As their name suggests, natural gemstones occur naturally through geologic processes and are not created in a lab. Different natural gemstones are found in different areas and climates and are mined around the world. Some natural gemstones can be treated or enhanced using heat or other methods to improve characteristics such as color.
Laboratory-created gemstones, also called lab-grown, manufactured, or synthetic gemstones, have nearly identical physical, chemical, and optical properties to natural gemstones. However, as human-made creations, laboratory-created gemstones do not have the rarity or inherent value of naturally-occurring gemstones. Thus, custom jewelry made from laboratory-created gemstones is often significantly less expensive than that made from their naturally-occurring equivalents. For those curious about the origins of gems in their possession, it is advisable to take the piece to a professional gemologist who will be able to identify its source through proper testing accurately.
Like laboratory-created gemstones, imitation gemstones are also human-manufactured. However, unlike some laboratory-created gemstones, imitation stones resemble natural gemstones in appearance only. Some common imitation gemstones include cubic zirconium, tinted glass, or other material that resembles natural gemstones when treated. As with other lab-created stones, imitation gemstones can be easily identified by a professional gemologist.
Enhanced or Treated Gemstones
An enhanced or treated gemstone is a stone that has undergone synthetic alteration to improve is appearance, durability, or color. Both naturally-occurring and laboratory-created gemstones can be strengthened or treated. In fact, a majority of gemstones on the market today are treated in some way. Depending on the type and quality of the treatment, and the date when it was performed, some gemstone enhancements may lessen or change with time-and many also require special care. As with any human interference, gemstone enhancements affect the value of a given gemstone, and should always be disclosed by a reputable gem or custom jewelry seller.