Natural, Lab-Created, and Color-Treated Gemstones
When you buy a gemstone, consider whether the stone is natural or treated. Gemstone enhancement has become a very common and accepted practice because it greatly improves the appearance of the stone. The vast majority of stones are treated in some way. Treated or enhanced gemstones are generally more cost-effective than natural or non-treated gemstones.
Sometimes gemstones are color-treated to either enhance or modify their natural hue or to alter them into a new color altogether. Some treatments or enhancements are permanent, while others are temporary. Two common methods of color treating gemstones include:
1. Altering the physical structure of the gem at the atomic level, which in turn causes light to refract through the gem in a new way, creating color. Intense heating treatment and irradiation both work in this way.
2. Adding or removing color in some way. Dyeing, coating and diffusion all work by adding a chemical of some sort to the gem to adjust the gem’s natural color. Bleaching treatments are occasionally done to some gems in order to lighten or lower the intensity of a color. For a better understanding, here’s an explanation about each method.
B- Bleaching: The use of chemicals or other agents to lighten or remove a gemstone’s color. Pearls and ivory may be bleached to lighten their color.
C- Coating: The use of surface enhancements such as lacquering, enameling, inking, foiling, or sputtering of films to improve appearance, provide color or add other special effects.
D- Dyeing: The introduction of coloring matter into a gemstone to give it new color, intensify present color or improve color uniformity.
F- Filling: As a by-product of heat enhancement, the presence of solidified borax or similar colorless substances that are visible under properly illuminated 10X magnification.
G- Gamma/Electron Irradiation: The use of gamma and/or electron bombardment to alter a gemstone’s color. It may be followed by a heating process.
H- Heating: Heating is one of the most common treatments used to enhance the natural beauty of colored gemstones. This permanent process can dramatically improve the color and/or clarity in a number of stones, including sapphires, rubies, diamonds, aquamarine, amethyst, tanzanite, topaz, tourmaline and other stones.
I- Infilling: The intentional filling of surface breaking cavities or fractures usually with glass, plastic, opticon with hardeners and/or other hardened foreign substances to improve durability, appearance and/or add weight.
Some gemstones that are commonly color-treated or enhanced include diamonds, pearls, topaz, quartz, jadeite, citrine, ruby, aquamarine and tanzanite. Some of the gemstones that are not commonly enhanced include garnet, peridot, green zircon and tourmaline.
Lab-created gemstones are made of the same mineral composition as natural gemstones. They're created in a controlled setting with equipment that simulates the high pressure and heat nature uses to create real gemstones far beneath the surface of the earth. A lab-created gemstone is identical to natural gemstones in every way: color, hardness, composition, luster, looks, etc.
The one difference between a lab-created gemstone and a natural gemstone is that the natural gemstone most likely has flaws called inclusions. Because a laboratory can control mineral composition, heat and pressure, lab-created gemstones have no inclusions. While having a perfect lab-created gemstone sounds nice, a too perfect gemstone can sometimes look unnatural or phony.
Flaws or inclusions of natural gemstones are caused by minute traces of minerals that are trapped within the gemstone during the gemstone’s crystallization process.
When extraneous gases and other minerals mix in the molten mass before it cools and crystallizes, these inclusions form. The fewer inclusions a natural gemstone has, the higher its clarity rating, which also means a higher value when being appraised.
It may seem odd that we will pay much more for a natural gemstone that will have inclusions than we would for an identical, flawless lab-created gemstone, but our culture and the jewelry industry's marketing efforts have placed a higher value on natural gemstones. Remember, a lab-created gemstone is identical to a natural gemstone, except the lab-created gemstone is flawless. Because of the high price of natural gemstones, many gemstones sold today are lab-created.
Marquis or heart-shaped cut? Briolette or cushion? Choosing a cut is usually a matter of personal taste. Below is a short guide to some common gemstone cuts.
||Oblong, step cut
||Tear drop shaped, covered in facets, pointed end
||Square, rounded edges
||Rectangular with beveled corners and step-cut facets
||A long oval that’s pointed at each end
||Oval with a point on the end of the stone and depth to the underside
||Triangle with shortened corners
Not quite sure what to look for in a gemstone? Quality gemstones will have the following:
- A bright, vivid color
- A clear, transparent body
- No visible flaws when viewed in the face-up position
- A cut that reflects light evenly across its surface when in the face-up position
Birthstone jewelry makes a great present for both friends and family or a great personal choice. Not sure which stone is representative of each month? Check the chart below for the most commonly used birthstone.
||Garnets are found in many colors from deep red to green.
||Garnets are said to represent friendship and loyalty.
||Known for its striking shades of purple, the amethyst is a type of quartz.
||The word “amethyst” derives from Greek and means “not intoxicated.” This meaning has expanded to encompass sincerity and peace.
||Aquamarine is typically a pale blue-green.
||Aquamarine is said to represent health and courage; the gem also has nautical connotations thanks to its meaning (the word “aquamarine” means “water of the sea”).
||Diamond (Due to cost, white topaz or other white stones may be substituted.)
||Traditionally white, but colored diamonds are also available.
||Diamonds represent love and evoke feelings of permanence and longevity; they also represent 60th anniversaries.
||Emeralds are noted for their iconic green coloring.
||Like diamonds, emeralds are said to represent love, but they also represent the spirit of rebirth as well as fertility.
||Pearls are noted for their creamy white color, but can also be found in many other shades from rose to black.
||Pearls symbolize purity.
||Rubies are—of course—red, although the precise shade of red may vary.
||The ruby is a symbol of nobility and is also said to represent good fortune.
||Peridot is found in shades of olive or lime green.
||Peridot represents strength and power, as well as protection.
||Blue is the predominant color of sapphires, but other colors exist, including shades of purple and green.
||Sapphires are associated with wisdom and protection.
||Opal is known for its play of color. It might show one, two or a rainbow of colors.
||Opals are a symbol of creativity and confidence.
||Citrine is a golden yellow.
||Citrine is associated with health, happiness, clarity.
||Comes in three shades of blue, pale sky blue, cool Swiss blue and deep London blue.
||Blue topaz evokes images of wind, sky and water. Blue is the color of calmness, quiet and relaxation.
*These gemstones are available in lab-created versions.