Step 5: Advanced Gem Information

Lesson 1

Distinguishing natural from synthetic gems is a critical skill for gemologists. It could mean the difference between valuing a gemstone at thousands of dollars per carat or just a couple of dollars.

Basic Terminology

You should know the following definitions.

  • Natural Gems – Formed in the Earth.
  • Synthetic Gems – Duplicates of natural gems grown in a lab.
  • Homocreates – Synthetic gem materials with no natural counterparts.
  • Imitations – Gemstones or other materials presented as other kinds of gems.

You can find more information on these terms in our guide to gem classification.

Keep in mind that some of these definitions can overlap. For example, you may find a synthetic corundum stone offered for sale as an imitation aquamarine.

What to Look For First

Very fine clarity may be the first indication you’re dealing with a synthetic, since few natural gems are clean to 10X, much less anything higher. If you can’t find natural inclusions with a loupe, you probably have a synthetic. While this isn’t proof, it’s a strong clue. You should investigate?further.

Unfortunately, the opposite isn’t necessarily true. While most synthetics are very clean, you’ll…