One of the most intimidating subjects for new comers to the jewelry industry is synthetic gems, so I figured I’d start with a quick explanation of the subject. Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote:
Man made gems come in many forms. Every thing from simple glass to plastic to high tech chemical tongue twister like gadolinium gallium garnet (also called GGG) and the modern diamond simulant moissanite, a man made silicon carbide. In gemology, any material used to look like a gem is called a simulant. So clear glass to rock quartz to GGG to moissanite are all diamond simulants. They look like diamonds, but they are not diamonds. These simulants are easy for a well trained and equipped gemologist to detect. But if you had gem material that is the same chemically, optically and crystal structure as a natural gem, it would be very hard to tell them apart. In gemology we call this a synthetic gem.
So a man made synthetic ruby has the same exact chemical formula and crystal structure and optical characteristics as a natural ruby. How can a person tell them apart? I will tell you it is very very hard. It takes a lot of training, very good equipment and an extremely careful examination of the gem. Some synthetics are poorly made and can quickly be identified. Other synthetics are so well made it is impossible to id them in jewelry and can only be positively identified in gem labs with millions of dollars worth of equipment and world class personnel.
Synthetic gems make excellent jewelry because they have the same property as the natural gem. Synthetic gems make owning beautiful jewelry affordable. But synthetic gems are not natural; they are manmade. Knowing what you are buying is key.
In conclusion, synthetic gems are not bad, fakes, or the curse of a modern society. The story of how hard it is to make synthetic is one of mankind’s stories of perseverance and creativity. Synthetic gems are used in science and industry every day. Gem quality synthetics make affordable jewelry that looks like high end gems that only your gemologist can tell if it natural or manmade.
Go here to read the full article: Synthetic Gems: The Whole Story.