If you've been shopping for gemstone jewelry, then you may have seen some gems labeled as lab-created or synthetic. These jewels were manufactured in a laboratory instead of forming naturally in the earth. Does this mean a lab-created sapphire is not a real sapphire? No, not at all. The lab-created stone has virtually the same mineral content and crystal structure as the natural stone. Created gemstones are real gems of good quality and dazzling color. To make an informed buying decision, you'll want to read this introduction to lab-created gemstones.
Lab-created gemstones have the same mineral content as their natural counterparts. For example, natural rubies and sapphires are made of the mineral corundum mixed with other materials that form the different colors. A gem manufacturer would make a ruby out of corundum with the right mixture of chromium and iron to achieve the red color.
The laboratory process mimics the natural process. Nature forms gems with extreme heat, pressure, and time. Most manufacturers use the flame-fusion method to create gems. In this process, powdered components fuse into liquids drops as they pass through a flame heated to at least 3,360 degrees F. The melted drops fall onto a platform and form cylindrical crystals called boules. Jewelers cut gem shapes from the boules.
There are some differences between natural gems and the created gems. In addition to slight variations in color and shape, the synthetic gems have unique inclusions that can be seen under a microscope. Natural sapphire crystals have straight growth lines, but the created crystals have curved lines. And emeralds made with the flux-melt technique will have feather-like inclusions.
You can compare natural and created gemstones as you shop. A retailer should be able to describe the materials in any piece of jewelry they sell. When you shop for jewelry at Overstock.com, you'll find a description of materials on each product page. A natural stone will be labeled with its gem name, such as sapphire, topaz, or amethyst. A lab-created gemstone will include the words created or synthetic in the name, such as created sapphire. Use this information while you're browsing to compare the color, style, and price of gemstone jewelry.