Natural Versus Man-Made Gemstones

As Tucson’s top destination for gold diamond jewelry and engagement rings, I offer natural diamonds and gemstone rings, pendants, earrings and bracelets. My Tucson jewelry store has hundreds of designs to meet every taste, style and budget. You can view some of them here or make an appointment to see all of them here.

The universe of jewelry is filled with unique pieces crafted using a rainbow of gorgeous color gems. Some are set with natural gemstones while others are fashioned with man-made alternatives, some of which are superior in brilliance and appearance than the naturals. Not all man-made gems are created in an effort to deceive.  And just because a gemstone is lab-created, it shouldn’t be viewed as low-quality.

These are the most common terms used to describe gemstones, many of which are synonymous of one another:

  • Natural
  • Genuine
  • Enhanced
  • Treated
  • Lab-Created
  • Created
  • Certified
  • Synthetic
  • Artificial
  • Man-Made
  • Simulated
  • Alternative
  • Faux
  • Fake

Here’s a brief explanation of some of the most common terms:

Natural gemstones are formed in nature with no interference from humans other than being mined, cut/faceted and polished. If a stone is identified as natural, this means that it has not been treated, enhanced or altered. Faceting and polishing is allowed for a stone to still be considered natural.

A genuine gemstone is real, but it is treated in some way to enhance its cut or appearance. Needless to say, these are also referred to as “enhanced” or “treated” stones. Why do stones get treated? Many times natural stones have discoloration, cracks and/or inclusions. Treatments are applied to fix these “clarity characteristics” in the stone. For example, heat is applied to natural sapphires, which results in improved clarity and a more cohesive, blue color.

A lab-created gemstone is often referred to as a “created” gem because it has a more positive connotation; and as you probably guessed, these are made in laboratories. Other terms used are “synthetic”, “artificial”, “lab-grown” and “man-made” gems. These gemstones have the exact chemical composition of the same stone created in nature, so technically, they are still the real gems.

GIA Graded Diamonds and Gemstones: Many colored gemstones and diamonds are graded by a gemologist to guarantee their authenticity based on seller claims (e.g. it’s a genuine emerald) and predefined standards (e.g. The 4Cs of diamond grading). A certified gemstone from a reputable seller offers more peace of mind to a buyer, but many times also comes with a higher price tag. If you have an existing stone, you can send it to a lab or bring it to a jeweler with gemologist on staff. Major labs that offer certification are the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), which is the most trusted and believed to have the highest grading standards, and American Gem Society (AGS).

Simulated gemstones are also called “imitation”, “faux” and “fake” stones. A simulant is intended to “look like” another gemstone, but its composition is not the same. An analysis would uncover what it really is (e.g. plastic, glass, a different stone than claimed to be). Simulants aren’t always intended to deceive; these are also called “alternatives” and serve as additional stone options that might be a better fit based on personal preferences.

Finally, a brand name gemstone can be natural, genuine or synthetic, etc. The brand is typically registered or trademarked to provide name rights to the business, to help the consumer identify it and also to designate better-quality (not always the case). As with most retail name brands, a brand name gemstone is typically priced higher than a non-branded equivalent. Examples include, Swarovski crystals and Charles & Colvard Moissanite, both of which are lab-created.

Remember, if you're shopping Tucson jewelers for engagement rings or bridal jewelry, please keep me in mind and view my two minute video: The Secret: Why Guys Buy Diamonds from MKPJ. And you can learn about my pricing and process.

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