be lab grown by the hydrothermal method. It uses a water solution at very high temperature and pressure and takes several months to create a batch of gems. That’s one of the reasons higher quality created gems cost so much more.

Created Gems vs. Simulant

What’s the difference between a synthetic gem and a fake? A true synthetic or “created” gem has exactly the same optical, chemical, and tangible properties as the corresponding natural gem. Any variation in chemistry removes this correspondence, and the gem cannot be legally called a true synthetic.

Otherwise, it is known as a “simulant,” a man-made gem that has a outward appearance similar to a natural gem but is physically, chemically, and optically different. A “fraud.”

Only true synthetics can be labeled as such. The Federal Trade Commission regulates this, and only allows a true synthetic to be described by the following terms: Lab-grown, Laboratory-grown, Lab-created, and Laboratory-created. The FTC also allows “trade names” to be used, such as Chatham-Created or Gilson-Created. You may also see “Synthetic” or “Man-made” used as descriptive terms.

Unfortunately, these designations can be used to label cheap flame-fusion created gems as well as the much higher-quality solution-grown stones. As always, be very wary of cheap no-name goods. If you can’t determine the pedigree of the stone, don’t buy it!

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Last modified: 07/25/10