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Synthetic sapphires, although grown through costly laboratory procedures, are not as expensive as natural gems but are just as good as the real thing.
In fact, they ARE the real thing.
If you are considering buying a synthetic sapphire but are having doubts, then stay with me till the end as I walk you through just about everything you need to know before you make your purchase.
In this article, the terms synthetic and lab-created are used interchangeably.
- Why Are Synthetic Sapphires Growing in Popularity?
- What’s the Difference Between Synthetic (Lab-Created) or Imitation (Look-Alike) Sapphires?
- Lab-Created sapphires – Two Ingenious Methods
- Lab-Created Sapphire – Color and Varieties
- How to Identify a Lab-Created Sapphire
- Why Choose a Synthetic Sapphire?
- Lab-Created Sapphire Jewelry
- Where to Buy Synthetic Sapphire
Why Are Synthetic Sapphires Growing in Popularity?
It takes millions of years for a sapphire to form in nature and these naturally grown sapphires and other precious stones are becoming increasingly rare.
Natural sapphires are rarer and more valuable. See natural sapphires here by Delarah.
Use code “SAVE6DJ” for 25% off when shopping from Delarah.
Add to that the fact that mining is an expensive investment and it becomes clear why the prices of natural gemstones are constantly growing and why more people are turning to more affordable, ethical options.
Mining also comes with the considerations of environmental impact, which can be off-putting for some people.
So what’s the next best thing to natural sapphires? Synthetic sapphires, of course.
What’s the Difference Between Synthetic (Lab-Created) or Imitation (Look-Alike) Sapphires?
Before anything else, it is essential that you understand the difference between a lab-created gem and an imitation gem, also called simulated gemstones.
The reason I say this is because many people wrongly believe that synthetic stones are fake. They confuse synthetic with imitation and more often than not, don’t want anything to do with them. This is a huge misconception as you will see.
Lab-created sapphire ring. See it here.
First of all, lab-grown gems are produced by copying the properties of the original, usually by duplicating the environmental conditions that naturally mined stones undergo but in a much, much shorter time.
These stones have a similar chemical composition, optics and crystal structure to natural stones. In other words, they are the real thing. Sometimes lab-grown gemstones possess an even better, nearly perfect quality than that of their natural counterparts.
You would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a synthetic stone and a natural stone just by looking at it. Even experts can get this wrong! Lab-created gems can only be identified by a gemologist, but more on that later.
On the other hand, an imitation merely recreates the appearance of the original. It is just a look-alike, a wannabe. Chemically, optically, and physically, imitation gemstones are very different from natural gemstones and are often much less valuable. They are also less durable.
A blue glass vintage sapphire ring. See it here.
The most common imitation material is glass which is pretty much worthless. Unlike with lab-created stones, it is often easy to tell if a stone is imitation.
So in case you were one of those people who believed that synthetic sapphires are fake sapphires, I hope that explanation helped. This brings me to the next point. How do they create sapphires in a lab?
Lab-Created sapphires – Two Ingenious Methods
Technology has made it possible for humans to replicate these most beautiful of nature’s wonders – diamonds and gemstones.
Among the most popular lab-grown gems is the sapphire. This is because sapphire deposits are one of the hardest to find. They are also one of the hardest types of gemstones to grow.
Even though the lab is a controlled environment and nowhere near as unpredictable or erratic as the outside world in which natural sapphires grow, it is still hard to predict what the exact shade of a synthetic sapphire will be.
In fact, blue sapphires can end up in a range of three different beautiful shades: deep blue, light blue and bright royal blue, the most popular among the three. Even if sapphires are hard to grow, producers are willing to invest because of its popularity in the market.
Natural sapphire is a variety of corundum with the formula Al2O3 (Aluminium oxide). This is what is must be grown in tightly controlled environments to produce sapphires. There are different methods of growing sapphires in a lab and of these the Czochralski pulled-growth and the flux method yield higher quality lab-grown sapphires.
- The Czochralski process is a melt-growth method wherein nutrients are melted in a crucible. A thin seed of sapphire is then dipped into this molten material and pulled out at a controlled rate. This may sound easy but the process is actually more complicated and expensive.
- Flux growth on the other hand is a solution-growth method where the desired material, in this case the sapphire seed, is dissolved together with a solution called flux. As the dissolved material cools, crystals form creating sapphires.
Lab-Created Sapphire – Color and Varieties
The mineral corundum can yield different colors. It is broadly classified into two with red corundum called Ruby and all other colors of corundum called Sapphire.
Lab-created ruby is essentially red sapphire. See these earrings here.
