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Is This Real?

One question that often comes up when doing custom design or helping clients with jewelry passed down from a family member is, is this real? What they are really asking is if the gemstones are natural (from the Earth) and if the metal is a precious metal like gold or platinum. Last week, my blog focused on a famous gemstone nicknamed The Great Imposter, and it got me thinking about another gemstone that seems to cause confusion when passed down through family, lab created ruby and lab created sapphire.

As with my earlier blog on lab created diamonds , lab created (or synthetic) ruby & sapphire are defined as having the same chemical, optical, and physical properties of a naturally occurring ruby & sapphire, including crystal structure, but it is grown in a laboratory or factory instead of being formed inside the Earth. There are three main ways lab created rubies and sapphires are created.

· Flame Fusion Synthetic Ruby & Sapphire: Powdered chemicals are dropped through a high temperature flame to a rotating pedestal where the crystal is formed. This is the most common and cost-effective process.

· Flux Grown Synthetic Ruby & Sapphire: Solid material is dissolved through high heat and as the solution cools, synthetic crystals form.

· Hydrothermal Synthetic Ruby & Sapphire: High heat and temperature dissolve chemicals in water, and as it cools, synthetic crystals form.

Each of these processes produce internal inclusions unique to each one which help a trained gemologist able to identify it with a microscope most of the time. For instance, Flame Fusion often has round gas bubbles and curved growth bands called curved striae. Flux Grown can have metallic inclusions that are highly reflective, and Hydrothermal can have mosaic, chevron, and zigzag growth zoning. Some synthetic gemstones need more gemological testing to firmly identify it as such.

The first lab created ruby was created in 1837 with large scale commercial production by 1910. Since most people don’t realize lab created gemstone production is over 180 years old, they assume the jewelry passed down from a great grandparent must contain natural rubies or sapphires which can cause confusion and sometimes disappointment. Once the initial shock of discovery is passed, it is fun to show clients the different type of inclusions their stone has and to marvel together at the history of scientific achievement! At the same time, they aren’t always lab created, so it is always a good idea to have a trained gemologist look at them with you.

Like lab created diamonds, lab created colored gemstones can be a great alternative for your budget and because the environment is controlled in growing them, you will be sure to get a very nice color! While naturally occurring gemstones have their own awe factor and rarity, lab created gemstones have their own awe factor in the context of human ingenuity.

As a Graduate Gemologist with 23 years of experience, I’d love to help you find something you will be proud of! If you’d like a more personal touch when shopping for a special occasion like engagement ring, anniversary gift, commitment ring, push present, birthday gift, or custom design, book your appointment with me today!

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