Skip to main content

Gemstones: Artificial vs Natural Gemstones

Duncan has been a gemstone dealer for five years, he's happy to share some of the tips to help you in the gemstone business.

Know a gemstone before purchasing it

As a gemstone wearer, you have the right to know what type of gemstone you are buying. Many people struggle to find the difference between natural gems and artificial ones. It is because both natural gemstones and artificial ones are so similar. It takes a trained eye or gemstone equipment to spot the differences.

So, does that mean there is no difference between artificial and natural gemstones?

You will be learning the difference between natural and lab-grown gems, how both stones come into existence, and a lot more to help you get an in-depth understanding of gemstones so you can finally get rid of the confusion a lot of people have.

Quantum cut gemstone

Gems cuts/ a gem perfectly cut into a concave cutting style

Gems cuts/ a gem perfectly cut into a concave cutting style

Natural gemstone facts

Natural gemstones are stones that are formed naturally in the earth's crust. These stones are quite hard to get compared to the artificial ones. The processes miners use to get them makes them utterly hard to find.

Natural stones are expensive compared to synthetic ones. They are also more loved and treasured than the laboratory-made ones. These stones also contribute spiritually, physically, and emotionally to humanity's well-being.

But that depends on your belief.

However, the Gemology Institute of America states that any gemstone, whether lab-made or natural is "real" but not "natural." The statement is so because both gemstones contain the same mineral composition.

How do Natural Gemstones form?

Gemstones form deep in the earth's crust under intensive temperatures of heat. They take approximately 1 billion and 3 billion years to form. Certain gemstones like diamonds occur so deep, a length of about 3 km to 25 km deep within the earth.

It makes them hard to get. Gems get brought upon the earth's surface through methods like volcanic eruptions, earth folding, Land sliding, faulting, and so on.

Natural stone characteristics

Characteristics of Natural Gemstones

Gemstones like natural druzy quartz, lapis lazuli, etc. have got distinctive features such as:

  • Fissures
  • Potholes
  • Stain-marks
  • Cracks

Fissures: Fissures refer to a substantial crack or fracture within a stone that may comprise a mineral-bearing substance. Natural gemstones such as citrine, drusy agate, alexandrite could contain fissures that are noticeable even without the help of a Loupe.

A fissure is much more visible than a crack which sets a significant difference between the two words. A fissure is a unique factor because it occurs naturally in natural gemstones.

Potholes: Potholes refer to the tiny holes that exist on the outer surface of a natural gemstone. This feature is common with natural gemstones. Sometimes the holes contain soil or other materials that formed upon the stone. These holes don't affect the value of a stone.

Stain-marks: Some gemstones react when exposed to water. They leave discoloration traces that can be visible in the water. Stones with this kind of character are covered in absolute black granite.

Cracks: One of the most common characters of natural gemstones is cracks. A natural stone can have cracks visible on either the surface or deep within the stone.

The cracks on the surface are easy to refill, but those that occur within the stone are hard, if not impossible, to refill.

Natural faceted gemstone

Natural faceted cut sapphire

Natural faceted cut sapphire

Gemstones mining techniques

How do people Mine Gemstones (Mining Methods)

Mining isn't an easy task. It requires a lot of effort, time, and mainly patience. You have to be good at being patient since you are looking for something that has no guarantee to be found. Without further ado, here are the most used mining methods today.

  • Dry digging
  • Marine mining
  • Tunneling
  • Terrace mining
  • Opencast mining

1. Dry Digging

This method is effective around river streams, and there are two ways of using it. The river dries up on its own, or it gets blocked at its two ends by miners resulting in a canal. The river is given some time to dry up, exposing gemstones.

2. Marine Mining

Marine mining refers to removing gemstones from the bottom of a water body. The process includes large robotic machines that dig the ocean floor. The mining happens at depths of around 4500 ft. to 12,000 ft.

3. Tunneling

This method is most suitable when the gem-bearing rock is closer to the surface. Blasting is done after making a tunnel to reach gem deposits.

4. Terrace Mining

The terrace mining method reveals gem-bearing by digging horizontal circular terraces in formations. The method also involves blasting, and then debris is washed to get gemstones.

5. Opencast Mining

Opencast mining is when removing overlaying minerals or rock reaches gemstone-bearing rocks. Then, high-pressure water jets wash the gemstone-bearing rocks to reveal gemstones.

Perfectly cut synthetic gemstone

A stone on string pic

A stone on string pic

Lab-grown gemstones tackling

Artificial/Lab-grown Gemstones

Synthetic or lab-grown gemstones are the type of stones made by man. Everything about them is artificial. Today almost every type of valuable natural gemstone can be grown in laboratories using various chemical compounds.

As I said earlier, these stones are considered “real” but not natural. Their chemical compound is strikingly similar, but the value is a lot more different. It makes them get the same score on the Mohs scale.

How are they Made?

The artificial gemstones' process in laboratories is similar to how natural gemstones evolve into valuable stones. The immense heat temperatures, pressure, and space occur with a remarkable difference in time.


Characteristics of Synthetic Stones

Artificial stones might have similar chemical compositions to natural ones, but does "lab created" mean fake? Does it mean they are perfectly unidentifiable? Here are a few characteristics lab-grown stones possess.

  • Crystallization process
  • Inexpensiveness
  • Perfection


Crystallization Process: Crystallization is one of the main distinctions you can get from artificial gems. It is so because natural gemstones have typical inclusions of the crystallization process of gasses and other minerals that mix up during the creation of stone in the molten stage.

Inexpensiveness: Natural stones are very costly. Many gem wearers choose artificial stones like synthetic sapphire, synthetic ruby, synthetic opal, etc., since they are affordable and easy to find, unlike natural ones.

Perfection: Artificial gems tend to come out of laboratories perfectly created. Something a natural stone lacks. The artificial ones are closely watched while they form; their creation is perfect.

While the naturals one would come out with all kinds of imperfections such as cracks, chips, etc.

Conclusion

Natural stones have a lot of benefits, such as: increasing your concentration, healing powers, cleansing, and much more. On the other hand, artificial gemstones are also great because they are easy to find, cheap to buy, and bring you less trouble when you get them on in public.

Therefore, both natural gemstones are good and bad in different ways, depending on what you want.

© 2021 Duncan Nyabaro

Related Articles