Emeralds have often been associated with luxury, royalty, and mysticism, and have been used in jewelry and as status symbols for millennia. But in recent years, the emergence of lab-created emeralds has introduced a new player to the market. While both natural and lab-created emeralds have their own unique appeal, it’s essential to understand the differences between them.
This comprehensive guide sheds light on the differences between lab created emerald vs natural, ensuring you make an informed and confident choice.
What Are Natural Emeralds?
Natural emeralds are a testament to the Earth’s incredible ability to produce beauty under pressure. Formed deep within the Earth’s crust, these gemstones are a result of specific geological processes that span millions of years. The formation of natural emeralds involves the combination of beryl, a mineral, with trace amounts of chromium and vanadium, which give the gemstone its iconic green hue.
Historical And Cultural Value: Natural emeralds have been revered throughout history. Ancient civilizations, from the Egyptians to the Aztecs, cherished these gemstones, associating them with power, rebirth, and even the ability to foresee the future. Cleopatra, the famous Egyptian queen, was known for her love of emeralds, and they have been found in ancient burial sites as symbols of eternal life.
Unique Characteristics: Every natural emerald tells a story. The inclusions, often called “jardin” (French for garden), are like a snapshot of the conditions present during its formation. These inclusions, while sometimes seen as imperfections, add character and uniqueness to each stone.
What Are Lab-Created Emeralds?
Lab-created emeralds are a marvel of modern gemological science. They are grown in controlled environments using advanced technological processes, such as the hydrothermal method. This method replicates the conditions under which natural emeralds form, but on an accelerated timeline. Essentially, a “seed” crystal is placed in a nutrient-rich solution, and over time, it grows, layer by layer, into a full-sized emerald.
Ethical And Environmental Benefits: One of the significant advantages of lab-created emeralds is their ethical sourcing. Unlike some natural gemstones, which can be tied to conflict regions or environmentally damaging mining practices, lab-created emeralds have a clear and transparent origin. They offer a sustainable alternative, reducing the environmental footprint associated with gemstone extraction.
Consistency And Precision: Due to the controlled conditions of their creation, lab-created emeralds often exhibit a high degree of consistency in color, clarity, and overall quality. This predictability can be advantageous for specific applications, such as matching stones in jewelry sets.
Lab Created Emerald vs Natural
Lab created emeralds and natural emeralds share the same physical, chemical, and optical properties. Here’s an analytical breakdown of how to distinguish between the two:
Origin And Formation
Natural Emeralds: These are formed deep within the Earth’s crust over millions of years. The process involves a combination of specific minerals, heat, and pressure, leading to the creation of this precious gemstone.
Lab-Created Emeralds: These are produced in controlled environments using advanced technological processes. The hydrothermal method, for instance, mimics the conditions under which natural emeralds form, but it does so in a fraction of the time.
Inclusions And Clarity
Natural Emeralds: Almost all natural emeralds have inclusions, often referred to as the gem’s “fingerprint.” These inclusions can range from tiny internal fractures to embedded minerals and are a testament to the stone’s natural origin.
Lab-Created Emeralds: Generally, they have fewer inclusions and are often clearer than their natural counterparts. This is because the controlled environment in which they’re created minimizes the chances of impurities getting trapped inside.
Color And Consistency
Natural Emeralds: Their color can vary widely, from light green to deep, rich green. This variation is due to the differing amounts and types of trace elements present during their formation.
Lab-Created Emeralds: They tend to have a more consistent color throughout, as the conditions of their creation are standardized.
Price And Value
Natural Emeralds: Due to their rarity and the lengthy process of their formation, natural emeralds are typically more expensive. Their value can also increase based on factors like clarity, color, and origin.
Lab-Created Emeralds: They are generally more affordable, making them an attractive option for those who want the beauty of an emerald without the hefty price tag. However, they might not appreciate in value like natural emeralds.
Durability And Maintenance
Natural Emeralds: They can be more susceptible to wear and tear due to their inclusions. It’s essential to handle them with care and avoid exposing them to harsh chemicals or extreme temperatures.
Lab-Created Emeralds: With fewer inclusions, they can be slightly more durable. However, like all gemstones, they should be treated with care.
Natural Emeralds: Rarely contain gas bubbles. Instead, they might have inclusions of minerals or water.
Lab-Created Emeralds: May occasionally contain tiny gas bubbles, a tell-tale sign of their synthetic origin.
Natural Emeralds: Exhibit a hexagonal crystal system, which is a result of their natural growth process.
