What is the difference between Real, Lab Created, and Simulated Gemstones?
Real or Natural Gemstones: Real gemstones are just that, real and natural, as they were created in nature. Often natural gemstones must be treated by various methods to make the color appear as we would expect them to look. Some treatments are permanent and some are not. For an example of gemstone treatment, Tanzanite in its natural state is a brownish color, but when heat treated, Tanzanite becomes the beautiful blue-purple gemstone that we admire. Tanzanite was first discovered after a lightning strike hit a surface deposit of Tanzanite, in Tanzania, Africa.
Lab Created Gemstones: Lab created gemstones are made of the same mineral composition as natural gemstones, and are created in laboratories with equipment that simulates the high pressures and heat that nature used to created the real gemstones far beneath the surface of the earth. A lab created gemstone is identical to the natural gemstone it replicates in every way; color, hardness, composition, luster, looks etc.
The only difference between a lab created gemstone and a natural gemstone is that the natural gemstone most likely has flaws called inclusions, and lab created gemstones have no inclusions, as the mineral composition, heat, and pressure are controlled in the laboratory. Having no inclusions in a perfect lab created gemstone sounds favorable, however too perfect can sometimes look unnatural or phony.
The flaws or inclusions in natural gemstones are caused by minute traces of minerals that are trapped within the gemstone during the gemstone's crystallization process, and are the result of certain extraneous gases and other minerals being mixed in the molten mass prior to its cooling and crystallization. Natural gemstones with fewer inclusions are given a higher clarity rating, and thus a higher value when being appraised.
It seems odd that when comparing the price of a lab created gemstone which is flawless, against a natural gemstone which has inclusions, that we would knowingly pay for a natural gemstone, many multiples of the price of an identical flawless lab created gemstone, but this is a result of our culture, and the the jewelry industries marketing efforts. Remember a lab created gemstone is identical to a natural gemstone, except that the lab created gemstone is flawless. Because of the high price of natural gemstones many gemstones sold today are lab created.
Sapphires and Rubies are in the Corundum family of gemstones, and are fairly easily created in the laboratory, therefore lab created Rubies and Sapphires are very common. Emeralds and Aquamarines in the Beryl family of gemstones, and Emeralds and Aquamarines are not easily made in the laboratory. Lab created Emeralds are very expensive to make, and not commonly found in jewelry, however lab created Aquamarines are not as expensive to make as Emeralds, and it is not uncommon to find them being made into jewelry.
Simulated Gemstones: Simulated gemstones are created in a laboratory environment, but they differ from natural gemstones and lab created gemstone in many significant ways, and are only made to look like a natural gemstone. Simulated gemstones in most cases do not have the same mineral composition, color, hardness, luster, or looks of a natural gemstone or lab created gemstone.
Most low cost jewelry is made with simulated gemstones due to the fact that simulated gemstones cost less than lab created gemstones.