What Is a Real Gem? Find Out in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

“In industry Facebook posts, jewelers say they fear consumers will get confused between manmade gems and real,” reports Betsy Lehndorff in a short piece about her interest in some manmade emerald rough in the latest Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. Seems to me if they’d stop suggesting that real is the opposite of manmade, we’d have much less confusion all around.

ABOVE: RusGems manmade emerald rough; photo courtesy Rus Gems.

What’s a Real Gemstone?

If you see it, hold it, plop it in a setting . . . it’s real, all right, it’s not a figment of anyone’s imagination or a hologram, now is it? It’s not a fake, either, unless someone is trying to pass it off as something, anything, that it isn’t — which would also apply for anything else on earth. It’s not a rip-off unless someone is charging a predatorily exorbitant price for it — ditto.

More than that, a manmade emerald, for example, meets the criteria of emerald the substance. These include its basic chemical composition, structure, and the physical and optical properties that result, such as hardness, color, dispersion, durability . . . the things that make a gem a gem. A manmade emerald is just that: an emerald that is manmade. (Another term often used is synthetic, accurate here in its stricter sense of manmade but not in the more commonly used and pejorative sense of ersatz, concocted and of lesser quality.)

RusGem faceted manmade emeralds; photo courtesy RusGem

RusGem faceted manmade emeralds; photo courtesy RusGem

Manmade vs. Natural

A manmade gem does differ from a natural one — in how it came to be. Rather than an accident of Nature, a manmade gem is a deliberate product of human beings, usually some very smart and patient ones who’ve figured out how to synthesize it. Its laboratory origins generally make a manmade gem less rare than a natural one, and as rarity or scarcity pushes costs up, manmade gems should be less expensive than their natural counterparts (if such exist). But the controlled environment of a lab can also turn out gem rough that is more pure, less flawed, or otherwise generally considered more valuable.

Buyers of any gem in any situation should be concerned about paying a fair price and getting what they pay for. But as with color, size, clarity, and the like, so, too, with origin. Beauty is in the mind as well as the eye of the beholder, and what appeals to one person may not be so important to another, or even to the same person in another instance. Manmade or natural is one choice among many, and choice is a wonderful thing — as long as you understand what the choices really are.

Merle White is Editor-in-Chief of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.
This post is adapted from her column, “What’s Real?” in the September/October 2019 issue.

Choose What Suits You

Learn more about those manmade emeralds in Betsy’s feature story, “Roughing It in the Lab,” in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist September/October 2019.

And definitely check out what Betsy Lehndorff did with the emerald she bought in her “Manmade / Handmade” Art Deco–inspired necklace project; photo: Jim Lawson Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

And definitely check out what Betsy Lehndorff did with the emerald she bought in her “Manmade / Handmade” Art Deco–inspired necklace project; photo: Jim Lawson

Here are some other gems — stone and otherwise — you’ll find in the September/October 2019 Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist!

Gemstone Eye Candy

What’s making designers go “Over the Moonstone” for this gently glowing gem? Find out in Trends. Rainbow and gray moonstone, rutilated quartz, citrine, and blue topaz rings by Shamila Jawa; photo courtesy Shamila Jawa

What’s making designers go “Over the Moonstone” for this gently glowing gem? Find out in Trends. Rainbow and gray moonstone, rutilated quartz, citrine, and blue topaz rings by Shamila Jawa; photo courtesy Shamila Jawa

This issue’s Smokin’ Stone is labradorite, which Kieu Pham Gray paired with shell and blue topaz in a flashy necklace project. Polished, striated labradorite slab from Madagascar, JS White collection; photos: Jim Lawson

This issue’s Smokin’ Stone is labradorite, which Kieu Pham Gray paired with shell and blue topaz in a flashy necklace project. Polished, striated labradorite slab from Madagascar, JS White collection; photo: Jim Lawson

 

Explore many incarnations of historic jewelry styles in Cathleen McCarthy’s feature story “Revival” and her artist profile of contemporary revivalist Loren Nicole, “Ancient Reinvented.” Tawaret, Goddess of Mothers and Children amulet ring by Loren Nicole, 22k yellow gold, aquamarine, Paraíba tourmaline; photo courtesy Loren Nicole Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

Explore many incarnations of historic jewelry styles in Cathleen McCarthy’s feature story “Revival” and her artist profile of contemporary revivalist Loren Nicole, “Ancient Reinvented.” Tawaret, Goddess of Mothers and Children amulet ring by Loren Nicole, 22k yellow gold, aquamarine, Paraíba tourmaline; photo courtesy Loren Nicole

 

Although you’ll learn to create these dramatically set gemstone rings, what Michael David Sturlin is really teaching with this project is how to use “Sawing for 3D Effects.” He also tries out Continuum silver, a sterling alloy that works more like gold, and gives his assessment of the metal; photo: Jim Lawson Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

Although you’ll learn to create these dramatically set gemstone rings, what Michael David Sturlin is really teaching with this project is how to use “Sawing for 3D Effects.” He also tries out Continuum silver, a sterling alloy that works more like gold, and gives his assessment of the metal; photo: Jim Lawson

 

You can re-create Jeff Fulkerson’s “Circle of Life” project if you want to, but he presents a different challenge: make something with only the materials you have on hand; photo: Jim Lawson Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

You can re-create Jeff Fulkerson’s “Circle of Life” project if you want to, but he presents a different challenge: make something with only the materials you have on hand; photo: Jim Lawson

 

Roger Halas tends to have exotic materials on hand. In his “Adorn Your Inner Pirate” project, he creates these earrings of brass and alligator leather (affiliate link, produced under the rule and regulation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES); photo: Jim Lawson Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

Roger Halas tends to have exotic materials on hand. In his “Adorn Your Inner Pirate” project, he creates these earrings of brass and alligator leather (affiliate link, produced under the rule and regulation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES); photo: Jim Lawson

 

Eric Smith displays these patterned fossil shells in his “Summer Souvenir” bracelet project; photo: Jim Lawson Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

Eric Smith displays these patterned fossil shells in his “Summer Souvenir” bracelet project; photo: Jim Lawson

 

Using silver metal clay in her “Fit for a Finger” project, Noël Yovovich explores doming inside and out as she creates this scenic band ring with a comfort fit and an undulating exterior surface that suggests mountains or waves; photo: Jim Lawson

Using silver metal clay in her “Fit for a Finger” project, Noël Yovovich explores doming inside and out as she creates this scenic band ring with a comfort fit and an undulating exterior surface that suggests mountains or waves; photo: Jim Lawson

Plus: favorite finishing tools and supplies, marketing tips, plique-à-jour enameling, apprenticeships today, and more!

Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist September/October 2019 is now available.

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