Lab-Created Emeralds: While they also have a hexagonal structure, the patterns of growth can sometimes be more regular and uniform.
Wide Range Of Colors And Shapes
Natural Emeralds: Due to the unpredictable nature of their formation, they come in a broader range of shapes and shades.
Lab-Created Emeralds: Are often grown in specific shapes for jewelry settings, leading to a more standardized appearance.
Composition Of Lab Created Emeralds vs. Natural Emeralds
Natural Emeralds: Composed primarily of beryl, with trace amounts of chromium and vanadium giving them their green color.
Lab-Created Emeralds: Also made of beryl but can sometimes contain other trace elements or dopants to enhance color and clarity.
Differences In Isotopes
Natural Emeralds: The isotopic ratios in natural emeralds can vary based on their geographical origin.
Lab-Created Emeralds: Typically have a consistent isotopic ratio, reflecting the materials used in their creation.
Hardness Measurement Comparison
Natural Emeralds: On the Mohs scale, they usually rank between 7.5 to 8, making them relatively hard but also prone to chipping due to inclusions.
Lab-Created Emeralds: Generally have the same hardness but can be slightly more resistant to wear and tear due to fewer inclusions.
Refractive Index Comparison
Natural Emeralds: Have a refractive index ranging from 1.565 to 1.602.
Lab-Created Emeralds: While they fall within a similar range, the refractive index can be more consistent across specimens due to the uniformity of their creation.
Price Difference Between Lab-Created And Natural Emeralds
Natural Emeralds: command a higher price due to their rarity, unique inclusions, and the prestige associated with them, with those from Colombia being particularly valuable.
Lab-Created Emeralds: are more abundant and generally cheaper, with their price primarily determined by production costs. They have fewer inclusions and a more standardized quality, making them more affordable.
Frequently Asked Questions
To offer a better understanding of the difference between lab created emerald vs. natural, we have addressed the more frequently asked questions here.
What is the primary difference between lab-created and natural emeralds?
Natural emeralds are geological marvels formed deep within the Earth’s crust over millions of years due to specific conditions involving heat, pressure, and mineral deposits. In contrast, lab-created emeralds are products of human ingenuity, synthesized in controlled environments using advanced technological processes that replicate natural conditions, but on an accelerated timeline.
Do lab-created emeralds look different from natural ones?
At a glance, both types of emeralds can appear remarkably similar, especially to the untrained eye. However, upon closer inspection, lab-created emeralds often exhibit a more consistent color and have fewer inclusions. Natural emeralds, on the other hand, might display a broader range of hues and unique internal “fingerprints” that speak to their organic origin.
Are natural emeralds always more expensive than lab-created ones?
Typically, natural emeralds command higher prices due to their rarity and the intricate processes involved in their formation. The value of a natural emerald also factors in its origin, clarity, color, and size. While lab-created emeralds are generally more affordable, they offer consistent quality and ethical sourcing benefits, making them an attractive option for many buyers.
Is one type of emerald more durable than the other?
Both natural and lab-created emeralds rank similarly on the Mohs hardness scale. However, lab-created variants might exhibit slightly superior resistance to wear and tear, primarily because they often have fewer inclusions. It’s essential to note that all emeralds, regardless of their origin, should be handled with care to maintain their luster and integrity.
How can I verify the authenticity of an emerald?
Verifying the authenticity of an emerald often requires the expertise of a professional gemologist. These experts utilize specialized equipment and techniques to discern the subtle differences between lab-created and natural stones. If you’re considering a purchase, always ask for certification or consult with a reputable gemologist to ensure the emerald’s authenticity.
Are lab-created emeralds considered ethical?
Lab-created emeralds are frequently championed as an ethical alternative to their natural counterparts. Their production bypasses the need for mining, which can sometimes be linked to environmental degradation and conflict-related issues. Additionally, the transparent and controlled nature of their creation process ensures a clear ethical and sustainable lineage.
Understanding The Differences: Lab Created Emerald Vs Natural
The world of emeralds, both natural and lab-created, is vast and intricate. While both types share many similarities, their differences, often subtle, are what make each unique. Whether you’re a jeweler, a collector, or someone looking to buy a piece of jewelry, understanding these nuances ensures that you make an informed and confident decision.
To learn more about different gemstones, visit Living By Example and check out our resource on the most expensive gemstone.
Cynthia met Brian during one of their aid work on Typhoon Katrina, and they have been inseparable since. They both believe that Living By Example could be the best platform there is to write about subjects that will help people connect with others and give them a deeper understanding of different societies and cultures.