Last week I received an e-mail newsletter about the differences between natural, synthetic, and imitation gemstones. I thought this might be an interesting topic to cover, so I decided to do a little more research on it.
Of the three descriptive words above, natural is probably the most easily understood. They come from nature. Easy, right?
Natural gemstones are formed in nature without the aid of humans. They form over long periods of time using a vast array of minerals, elements, and effects from the Earth and their surrounding environments. They can be found miles under ground, in the most remote areas of the world, and even along muddy riverbeds. Often when we find gemstones in nature, we don’t even realize they are what they are immediately. Most gemstones look like your average rock when they are in their rough form. They are dirty, dull, and have rough, uneven edges.
These stones have to be polished and often they are treated before they are used in your jewelry. Many of the stones are stabilized with resin, bleached, dyed, or heated. You can find a list of different types of treatments in a previous blog entry here: Gemstone Treatment Definitions
The other two terms, synthetic and imitation, may sound as if they are the same concept, but they are actually different.
Both terms mean “fake”, but synthetic gemstones are more similar to natural gemstones than imitation gemstones. Synthetic gemstones are created in a laboratory using modern technology to replicate the conditions and elements in the earth which create various gemstones naturally. These stones also take a much shorter time to be created than the natural versions.
Synthetic stones can be cut, colored, and polished to look just like their natural counterparts. The technology has gotten so good, that some experts even have trouble telling the difference without analyzing them under a microscope. One of the biggest differences between natural and synthetic gemstones is the lack of inclusions in the synthetic gemstones. Inclusions are small flaws or imperfections that are found in natural gemstones due to their creation processes. It is like a stone’s fingerprint. If a person is looking for a truly flawless stone, this might be the way to go, but if the difference between “real” verses “fake” is important, this needs to be considered.
To go even further from natural gemstones than synthetic stones, we have imitation gemstones. Imitation gemstones are also referred to as simulated gemstones. They do not have any of the same chemical properties as their natural counterparts like the synthetic stones have. Made of glass, plastic, ceramic or other materials, imitation gemstones are designed to look like natural stones and sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two.
To the untrained eye, it can be very difficult to tell the difference between natural, synthetic, and imitation gemstones. For this reason, it is important to always work with a reputable jeweler when purchasing gemstone jewelry, especially if you are looking for natural gemstones. Do not be afraid to ask if a stone is natural if that is what you are shopping for and the jeweler does not disclose that information or is not clear about it.
I hope this brief summary of the differences between natural, synthetic, and imitation gemstones has been helpful for you. If you have any questions, please let me know!
Thanks for stopping by!