There’s a lot of gemstone jargon flying around and it can be confusing. Here are some definitions of gemstone types that I hope will help. We are going to explore the terms real, natural, created, and simulated.
It is important to note what it means for a gem to be labeled as “real” and I think its best to just use an example. A “real” ruby is a gemstone that has the chemical and mineral composition of a ruby. Whether the ruby was formed in a laboratory or in the Earth, its still an actual, real ruby.
A natural stone is a real gemstone that was created by natural processes inside the earth and dug out or mined. Typically the more rare a gemstone is in nature, the more expensive it is. Check out this fun article about the most expensive gemstones in the world.
Natural gemstones are often times treated in order to enhance their natural beauty. You may see treated natural stones further classified as “genuine” gemstones. Heat treating gemstones is a very common, accepted practice in gemology. Do be a bit cautious when you see the term “genuine” as this label can get misused and check for other descriptive terms.
Lab Created Gemstones
A lab-created stone is a real gemstone as well, however, it was created inside a laboratory and not from within the earth. The chemical and mineral composition of lab-created gemstones are equal to that of their natural counterparts but are less expensive.
There is a growing market for lab-created gems as people look to purchase ethically sourced stones at affordable prices. Clean Origin is a beloved company that sells only lab-created diamonds.
A simulated stone is a gemstone that is created inside a laboratory that is made to mimic or look like a natural stone. For example, cubic zirconia (CZ) is created in a lab and its purpose is to look like a diamond. CZs are not diamonds but look like them and are less expensive.
You’ll also see the term “simulant” which means the same – its a stone or product that is used to look like its real counterpart. Examples of simulants include colored crystals or glass. A well-shaped piece of red glass can mimic the look of a ruby for a fraction of the cost.
To get into an even more grey area, because why not, let’s look at another example. A white sapphire is a real sapphire gemstone, but you’ll often see it used as a side stone in jewelry to simulate diamonds because a white sapphire is less expensive than a diamond, but it still has that beautiful, clear look.
The description of such a jewelry piece should tell you that the stones are white sapphire as in the beautiful ring below.
Natural London Blue topaz with lab-created white sapphires, Gem Stone King, Amazon.com
I hope that helped a bit! Always read through the product descriptions carefully for these terms so you know what you are purchasing. And enjoy lab-created stones as they are a beautiful, budget-friendly way to enjoy gems!