What Is the Difference Between Imitation and Lab-Created Gems?

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What Is the Difference Between Imitation and Lab-Created Gems?
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What Is the Difference Between Imitation and Lab-Created Gems?

Natural gemstones are made of rock, crystals, minerals, or other organic materials. These materials can be cut and polished to produce beautiful gemstones. Because of the scarcity and the rising costs to mine many naturally occurring gemstones, scientists have begun to produce lab-created gemstones. Gemologists have stated that lab-created gemstones have the same properties as natural gemstones. The price of a lab-created gemstone relies on several factors. One of these factors is size. An extremely large stone can be quite expensive, even if it's created in a laboratory. However, it would still be much cheaper than a natural stone of the same size and shape. Making gemstones in the lab is a complicated process that can be done by using several methods. The quality of the stone produced really depends on the method that is used to create it. Lab-created stones are nearly perfect in appearance. Natural gemstones are identified and graded through a process that groups the stones into certain classifications before they receive a report that reflects both their authenticity and characteristics.

How Gemstones Are Identified

Gemstones are usually identified by gemologists. They describe gems and each of their characteristics using technical terms that are specific to the field of gemology. One of the characteristics a gemologist will use to identify a gemstone is its chemical composition. For instance, diamonds are composed of carbon, and rubies are composed of aluminum oxide. Another characteristic that describes a gemstone is its crystal system such as a cubic, trigonal, or monoclinic. An additional method to characterize gemstones is by their clarity. There are many more ways to characterize and group gemstones; the aforementioned are just a few.

About Lab-Created Gemstones

Gemstones that are created in a laboratory are grown using the same compositions as natural stones. In fact, they are chemically identical to them. Lab-created gemstones are more affordable than natural stones, and unlike natural stones, they have no flaws. Nearly any gemstone can be reproduced in a lab; however, precious gemstones such as rubies, emeralds, and sapphires are the gemstones that are most frequently created in a lab setting.

The Different Processes Used to Produce Lab-Created Gemstones

There are several different processes used when making lab-created gemstones. The quality of the stone will depend on the process used to create the stone. Some processes are better than others, and a few take quite a long time before a gemstone can be cultivated.

1. Melt-Growth

The two most frequently used methods of melt-growth are Czochralski pulled-growth and Verneuil flame fusion. These methods produce relatively low-quality gems compared to natural gems. The processes use extremely high temperatures, which makes it difficult to create gemstone with a uniform color. This is especially true with rubies and blue sapphires. The action of melting and reforming crystals through this method will result in variations within the gems that will scatter light and make the stone appear dull. Czochralski pulled-growth is a method most commonly used in the creation of sapphires and rubies, but this method is far more complicated and expensive. However, it produces a higher quality than the flame-fusion method.

2. Solution-Growth

Many people believe that solution-growth yields a higher quality product than melt-growth does. The two most common solution-growth techniques are called flux and hydrothermal.

Flux Method

This method is most often used to create emeralds, rubies, and sapphires; however, the flux method is also utilized to grow gemstones such as alexandrite and spinel. This method uses a supersaturated bath of chemicals to form crystals. The flux method creates the highest quality and most expensive lab-created rubies and sapphires.

Hydrothermal Method

A high-quality aquamarine, emerald, beryl, and morganite can be grown in the lab using the hydrothermal method. This process uses a water solution at an extremely high temperature and pressure. It takes a few months to create gemstones when using this method. This is one of the reasons that the price is higher for gems created using the hydrothermal method.

Imitation Gemstones

Imitation gemstones actually imitate the color or look of natural gemstones. They can be made of nearly anything. Cubic zirconia, glass, and various other materials are used in place of a natural gemstone. Many imitation gemstones may look similar to natural stones, but they are very different in composition and optical properties. They are sometimes composed of natural minerals of a similar color to a gemstone. The reason why glass is commonly used to imitate many types of gemstones is because glass can be made in just about any color. It can be either molded or cut to a desired shape. However, glass is much softer than gemstones, which makes it prone to chipping with extended wear. Glass may also contain bubbles, and it can display a distinctive swirly texture. Cubic zirconia is often used as both a gemstone and a simulated diamond. The quality of this stone is much better than glass, but it’s not nearly as refractive as a diamond or as beautiful as a precious stone.

The Difference Between Lab-Created Gemstones and Imitation Gemstones

One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between a lab-created gemstone and an imitation stone is to use a jeweler’s loop to look at the stone. There should be an obvious difference in the appearance of a lab-created gemstone and an imitation by the color, depth, and the way the light goes through the stone. If using a jeweler’s loop is not possible, the difference can be seen in the price of the stone. Imitation stones are usually priced lower than lab-created stones. If the price seems too good to be true for a lab-created gemstone, then it probably is. Look underneath the gem. If there is a foiling underneath or a painted colored surface, it is an imitation stone. Many of these practices can be hidden by a setting. Examine the color for unevenness; this could be the result of a poor dye or paint job. Stones such as an opal will often be colored or dyed in an attempt to pass it off as a higher priced blue opal by unscrupulous dealers. If there is still a confusion over whether a stone is an imitation or not, do not hesitate to ask an expert. The gemstone can be evaluated by a jeweler to see if the stone is an imitation. Most jewelers can tell the difference between an imitation stone and a lab-created stone. However, it is not that difficult after just a little research on lab-created gemstones. Most lab-created gemstones simply look like a perfect version of a natural gemstone. In most cases, an imitation stone can be readily differentiated from a lab-created gemstone.

How to find Lab-Created and Imitation Gemstones on eBay

To find the right lab-created or imitation gemstones on eBay, go to the eBay homepage and highlight the All Categories tab. Highlight and click on Jewelry & Watches. On the left of the display page, click on Loose Diamonds & Gemstones. If the page display does not have the items needed, type the exact name of the item into the search bar at the top of the page. This should bring up the desired item on a new page.

Conclusion

Lab-created gemstones are genuine stones; the only difference between a natural stone and a lab-created gemstone is that the lab-created stone is nearly perfect in appearance. However, the price of a lab-created stone is far less than a natural stone. The level of a lab-created stone's quality will depend on the process used to make it. There are several methods of constructing a lab-created stone; most of them are complicated processes that produce good quality stones. Stones produced in the lab have the same compositions as natural stones. Imitation stones can be constructed of various materials. They are less expensive than lab-created stones, and the quality of an imitation stone is inferior in its appearance when compared to a lab-created stone. However, some materials such as cubic zirconia can make nice substitutions for lab-created or natural gemstones. Glass is not a very good choice for an imitation stone because it is very prone to chipping when its worn for extended periods. When buying stones, it's best to research the different types of stones beforehand to ensure that the quality of the stones match the prices requested by the seller. It's also helpful to have a jeweler's loop to examine gemstones closely. If there is any confusion, take the stone to a jeweler to clarify whether the stone is a lab-created stone or an imitation stone. Most jewelers will be able to tell the difference between the two. Although it can be easy to tell a lab-created stone from an imitation stone, the appearance of a stone can sometimes be hidden by its setting. In this case, it's best to bring it to a jeweler for an evaluation.

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