Simulated and synthetic gemstones are often called ‘fake’ stones,
What if they were…
than their natural counterparts?
The answer(at the very bottom) may surprise you.
Simulated vs Synthetic?
Simulated gemstones are supposed to “look like” another gemstone but their chemical composition and optical characteristics are different, sometimes significantly so.
Any type of gemstone can act as a simulant for another:
- Lab-created moissanite and natural white sapphire can both be used to simulate diamond as they share its clear appearance despite having different compositions.
- Tsavorite Garnet can be used as a simulant for emerald, garnet can be used as a simulant for ruby and there are countless other examples.
Synthetic gemstones, on the other hand, are made from identical materials and have the same physical properties, visual characteristics and hardness level as their natural counterparts.
Optical Characteristics of Gemstones
We often hear words such as ‘brilliance’ and ‘fire’ used to describe the sparkle and beauty of fine gemstones.
The vitally important numbers that describe these traits are the gem’s refractive index and dispersion index.
- The higher the refractive index, the higher the stone’s brilliance.
- The higher the dispersion index, the greater its fire.
Most people are surprised to learn that many simulants and synthetics look just as good as the natural stones they were designed to replace, and in many cases they actually possess optical characteristics that are even superior to the genuine article. Hard to believe, I know, but the numbers don’t lie 😉.
Cubic Zirconia Vs Diamond
The classic example is cubic zirconia, which has a higher dispersion index than diamond (0.066 vs 0.044). This means that, as far as we can scientifically determine, CZ actually possesses more ‘fire’ than diamond. In terms of brilliance, diamond does have the edge (2.42 vs 2.18), however, if you factor in the flaws that occur in natural diamonds, a typical cubic zirconia, which is FLAWLESS, ends up looking better than mid-range quality diamonds.
Cubic Zirconia Dominates Emerald?
The same comparison can be made when colored CZ is used to simulate other stones, such as aquamarine or emerald, which are both different varieties of the stone Beryl. In this case, CZ makes an even stronger showing boasting a significantly higher refractive index and dispersion rate (2.18 vs 1.56 and 0.066 vs 0.014). This means that cubic zirconia simulants are often far more stunning than their mined counterparts. Far more stunning than their former idols----talk about awkward!
For people who love fire and brilliance in their jewelry, CZ is the most ethical and economical option.
Another material used as a simulant is synthetic corundum. Natural corundum is what we commonly call Sapphire, a very popular precious gemstone. Interesting fact- Ruby is also made of corundum and the only difference between Ruby and Sapphire is their color, which is caused by chemical impurities in the material itself.
Synthetic corundum is simply the lab-created version of natural corundum and this means it possesses exactly the same chemical composition and optical characteristics as the natural variety, it was just formed in a different way.
Only a trained gemologist using the appropriate equipment would be able to tell the difference between the two, and they generally rely on the fact that natural rubies and sapphires have flaws and inclusions whereas lab created versions are flawless. Near flawless natural rubies and sapphires are extremely expensive, and yet every single lab created ruby or sapphire is essentially already ‘perfect’.
Hi-Tech Russian Stone Innovation
Not everyone is after maximum fire and brilliance though. For those people that prefer to have a material that looks very similar to their natural counterpart, a new material invented and mainly created in Russia, known as ‘Nanosital’ has emerged. Its medium refractive index and low dispersion means it visually looks very close to Beryl (Emerald, Aquamarine, Morganite etc) and Quartz(Amethyst, Citrine, Ametrine etc) gemstones.
Synthetic and simulated gemstones have gotten a bad rap. They may not be as rare as natural gemstones but they are far more ethical and far more affordable. Once you clear away the hype and marketing, in most instances they are far more beautiful too!
We understand the appeal of owning a natural stone formed by Mother Nature herself, but shouldn’t the sparkle and beauty of the stone be foremost in our hearts?.