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