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Article written by Mike Fox, owner of Fox Jewelry; the leading marketer of Masonic Rings and other fraternal rings.

As we all get set to start taking our winter vacations, I know that one of the favorite past times for all of us is to check out the local jewelry stores at our favorite resort areas. Buyer beware, that great deal that you think you may be getting might just not be that good of a deal after all!

Understanding the definitions used in the jewelry business will help you to make a better and informed decision when making your purchase. I am often asked to define the terms, Natural, Genuine, Synthetic and Simulated; when used in the description of our favorite gem stones. Below; I will do my best to give you a better understanding of the differences between a “Natural”, a “Synthetic” and a “Simulated” gemstone?

Shopping for gemstones and gemstone jewelry can be very confusing because prices can sometimes be very different for jewelry that seems to be quite similar; at least to the naked eye. Much of the terminology that is used in jewelry ads can be confusing too, since gemstones are labeled as natural, synthetic, and simulated.

It can be difficult, when making a jewelry or gemstone purchases, to understand the terminology used to describe a gemstone. The significant differences in prices between a natural, synthetic and simulated stone can easily turn what looks like a good deal into a terribly overpriced purchase.

Lab created (Lab grown) and Synthetic are synonymous terms. The only difference between a Natural gemstone and a lab grown or synthetic gemstone is that the natural gemstones are mined from the earth.

Natural gemstones are delivered to us by way of nature, with no interference from humans other than the fact that they are mined from the earth. By the time they make it to the jewelry counter they’ve been cut or polished, but they’ve not been altered in other ways.

The raw stones which come perfect while mined and show the perfect look without being improved by the artisans are defined as natural gemstones. Most natural gemstones can’t be used in unrefined form because they show imperfections, color spots, less shine, etc. Natural gemstones are made of rock, minerals, crystals and other organic substances. These materials are cut and polished to produce gemstones.

Due to scarcity and rising costs for some natural gemstones, scientists started producing man-made gems, or synthetic gemstones. Synthetic gemstones are made in a laboratory and have nearly the same properties as naturally occurring gemstones.

Natural gemstones have organic impurities that can affect their color. Some of these stones are further treated to enhance their color. For example, heating a stone can enhance color changes or cause certain hues to disappear completely. Even when classified as the same type of stone, every gemstone is slightly different due to its natural production. Synthetic stones are produced to be a specific color. Scientists make the necessary changes, if needed, to produce the desired color every time. This is done in a laboratory environment.  Rather than replicate the natural stone, scientists attempt to produce a more vibrantly colored stone in its place. Although this sounds beneficial, some people actually prefer the unique colors produced only in nature.

A genuine gemstone is the real thing, but isn’t natural anymore if it was treated in some way to enhance its appearance. Enhancements allow jewelry manufacturers to improve the look of lower quality gemstones that consumers wouldn’t otherwise purchase. Treated gemstones are genuine, but they are no longer considered natural. Natural gemstones often have rough edges and a dull color when first found. They have to be cut and polished to be used as gemstone. In some cases, scientific labs have been able to create duplicate gemstones. Synthetic gemstones such as rubies, sapphires and emeralds possess nearly identical physical properties when compared with their natural counter parts.

Typically natural gemstones carry a higher value than synthetic stones for several reasons. Natural stones are considered more precious and rare due to their limited availability. Untouched, natural stones are more desirable and carry a higher price tag. Synthetic gemstones are frequently the least expensive of all gemstones due to vast production and availability. A synthetic gemstone shares a natural stone’s physical, chemical and optical qualities, but it is created in a laboratory.

Synthetic gemstones are jewels made in lab and replicate each and every chemical, physical and optical properties that are inherent to their natural counterparts. Synthetic gemstones must have the exact similar chemical formula in addition to the same atomic structure and optical effects. Synthetic gems are created in industries using engineering techniques and are normally available at less cost than natural gemstones.

In some cases the synthetic gemstones are of higher value than the natural gemstones as is typically the case with many synthetic sapphires as well as emeralds and rubies. Interestingly, they are often more beautiful with more sparkle than natural gemstones because they don’t contain the impurities that are a by-product of gem formation within the Earth itself.  Synthetic gemstones are often able to be identified and differentiated from mined gemstones because they are too perfect. They are created by the use of machines that simulate the pressure and heat effects that would have influenced these minerals in the natural world over the passage of time. The stones that are created are typically identical to natural stones, except they usually have less flaws, since the stones are specifically created to be as perfect as possible, which would not happen in the natural world. A lab created gemstone will have all of the properties of a natural stone, such as hardness, color, and the like, but without any of the imperfections that are found in nature. They are made in an attempt to capture the natural aspects of real stones and many companies are really good at this. Some of the manufacturing processes are so good, it’s difficult to tell them apart from the real thing!

Jewelry that includes quality synthetic gems can be just as beautiful as jewelry made with natural stones. Good synthetics aren’t always inexpensive, but should cost much less than natural stones of similar size and quality.

Since synthetic gemstones have the same composition as their natural counterparts, they could technically be called genuine, but that would be considered deceptive labeling if the stone’s origins are not disclosed.

Simulated or imitation gems do not maintain the same physical or chemical properties of natural gemstones but they demonstrate similarity in look and brightness. These are built using glass, plastic or other materials. For example; cubic zircon is a diamond imitation but does not carry natural diamond’s hardness when it is tested on Mohs scale of hardness nor does it possess a carbon crystal in its atomic structure. Simulated stones; imitate the appearance or character of, real gemstones. Simulated stones are often created in laboratories, but they may be created of materials such as glass or plastic, or may be created with much cheaper minerals and then dyed to appear identical to a natural gemstone. Simulated stones are much less expensive than even lab created stones, and, as such, they are typically found in the least expensive jewelry.

I hope that you have found the above article to be informative. The next caveat to be aware of is the gold stamp on your gold jewelry. Just because your piece of jewelry is stamped 14K or 10K on the inside of the ring; does that really mean that it is? Is it possible that the article is just gold plated over brass or silver or some other metal?

My advice is; purchase your jewelry from a store known for its quality and from a name that you can trust. Make sure that you are getting what you pay for! If it looks like too good of a deal to be true; it probably is!

This article was written by Mike Fox, owner of Fox Jewelry. They are the leading marketer of Masonic Rings and have the largest of selection of Masonic Rings anywhere. We welcome your visit our online store at: Fox Jewelry.

Fox Jewelry


3821 Chippewa Ct

Sioux City, IA 51104



Email address: [email protected]

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