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What exactly is the difference between natural, enhanced or synthetic gemstones?

What exactly is the difference between natural, enhanced or synthetic gemstones?

 

If you’re in the market for gemstone jewellery, you may have noticed that some gemstones are described as ‘natural’, while others may be referred to as ‘synthetic’, and perhaps you’ve come to the conclusion that ‘synthetic’ isn’t as good as natural as there are sometimes negative connotations associated with this word. You may be surprised to hear that this isn’t always the case, and synthetic gemstones can in fact be better quality than those taken from nature.

 Just to clarify, when talking about gemstones that come from nature, we are referring to those that are discovered within naturally occurring rock, and are only subjected to mining, cutting and polishing. Genuine gemstones are natural gemstones that are further treated and are often referred to as ‘enhanced’. For example, sapphires can be extreme heat treated, which heightens clarity and enhances the blue colour. Other treatments can include irradiation to create blue topaz, coatings and dyes to enhance or change colour and oiling or flux healing to smooth or fill in fractures and cracks.

 Synthetic gemstones do not occur naturally as they are man-made in laboratories.  As they are synthesized, they can be created without the flaws seen in natural gemstones, but many have the exact chemical composition of its natural form, so are still real gemstones. The word ‘synthetic’ isn’t exactly what most people want when searching for a meaningful piece of jewellery though, so often the word ‘created’ is used instead.

 

This brings us to the question of which gemstone type is the better one? Well, they have key differences that may or may not be important to you. Price wise, you will usually pay less for synthetic gemstones, but if the authentic and naturally imperfect stone is what you are seeking, then stick with a natural one. Some people prefer the flawless look of a created stone, and these have an important positive environmental impact since they are created in a lab rather than destructing a piece of nature for their retrieval, which is an unsustainable practice and has a high carbon footprint. As you can see, it really depends on what is important to you or the person you are buying for with regards to what you choose.

For further information about grading and certification of gemstones please visit the Gemmological Association of Australia (GAA) at https://www.gem.org.au/gem-testing/ .