Last updated on January 3, 2021
It’s very important to understand the difference between synthetic and simulated gemstones. These terms refer to different things and you should be very careful to avoid buying a simulant instead of a synthetic gem. Let’s go into details and learn how to distinguish them.
What are Synthetic Gemstones?
Synthetic gemstones, also known as created, artificial, lab-grown, lab-made and man-made, are the stones that have been created in laboratories, not in nature.
There are many ways of creating synthetic gemstones. Some of them are relatively inexpensive, others are very expensive, but all of these processes are conducted in labs.
Lab-created gemstones have the same compounds and physical properties as their natural counterparts. Moreover, depending on the process used, lab-created gemstones may have the same inclusions and flaws found in natural stones, which make them very difficult to distinguish.
The term “synthetic” is rarely marketed because many buyers associate it with “not real” or “fake”. Gemologically, a synthetic gemstone may be both real and not natural, meaning some synthetic gemstones look just like natural stones but they don’t have chemically and physically identical gems occurring in nature. These gems are referred to as simulated gemstones or simulants.
What are Simulated Gemstones?
Simulated gemstones, also known as imitations, faux and fakes, are the stones that are presented to “look like” another gem.
Synthetic and simulated gemstones are completely different things. Not all simulants are created in laboratories. Some vendors may present one kind of natural gemstone as another, for example, garnet may be presented as a ruby, or spinel as a diamond. Meaning, while spinel is a natural gemstone, it is a fake diamond.
This doesn’t mean that all vendors are dishonest about selling simulants, but sometimes they may not disclose what the gem truly is, so you should be very careful with this.
Should You Buy Synthetic Gemstones?
One of the most common questions buyers have is whether it is a good idea to buy lab-created gemstones when there are many naturally occurring ones.
The problem is that most natural gemstones do not have high quality. For example, these stones have many flaws or the colour is dull, while most synthetic gemstones have nearly perfect clarity.
High-quality natural gemstones exist, but they are rare and very expensive which makes them less affordable for many gemstone buyers.
Keep in mind that not all man-made gemstones have high-quality characteristics, the good ones are also expensive but they still cost less than their natural counterparts of the same quality.
Created vs Treated Natural Gemstones
There are many types of treatments used to improve a natural gemstone’s colour and clarity, and some people would consider all treated gemstones to be created or synthetic.
On one hand, if a natural gemstone receives extreme treatments, it should fall under the synthetic category. On the other hand, the gem is still created in nature.
To differentiate if a gem has been treated or not, natural gems fall into two categories: natural gemstones and genuine gemstones.
Natural gemstones are the stones created in nature which are not treated in any way to enhance their colour and clarity.
Genuine gemstones are created in nature as well but they have undergone some kind of treatment (heat, chemicals, irradiation, laser, etc.) to improve their look.