The mesmerizing beauty, durability, and symbolism of sapphires have made them a popular choice for jewellery. However, in recent years, technological advancements have led to the creation of lab-grown sapphires, raising the question: How do lab-created sapphires vs. natural sapphires compare?
Lab-Created Sapphires vs. Natural Sapphires Origin and Formation
The origin and formation of sapphires play a fundamental role in differentiating lab-created sapphires from natural sapphires. Understanding how these gemstones are created can provide valuable insights into their characteristics and value.
Natural sapphires are formed deep within the Earth’s crust, typically through geological processes that involve immense heat and pressure over millions of years. They are the result of complex interactions between mineral-rich fluids and the host rock. These natural processes imbue each natural sapphire with a unique history and identity.
Lab-created sapphires, as the name suggests, are grown in controlled laboratory environments. They are produced using techniques like the Verneuil or Czochralski methods, which mimic the natural conditions required for sapphire growth but do so in a much shorter time frame, often a few months. The controlled environment in which lab-created sapphires are grown allows for precise control over the growth process. This predictability results in gemstones with consistent colour, clarity, and size, making them a reliable choice for those seeking specific characteristics.
Lab-Created Sapphires vs. Natural Sapphires Composition
Natural sapphires belong to the corundum family of minerals and are primarily composed of aluminum oxide (Al2O3). The brilliant blue colour of sapphires is typically due to the presence of trace elements like iron and titanium. The colour variations and inclusions found in natural sapphires are a testament to their long formation process deep within the Earth’s crust.
Lab-created sapphires share the same chemical composition as natural gemstones, consisting of aluminum oxide. However, the distinguishing feature of lab-grown sapphires is their lack of natural inclusions. The absence of inclusions often results in a higher level of clarity and a more uniform colour compared to their natural counterparts.
While both types of sapphires have the same chemical composition, it’s the formation process and the presence or absence of natural inclusions that set them apart, impacting their appearance and value.
Lab-Created Sapphires vs. Natural Sapphires Colour and Clarity
Natural sapphires come in a breathtaking array of colours, with blue being the most renowned and sought-after hue. The intensity of blue can vary widely, from pale sky blue to deep, velvety royal blue. Some natural sapphires also occur in other colours like yellow, pink, green, orange and more, which are often referred to as “fancy sapphires.” These unique colours are typically due to the presence of specific trace elements.
One remarkable advantage of lab-created sapphires is the ability to produce a wide range of colours, including blue, yellow, pink, green, orange, and more. Through precise control of trace elements during the growth process, labs can create sapphires in virtually any shade.
Natural sapphires often contain natural inclusions, which are internal characteristics formed during their long geological journey. These inclusions are like birthmarks that identify the sapphire as a product of nature. While they may affect clarity, they are seen as part of the gem’s charm.
Unlike natural sapphires, lab-grown sapphires are typically free of natural inclusions. This results in exceptional clarity, with the gemstone appearing crystal-clear to the naked eye. The absence of inclusions can make lab-created sapphires look more flawless and pristine; however, it also indicates that the sapphire is not of a natural origin.
Lab-Created Sapphires vs. Natural Sapphires Price
Natural sapphires are rare and cherished for their natural formation over millions of years. The rarity of certain colours, such as the highly sought-after cornflower blue, can drive prices to astronomical levels. The specific origin of a natural sapphire can also significantly impact its value. The extraction of natural sapphires requires costly mining operations, often in remote and challenging locations. These operations can contribute to the overall cost of natural sapphires.
The price of natural sapphires can vary widely, ranging from affordable options for smaller and less valuable stones to extremely high prices for large, top-quality gemstones with exceptional colour and clarity. Factors such as colour, clarity, size and origin all play a role in determining the price.
In comparison, lab-created sapphires are more cost-effective to produce than their natural counterparts. As a result of their streamlined production process, lab-created sapphires are generally more affordable than natural sapphires. This affordability extends to a wide range of sizes and colours, making them accessible to a broader spectrum of consumers.
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