How to Recognize Lab-Created Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald

Updated on November 8, 2019
How do you tell apart natural vs. lab-created rubies, sapphires, and emeralds?
How do you tell apart natural vs. lab-created rubies, sapphires, and emeralds? | Source

Being able to differentiate lab-created gemstones from natural gemstones will not only make it impossible for an unscrupulous jeweler to take advantage of you, but it will also ensure that you can make a conscientious choice between lab-created or natural gemstones.

There is nothing wrong with purchasing lab-created gemstones as long as the fact is disclosed to you and you make the purchase knowingly.

What Are Lab-Created Gemstones?

Lab-created gemstones are gemstones that have been grown in a lab as opposed to growing in their natural environment. They are real gemstones and have the exact chemical composition as naturally occurring gemstones.

A lab-created ruby or lab-created sapphire has the exact chemical composition as a natural ruby or natural sapphire harvested from a traditional mine. They should not be confused with man-made gemstones, which are synthetic and, of course, not real gemstones.

If They’re Chemically the Same, How Can You Tell the Difference?

When gemstones go through the natural crystallization process, many other minerals and gasses may get captured within the gemstone. In addition, parts of the gemstone may not mate with other parts, creating fissures. All this creates within the gemstone what are normally called inclusions. Lab-created gemstones are created by simulating the high pressure and high heat needed for crystallization but excludes the extraneous mineral and gases found in nature. Since every aspect is controlled lab-created gemstones are flawless.

  • Lab-created gemstones have no inclusions.
  • Natural gemstones are opaque, meaning that light doesn’t travel ‘through’ the gemstone and you cannot clearly see ‘into’ the gemstone.
  • Lab-created gemstones are crystal-like; you can see ‘into’ and sometimes ‘through’ the gemstone.
  • Lab-created gemstones have very vivid colors.
  • Natural gemstones have opaque or diluted colors. Only the most expensive and rare natural gemstones exhibit the vivid colors of a lab-created gemstone.

Natural rubies, natural sapphires, and natural emeralds have inclusions that are often noticeable to the naked eye. These inclusions are a telltale, often called a birthmark by jewelers, that the gemstone is natural.

Are Lab-Created Gemstones More Expensive?

No. Although lab-created gemstones are flawless and have more desirable colors they lack most important aspect of a gemstone. Unlike natural gemstones, they are not rare. They can be created in any quantity color or size. Lab-created gemstone can be purchased for 40% to 80% less than the natural gemstone price—simply because they are less rare.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Shop around and compare prices. If the price is too good to be true…you know the rest.
  • Compare the color. If it’s very vivid or distinct and the price is still low, it may be lab-created.
  • Look for inclusions. Unlike diamonds, where the inclusions may be impossible to see without aid, natural rubies, sapphires, and emeralds have inclusions that are easy to see.
  • If unsure, ask the jeweler. They are under mandate from the Federal Trade Commission to disclose any treatment done on the gemstone and to disclose if the gemstone is natural, lab-created, or synthetic.


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