The Difference Between Lab-Created and Natural Gemstones

What is the difference between lab-grown gemstones and natural gemstones mined from the ground? I have recently completed the Applied Jewelry Professional program at the Gemological Institute of America and one of the lessons was on this very topic.


In order to receive the Applied Jewelry Professional diploma, you have to pass three courses: Jewelry Essentials, Diamond Essentials and Colored Stones Essentials.

Within the Colored Stones Essentials course, we went through the difference between lab grown gemstones (of which there are various processes) and natural gemstones.

Natural gemstones, mined from the earth can (but certainly not always) be unethical and non-eco-friendly, because miners may not get paid a fair wage or have good working conditions.

Mining can cause soil erosion and obviously mined gemstones are a limited resource (some more so than others). That’s not to say that sourcing natural gemstones is always bad, so long as you can trace the background of the gemstones. Each year, members of the AGTA (American Gem Trade Association) commit to leading the industry in standards of disclosure, transparency, and ethical practices. AGTA and its members developed the industry’s strictest and most comprehensive Code of Ethics and Fair Business Practices in 1984. The natural gemstones that I use in my jewelry are bought from AGTA members (mostly at gem shows that are run by the AGTA).

So, now we know a bit about mined gemstones, let’s turn to lab-created gemstones. lab-created gemstones make a good alternative to mined gemstones. They shouldn’t be confused though with imitation (which can be made of glass, plastic, resin or quartz which is dyed) and simulated (made in a lab, but do not have the same make-up as natural gemstone) gemstones. The composition of a lab-created gemstone is exactly the same as a mined gemstone, they are identical chemically, physically and optically to natural gems, they have simply been grown in a lab.

There are a number of processes that can be used to create gemstones in the lab; flame fusion, flux and hydrothermal. Gemstones created by flux and hydrothermal processes can take over a year to grow.

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