Sapphires can come in a range of colors, some being blue, yellow and pink, with a gray or black variety turning up every once in a while. Blue is, of course, the most popular variety of sapphire and also the most common (derived from the word sapphirus which literally means blue in Latin).
In order to create the color of the sapphire, certain foreign elements must be introduced during the formation of the sapphire. If titanium and iron traces are present, the sapphire will be blue. If the element chromium is introduced, the sapphire will be pink instead.
High amounts of chromium will result in ruby while chromium and titanium together will produce a purplish pink sapphire. If there are no foreign elements whatsoever, then the corundum will yield a white sapphire.
Apart from these, there are very special types of colored sapphires that are not commonly known. Except for the Parti sapphire, the other varieties listed below can be found in synthetic form.
Parti sapphire ring. See it here.
These can exhibit two colors (parti meaning dual/multi). This is caused by zoning, which occurs when trace elements responsible for the coloring of the stone change during the stone’s formation, causing an uneven distribution of color.
Parti-colored sapphires are usually sourced from Australia and usually show blue and yellow blends. Stones like this are impossible to replicate via lab procedures so you will have to look for a natural stone if you want a parti.
Lab-created orange padparadscha pendant. See it here.
Derived from the Sanskrit word padmaraga, which means Lotus, this gem has a beautiful shade of orange and pink similar to that of a lotus flower. The stone seemingly transcends from ruby to yellow sapphire.
The variety of corundum as sapphire is so wide that there are times when gemologists differ in opinions in classifying a gem either as Padparadscha or pink sapphire.
Usually, straightforward pink gems with little to no hint of orange are easily classified as pink sapphire. Padparadscha colors range from soft salmon with a hint of orange to red-orange, colors that are associated with sunrise and sunset.
Because of this Padparadscha color is sometimes referred to as sunrise and sunset colors.
Lab-created cabochon cut star sapphire ring. See it here.
one of the most unique sapphire in existence, it exhibits a star-like effect more commonly known as asterism, a phenomenon characterized by the appearance of a six-rayed star.
Asterism is caused by intersecting needle-like inclusions within the stone. Sapphires of this kind are cut en cabochon with the center of the star at the top.
this is among the rarest sapphires available in the market. These are colorless sapphires that are untouched by trace elements that give colored sapphires there hue. Even though white sapphires are rare, they cost less than colored sapphires. We will talk more about white sapphire engagement rings in the Lab-Created Sapphire Engagement Rings section.
How to Identify a Lab-Created Sapphire
As mentioned earlier, it is easy to identify an imitation gem but it takes great deal of expertise to be able to differentiate a lab-created sapphire from the original.
Only expert gemologists would be able to see these using a process called spectroscopy. Under high magnification and special instruments, “natural stains” of imperfection on naturally mined stones become obvious.
These gems grow under unpredictable conditions below the earth, causing other elements to mix during the stone’s molten stage. Inclusions can stay in the stone as it crystallizes from its molten form.
Lab-grown gems on the other hand are almost always perfect in appearance as they are grown in a contained setting using a controlled ‘recipe’.
You could use carbon dating to determine a sapphire’s age. Natural stones take millions of years to form so carbon dating, which is only limited up to 60,000 years, would not be able to identify its exact age. Carbon dating would be able to determine a lab-grown gem’s age since it would only take a shorter time to grow them.
Why Choose a Synthetic Sapphire?
We’ve already talked about why synthetic sapphires are growing in popularity. But let’s take a look at what makes it a good choice.
Natural gems can be up to $10,000 higher per carat than lab-grown ones! This is due partly to two reasons.
First, most people perceive natural stones as being more valuable than a synthetic stone. After all, one was a happy accident that took millions of years to form, while the other was a conscious human decision created in a few months.
Secondly, it takes less resources (and time) to artificially grow a crystal than it does to mine them. Hence the price of a synthetic sapphire is significantly more affordable.
Apart from this monetary aspect, synthetic sapphires have no mining footprint so are a great choice in terms of environmental sustainability.
Because they are created in laboratories, no harm is inflicted on the environment by way of soil pollution or excessive emission of carbon and other greenhouse gases.
There is no fear of the stone’s origin disrupting local lifestyles, funding wars or being in any way associated with human exploitation. In short, it is an ethical choice.
Lab-Created Sapphire Jewelry
Now that you have gotten to know lab-grown sapphires, it’s time to choose your jewelry.
These days, there is a much wider selection of lab-grown sapphire jewelry than ever before, making it easy for you to choose your perfect piece.
