What are synthetic diamonds?
In this series of blog posts, we will discuss what are synthetic diamonds, how they are entering the market, and what that means to you.
What are synthetic diamonds? - Understanding the terms.
Before we begin, I would like to clarify some terminology we use as gemologists:
- Natural – Gemologists use the term “natural” to describe a gem material that was mined from the earth. The gem is not altered through a physical or chemical treatment. If the gem were treated, we would identify it by the method of its treatment. For example: if a blue sapphire were heated to improve its color, we would call it a “heated blue sapphire.” Although the sapphire is natural and mined from the earth, we would not be able to give it the “natural” label. Unfortunately, commercial enterprises are not bound by the same restrictions as gemological laboratories. When retailers sell “natural” gems, it is usually in the context that gems were mined from the earth and not made in a lab. It is possible that those gems are treated. The distinction is important because natural gems command a higher price. We recommend that you always inquire about the source and treatments of your gems.
- Synthetic – The term “synthetic” is given to a gem that is created in a lab , but is identical to its natural counterpart. Synthetic sapphires are made through a variety of methods, which you can read about here. Yet, these synthetic creations are still corundum minerals (dialuminum trioxide - Al2O3). They have a hardness of 9 with excellent durability. As gemologists, we understand that they natural and synthetic gems are mineralogically identical. But, we must much differentiate between gems by their formation process.
- Simulants – Gemologists use term “simulants” to describe any gem material that is used to copy the appearance of another gem material. As you can imagine, there are many diamond simulants in the market. Any gem that is colorless and shiny could be labeled as a natural diamond simulant, including synthetic diamonds. White sapphire, white topaz, cubic zirconia, and moissanite all fall under the category of “diamond simulants.".
What are synthetic diamonds? - How this will help you.
It’s helpful to familiarize yourself with these terms. If you're buying jewelry, ask the jeweler or salesperson the exact nature of the product. Even get their thoughts on what are synthetic diamonds. This will reduce the number of regretful purchases you make.
As stated before, synthetic diamonds are chemically and physically identical to natural diamonds. A major difference is how they are produced. One is mined from the earth and the other is grown in a lab. There are some hidden characteristics that can only be measured using advanced lab equipment. For your purposes, formation is the only notable difference between natural and synthetic.