Natural vs Genuine vs Lab-Created Gemstones: What’s the Difference?

May 30, 2019

Natural vs Genuine vs Lab-Created Gemstones: What’s the Difference?

The world of jewelry is filled with necklaces, rings, earrings and other unique items crafted using a rainbow of gorgeous gemstones. Some are created with natural stones while others are fashioned with man-made alternatives, some of which are superior in brilliance and appearance than the real deal. It’s important to keep in mind that high-quality, man-made stones are not always created in an effort to deceive. And, just because a gemstone is lab-created, it shouldn’t be viewed as low-quality. Keep reading to find out why!

The most common terms used to describe gemstones, many of which are synonymous of one another, include:

  • Natural
  • Genuine
  • Enhanced
  • Treated
  • Lab-Created
  • Created
  • Certified
  • Synthetic
  • Artificial
  • Man-Made
  • Simulated
  • Alternative
  • Faux
  • Fake

Now, we’ll explain what each means...


What is a Natural Gemstone?

Natural gemstones are formed in nature with no interference from humans other than being mined, cut/faceted and polished. If a stone is identified as natural, this means that it has not been treated, enhanced or altered. Faceting is allowed for a stone to still be considered natural, but we're seeing a growing demand for more natural looking, rough stone engagement rings like the unique diamond ring shown above (SKU 3236).

What is a Genuine Gemstone?

A genuine gemstone is real, but it is treated in some way to enhance its cut or appearance. Needless to say, these are also referred to as “enhanced” or “treated” stones. Why do stones get treated? Many times natural stones have discoloration, cracks and/or inclusions. Treatments are applied to fix these “flaws” in the stone. For example, extreme heat is applied to natural sapphires, which results in improved clarity and a more cohesive, blue color.

Fun Fact:Natural, untreated sapphires are very rare and more valuable than treated sapphires.

What is a Lab-Created Gemstone?

More commonly referred to as “created” gems because it has a more positive connotation, as you probably guessed, these are made in laboratories. Other terms used are “synthetic”, “artificial”, “lab-grown” and “man-made” gems. Many of these gemstones have the exact chemical composition of the same stone created in nature (e.g. Charles & Colvard Moissanites), so technically, they are still the real deal.

What is a Certified Gemstone?

Many colored gemstones and diamonds are graded and certified by a gemologist to guarantee their authenticity based on seller claims (e.g. it’s a genuine emerald) and predefined standards (e.g. The 4Cs of diamond grading). A certified gemstone from a reputable seller offers more peace of mind to a buyer, but many times also comes with a higher price tag. If you have an existing stone, you can send it to a lab or bring it to a jeweler with gemologist on staff. Major labs that offer certification are the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), which is the most trusted and believed to have the highest grading standards, and American Gem Society (AGS).

What is a Simulated Gemstone?

Simulated gemstones are also called “imitation”, “faux” and “fake” stones. A simulant is intended to “look like” another gemstone, but its composition is not the same. An analysis would uncover what it really is (e.g. plastic, glass, a different stone than claimed to be). Simulants aren’t always intended to deceive; these are also called “alternatives” and serve as additional stone options that might be a better fit based on personal preferences.

Fun Fact:Any type of gemstones can be a simulant. For example, a lab-created moissanite and genuine white sapphire are both diamond simulants; they both have the same clear appearance, but different composition than the diamond.

What is a Brand Name Gemstone?

A brand name gemstone can be natural, genuine or synthetic, etc. The brand is typically registered or trademarked to provide name rights to the business, to help the consumer identify it and also to designate better-quality (not always the case). As with most retail name brands, a brand name gemstone is typically priced higher than a non-branded equivalent. Examples include, Swarovski® crystals and Charles & Colvard Moissanite®, both of which are lab-created.


Lab-Created vs. Genuine Stones: Which is Better?

Better is a VERY subjective term and your opinion may vary dependent on the type of gemstone you seek. Here are a few statements to help you choose what’s best for you:

If you are partial to buying jewelry crafted with a real and authentic stone for its value and natural properties, genuine should be your choice.

If you have environmental concerns, lab-created stones are created in a controlled setting with few resources versus procured through an extensive mining process, which is typically followed by importation and other activities that result in a much larger carbon footprint.

If you prefer a more even color and don’t like visible flaws, go with lab-created stones as their controlled creations usually result in a visibly more “perfect” appearance.

If you’re frugal and love the thrill of saving money, a lab-created stone could be a better choice as they typically cost less. On that note, keep reading for some more specific examples.


Cost of a Lab-Created vs. Genuine Ruby

Opting for the lab-created vs. genuine ruby will always save you a substantial amount of money. For this round cut ruby solitaire engagement ring (SKU 1995), the cost is $689 with a lab-created ruby and $1,255 with a genuine, AA grade stone.


Cost of a Lab-Created vs. Genuine Emerald

Natural emeralds almost always have inclusions and imperfections and, if they don’t, they come at a very premium price. That being said, a lab-created emerald is a much more affordable choice that, because of its controlled creation, appears more “perfect” and free of flaws. This white gold emerald engagement ring (SKU 3791) costs over 2.5x more with a genuine round cut emerald ($4,419) vs. a lab-created stone ($1,609).


Cost of a Lab-Created vs. Genuine Alexandrite

The alexandrite is a unique and rare, two-tone stone that costs less when lab-created. In this three-stone alexandrite engagement ring (SKU 2007), the cost is just over $500 less with lab-created alexandrites ($2,475) vs. genuine stones ($2,979).


Cost of a Lab-Created vs. Genuine Sapphire

Although a sapphire is considered quite common and affordable in the grand scheme of gemstones, you can still save a bit of cash by opting for a lab-created version. In this tension set blue sapphire engagement ring (SKU 3452), the cost is $1,345 with lab-created sapphire and $1,669 with a genuine stone.


We Will Help You Find YOUR Perfect Gemstone

No matter what your gemstone preference, as a Jewelry by Johan customer you have a huge selection of gemstone options of all varieties. Search our gemstone options by type, color, shape and more right online! Or, you can supply your own stone for any of our designs, existing or custom! We will craft the jewelry of YOUR dreams using whatever stone you desire. Shop gemstone jewelry now or contact our design consultants to chat about a custom jewelry order!


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