Lab-created sapphire jewelry can range from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. Many factors influence the price, including the quality of the sapphire as well as the materials and craftsmanship used for the setting. Just because it’s synthetic doesn’t mean that it’s always inexpensive.
If you decide to take your search online, you will have a wide range to select from as well as be able to compare prices and specifications.
Lab-created sapphire rings
Lab-created sapphire engagement ring. See it here.
Sapphires are most popularly set on rings. Rings are suitable for any occasion and may be worn or given for a number of reasons. It is more special as birthday gifts for September celebrants because sapphire is the birthstone for September. Rings are also deemed as an expression of love so sapphire rings are perfect gifts for the 5th and 45th anniversaries.
The rich shade of blue sapphire really stands out against gold bands but it is more vibrant when set on white gold or platinum. Peach and pink sapphires are more attractive on rose gold bands. Sapphires surrounded with a diamond halo are a popular choice as this adds brilliance and value to the overall design.
Lab-created sapphire earrings
Similar to rings, blue sapphire earrings are attractive on white gold bands. Studs, hoops, dangles, pave bars – take your pick from the wide range of sapphire earrings available.
Tiny sapphire stones are perfect for studs, exhibiting a starry night effect, especially when the setting is complemented with an array of tiny diamonds.
Vibrant blue sapphires with a teardrop cut is exceptionally stunning and would be complemented well by a drop earring style. Custom designs can be made around teardrop earrings.
Lab-created sapphire ear crawlers. See them here.
If you are one who keeps up with current trends, then ear climbers should definitely be on your list! There is a growing trend in wearing ear climbers or crawlers nowadays and sapphire is not one to be left behind.
You can choose it as the star gem set at the end of the earing with diamonds paving the rest of the body. For gold set earring climbers, green sapphires provide a very complimentary look.
Lab-created Sapphire Necklace and Pendants
Unique synthetic sapphire pendant. See it here.
Sapphires make beautiful pendants and are a great way to showcase your stone. Whether you wish to wear a pendant as dramatic as the Heart of the Ocean (think Kate Winslet in Titanic) or a small stone, depends on your style, taste and purpose.
As synthetic sapphires are more affordable and provide more options in terms of size, you will have a good chance of finding a pendant that speaks to you.
If you want to go with a trendier, edgy look, you can pick out a sapphire choker necklace. This is eye-catching and unique when set against white gold and is perfect for a very dressy event.
Light colored sapphires such as the pink variety will work well with black velvet or black-beaded chokers. Purple or green sapphires are attractive either on silver or black setting.
Lab-Created Sapphire Engagement Rings
We all know that the number 1 choice when it comes to engagement rings is colorless diamonds.
However, sapphires are also very popular for engagement rings, and for the more non-traditional couple, they are a great option to get off the beaten path and yet still have class, glamour and prestige.
Blue sapphires symbolize wisdom, kindness and fortune, all features anyone would want in a romantic relationship.
Blue sapphire engagement rings have been associated with royalty throughout history. The most popular blue sapphire engagement ring to date is the oval Ceylon sapphire of Princess Diana that weighs 18 carats, now worn by Kate Middleton. The ring was resized and redesigned with two platinum studs to fit the Duchess.
You can find replicas of this ring made using synthetic sapphire. Here’s an excellent example
For some, a blue sapphire can be too unconventional. If you prefer to have a white stone as the centerpiece of your ring, there are stunning white sapphires available on the market.
White sapphire engagement ring. See it here.
You may ask the question, why choose a sapphire instead of a diamond? Ranking 9 on Moh’s scale of hardness, white sapphire is an excellent engagement ring alternative for diamond. This durability can last you a lifetime.
It is also true that diamonds have more sparkle than sapphires, but white sapphires have a much whiter and brighter color. Since they are not as expensive as diamonds or blue sapphires, you can easily select the highest grade (triple A or AAA).
And to enhance its brilliance, you can choose a yellow gold or rose gold setting. Such colored bands will give a beautiful contrast to the sapphire’s brilliant whiteness.
Where to Buy Synthetic Sapphire
If you are ready to take the plunge and explore the world of synthetic sapphires, make sure you purchase from a reputable vendor. Also, bear in mind to request a certificate of authenticity from the vendor.
This will ensure that you aren’t being ripped off, unwittingly paying the price of a natural stone for a synthetic one. It will also give you peace of mind as you know exactly what you are purchasing.
We recommend starting your search on Etsy for a feel of the range of synthetic sapphire jewelry available to you. You’ll find synthetic sapphire jewelry ranging from a few dollars to thousands of dollars and in a range of styles.
If you would like to know more about this beautiful stone, read our complete shopping guide on sapphire.