When you hold a gemstone in your hand, it can be impossible to tell where that gem came from. You might think that the average gemstone came from somewhere deep underground, but you may not realize how many gems are actually synthetic gems.
Gemstone synthesis has been around since at least the 1800s, when rubies were successfully made in a lab for the first time. Over time, methods for synthesizing gems have improved along with technology. This makes the task of telling natural and synthetic gems apart harder than ever.
But what’s so different about synthetic gems? And how can you tell the difference between synthetic and natural gems?
Synthetic gemstones aren’t “fake”. In fact, synthesized gems are identical to natural gems. When synthesized correctly, natural and synthetic gems even look the same under a microscope since they have the exact same chemical structure.
Since synthetic gems are lab-grown, they tend to be less pricey than natural gems. Normally, gemstones take a long time and extreme amounts of pressure to form. Natural diamonds take millions of years to form beneath the earth’s surface. Synthesized diamonds can take a couple of days to grow in a lab.
Because they take so long to form in the earth’s crust, natural gems are usually seen as more valuable than synthetic gems. Natural gemstones make up a tiny fraction of one percent of the earth. They are highly valued because of just how rare they are.
Some gem types are rarer than others, since gems form in different ways out of any number of minerals. Gems like amethyst or opal are more common than white diamonds, and naturally-occurring rubies and sapphires are even rarer than some diamonds.
The value of a gem isn’t determined only by a gemstone’s type. Traits like color and the number and severity of imperfections in a gem can also impact its worth. Sometimes, gems made in a lab look “too perfect” because they lack the impurities found in natural gems, and end up looking too good to be true as a result.
Gems featured in Compass’ Coin, Jewelry, & Collectibles Auction sometimes come with a lab certificate of authenticity.
Consignors give certificates of authenticity to Compass, along with consigned gems. Compass does not send gems away for lab testing, and trusts its consignors to provide accurate information about the natural and synthetic gems they consign.
Compass encourages bidders to research the gem labs mentioned on gems’ certification papers. Certification may vary from lab to lab, so be aware that some information on certifications may not be precise.
Gemstone labs across the world can verify whether or not a stone is actually natural. However, buyers should be aware that the cost to certify a gem can end up being more than the price of the gem itself. This is especially true when dealing with common gems, where lab fees can be several times the value of the gem, regardless of whether it’s a synthetic gem or a natural one.
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