Monday, November 14, 2011

A Primer in Gemstones...Yes I Said Primer

When I worked in retail jewelry, I often heard as I was explaining a piece of jewelry with a lab created stone – “Oh, I don’t want that, it’s fake.” I would also get the question “Is this real?” in regard to a piece. I always thought to myself, “Well, it’s not imaginary!”

What is the difference between a natural gemstone and a lab created gemstone? The difference boils down to where each gemstone is grown. The natural gemstone is grown in the ground over millions and millions of years. The lab created gem is grown in a lab, under perfect conditions, using Mother Nature’s recipe in a matter of months. A lab created gemstone is chemically, physically, and optically the same as its natural counterpart. Of course, since the lab created gem was grown in a perfect environment, you won’t find the inclusions you find in natural gems. Think of it this way:  Homemade cookies are like natural gemstones, not exactly uniform, not "perfect", but very tasty.  Store bought (mass produced) cookies are always the same and "perfect".  Store bought or mass produced cookies are just as tasty as homemade; if they weren't, the Girl Scouts couldn't talk you into Thin Mints and Samoas every year (mmm, Samoas...).

It is the lack of inclusions that is the telltale sign that a gem is lab created or as I like to call them, lab grown. Most natural gemstones, no matter how clear, will have some type of inclusion or birthmark. It is the extremely rare natural gemstone that is completely flawless. These flawless natural gemstones command a hefty price.

That brings us to another difference between natural and lab created gemstones:  Price. Lab grown stones are very wallet friendly. The cost to produce a lab grown gemstone is significantly less than the cost to mine, cut, and polish a natural stone. With natural gemstones, someone has to find the deposit, then a mine needs to be created and the gemstones dug out of the earth. Some gemstones can be hidden deep within the earth, so it may take a lot of digging before a single piece of rough is found.

Now that we know the only physical difference between a natural gemstone and a lab created stone is where it was grown, the question you may be thinking is “Which one is better?”  I think this comes down to personal preference. My birthstone is emerald. If I wanted to get a beautiful deep green emerald of any size, it would cost me thousands of dollars. I don’t care to spend that much on a gem, so when it comes to my birthstone, I opt for lab created every time. Do you want a beautiful stone and want to know that it is natural or do you want a beautiful stone and not care that it was lab created? The decision is yours and yours alone.

I hope this installment of Random Thoughts from Melissa has, at minimum, given you more information.  I hope this has given you the information to be a better educated consumer.  Like I said yesterday, never stop learning.  If knowledge is power then I hope this post has empowered you!

Happy Gem shopping... Melissa

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