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Manufactured Gemstones: Your Comprehensive Guide to 8 Man-Made Jewels

Manufactured Gemstones: Your Comprehensive Guide to 8 Man-Made Jewels

Synthetic gemstones, which can range from synthetic rubies to emeralds and lab grown gems, offer an intriguing alternative to natural stones. Created in laboratories through meticulous processes that replicate the conditions under which gems naturally develop, these stones boast the same chemical and physical attributes as their mined counterparts.

Lab grown gems not only mirror the chemical composition, optical, and physical characteristics of natural gemstones but also present a cost-effective and ethically superior alternative to natural gems, which often require treatment and enhancement to improve their quality. Known for their clarity and uniformity, synthetic gems are often free of the inclusions found in natural stones, which can be appealing to consumers seeking perfection in appearance.

Adopting such methods as the Verneuil process or hydrothermal growth, scientists are able to produce these gemstones in a fraction of the time it takes for nature to create a similar crystal structure. The reason for the creation of synthetic stones isn’t purely aesthetic; it also addresses ethical concerns and accessibility and offers a more affordable price point.

Gemologists use advanced techniques to distinguish between natural and synthetic gemstones, ensuring transparency in the marketplace. Despite being laboratory-grown, these stones meet the high standards of gemology, the aluminum oxide crystals in synthetic sapphires are just as hard as those found in the natural version, sharing identical optical properties to the gems found deep within the earth.

8 Popular Manufactured Stones

1. Composite Stones

Composite and resin beads

Composite stones incorporate chips and remnants of natural gemstones bonded with a binding agent, often resin. They are known for their vibrant colours, achieved through dyeing or treating the gemstone material. Reconstituted stone beads and cabochons are commonly crafted from this eclectic material.

Shop our Manufactured and Up-cycled Stone Jewelry Collection

2. Goldstone

 

blue goldstone

Goldstone, a type of glittering glass, gets its characteristic sparkle from copper crystals embedded within it. Originating in a reddish-brown hue, variations such as blue and green are produced using cobalt or chromium, respectively. Associated with ambition and confidence, goldstone is popular in beads and cabochon forms.

3. Opalite

Opalite gemstone

Opalite exists in two forms; one is a natural occurrence of hydrated silica, while the other is manufactured, typically from glass. It can also be crafted from resin or plastic. Manufactured opalite is especially valued for its glassy appearance and is associated with communication and strength.

4. Fordite

Fordite manufactured gemstone

By James St. John -  CC BY 2.0, Link

 

Fordite, also known as Detroit agate or motor agate, comprises hardened automotive paint layers. Its colourful and historical nature is revered and sought after in the form of jewelry such as beads or cabochons.

5. Mosaic Quartz

Mosaic quartz beads dyed purple

Mosaic quartz combines quartz fragments with dyed or treated resin to enhance colour and create unique patterns. This versatile stone is sometimes combined with materials like mica powder to add lustre, making each piece distinctly beautiful. Additionally, mosaic quartz can include synthetic quartz, which is crafted through methods such as hydrothermal growth, involving the dissolution of nutrients in a solution to form artificial crystals.

6. Terra Agate

Soaring Skies - Terra Agate Bracelet - Fierce Lynx Designs

Terra agate, a naturally occurring stone, undergoes enhancement processes to intensify its colour palette, often featuring a blend of earthy tones with brilliant blues or greens. The agate's patterning is sometimes augmented through laser etching or sanding, showcasing the stone's depth.

7. Impression Jasper

Handmade jewelry - Lapis and Pyrite Impression earrings

Impression jasper, not true jasper, conversely contains variscite that may be dyed for more vivid colouring. Resin is the usual binder, resulting in products like beads and cabochons. Renamed aqua terra jasper when featuring natural materials like marble, its colours are accentuated through dying processes.

8. Cubic Zirconia

colourful synthetic crystals

Cubic Zirconia (CZ) is a synthetic gemstone that closely resembles diamonds due to its brilliance and crystal clarity. It was first developed in the 1970s and is made from zirconium dioxide. This gemstone is a popular and affordable alternative to diamonds for several reasons:

Synthetic sapphire is another popular synthetic gemstone. In terms of its optical properties and manufacturing process, synthetic sapphire is similar to cubic zirconia, showcasing the diversity of synthetic gemstone options available.

  • Appearance: Cubic zirconia can be made virtually flawless and is usually colourless, although it can be produced in a variety of different colours.

  • Hardness: It has a hardness of 8.5 on the Mohs scale, which is considerably hard though less than diamonds which score a 10.

  • Optical Properties: While it exhibits impressive fire and brilliance, CZ has a higher dispersion rate compared to diamonds, resulting in more “fire,” which is the flashes of rainbow colours that can be seen in well-cut stones.

  • Cost and Versatility: Due to its low cost, cubic zirconia is used extensively in jewelry, allowing for bold, glamorous designs without the same financial commitment as diamonds.

Despite its many diamond-like qualities, cubic zirconia is less durable and will wear down more quickly than a diamond. It’s also slightly denser, meaning it will feel heavier than a diamond of the same size. Over time, cubic zirconia can become cloudy from everyday wear unless it is properly maintained.

Environmental Benefits of Synthetic Gemstones Compared to Their Natural Counterparts

Synthetic gemstones offer several environmental benefits over their natural counterparts, primarily due to the controlled laboratory processes used to create them. Here are some of the key environmental advantages:

  1. Reduced Environmental Degradation: Natural gemstone mining can be highly destructive to the environment, involving extensive earth movement, deforestation, and habitat disruption. In contrast, synthetic gemstones are produced in laboratories, significantly reducing the environmental impact associated with traditional mining practices.

  2. Lower Water Usage: Mining operations often require large quantities of water, which can deplete local water supplies and contribute to environmental degradation. Laboratory production of synthetic gemstones uses considerably less water, helping preserve vital water resources.

  3. Decreased Carbon Footprint: The carbon footprint of mining includes heavy machinery operation, transportation of materials, and other energy-intensive processes. Synthetic gemstone production typically requires less energy, particularly if renewable energy sources power the laboratories.

  4. Waste Reduction: Mining can produce substantial waste, including tailings and other byproducts that can be hazardous to the environment. The processes for creating synthetic gemstones generate far less waste, and the waste that is produced is often more manageable and less toxic.

  5. Avoidance of Conflict Mining: Many natural gemstones are sourced from conflict zones where mining practices may fund armed conflict and human rights abuses. Synthetic gemstones provide a conflict-free alternative, ensuring that consumers can choose ethically sourced gems without contributing to geopolitical tensions.

  6. Promotion of Biodiversity: By reducing the need to disturb natural landscapes, synthetic gemstone production helps preserve biodiversity. This is particularly important in ecologically sensitive areas where unique species of plants and animals might be threatened by mining activities.

These environmental benefits make synthetic gemstones an attractive choice for consumers who are environmentally conscious and prefer to make ethical and sustainable purchasing decisions.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can one discern if a gemstone is synthetic?

To determine if a gemstone is synthetic, one may need specialized equipment and expertise. Here are some common methods:

  • Visual inspection: Professionals may look for specific inclusions or patterns typical of synthetic stones using a microscope.

  • Refractive Index: By measuring how light bends when passing through the gem, experts can identify synthetics.

  • Specific gravity: The density of the gemstone can provide clues to its origins.

  • Spectroscopy: Examining the absorbed or emitted light spectra can reveal the chemical composition of the stone.

What factors influence the value of synthetic gemstones?

The value of synthetic gemstones is impacted by several factors:

  • Quality: The clarity, cut, and colour of the gemstone.

  • Size: Larger stones typically demand higher prices.

  • Production cost: The complexity of the manufacturing process.

  • Market demand: Rarity and popularity among consumers.

  • Branding: Gems from renowned labs can be more valuable.

Which types of synthetic gemstones are commonly found in jewellery?

Commonly found synthetic gemstones in jewellery include:

  • Synthetic Diamonds: Made using High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) or Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) methods.

  • Lab-created Ruby and Sapphire: Both are forms of corundum.

  • Synthetic Emerald: Consists of lab-grown green beryl.

  • Synthetic opal: Known for the colourful play-of-light.

  • Cultured pearls: Produced by molluscs in controlled environments.

What distinguishes synthetic gems from natural ones?

Synthetic gems, also known as created gemstones, are man-made in controlled environments, contrasting with natural stone gems that form on the Earth over long periods. Despite their different origins, synthetic and natural stone gems may have identical chemical and physical properties, highlighting the advanced technology used to replicate the characteristics of non-natural gems.

Can synthetic gemstones be considered real, and how do they differ from imitations?

Synthetic gemstones are real in that they have the same chemical composition as their natural counterparts. They differ from imitation gems, which merely mimic the appearance and are made from different, often inferior, materials.

What are the prevalent methods used in the creation of synthetic gemstones?

Prevalent methods for creating synthetic gemstones include:

  • Flux-growth process: Slowly crystallizes gems from a solution.

  • Hydrothermal process: Mimics natural gemstone formation using high pressure and temperature in a water solution.

  • CVD (Chemical Vapor Deposition): Used primarily for diamonds, it builds up layers of carbon atoms.

  • HPHT (High Pressure High Temperature): Mimics the conditions deep in the Earth to create diamonds.

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