Spend any time at our store and you will probably hear one of us talking about gemstones that are "lab grown" or "lab created". Or you might read that somewhere on the net or hear it on one of the jewelry channels. So, what the heck does it mean?
There is a very big difference between a "synthetic" ruby and a "lab created" ruby. A "synthetic" ruby can be any material that is manufactured to have the same color as a ruby - it can be any number of materials including plain old glass. A lot of antique jewelry contains colored glass that looks like ruby, sapphire or other gems.
On the other hand a "lab created" or "lab grown" ruby is a gemstone where the crystal material is grown in a laboratory that duplicates the temperatures and conditions that exist when natural ruby crystals grow in the Earth.
Many people believe growing gem crystals in a lab is a fairly recent development, but Carroll Chatham perfected growing emerald crystals in 1938. Once he had the process down for emeralds he went on to grow perfect rubies and sapphires.
These are emerald crystals we purchased from Chatham Labs in California. It takes almost a year to grow emerald crystals big enough to facet into gemstones. (It takes about 90 days to grow sapphires and rubies.)
After a year, emerald crystals are big enough to be cut and polished into gemstones that are ready for jewelry. Natural emeralds as free of imperfections as those pictured above are possible to find, but they can cost tens of thousands of dollars. On the other hand, lab-grown emeralds cost hundreds of dollars.
Here at Chimera, we love ALL kinds of gemstones. We have a great source in Michigan for natural rubies and sapphires, but we also make a lot of our jewelry using lab-grown gems from our supplier in New Jersey (they have great prices, which we pass along to you.)
We also have beautiful jewelry from our friends at Strellman's. Almost all of the pieces in the Strellman line utilize lab-grown gems. This has been the case since the beginning when Mr. Strellman perfected his Lighthouse Lens cut (seen below). In order to produce this unusual cut, the amount of waste that occurs by cutting the stone along both axis' would make the use of natural rubies and sapphires not only cost prohibitive, but it would be a terrible waste of gem material.
One last note - diamond crystals, made of pure carbon, are also being grown in laboratories. I do not mean Moissanite, cubic zirconia or other diamond substitutes, but pure carbon crystals. However, at this point the price difference between lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds is only 15-20% and has not really captured jewelry shoppers with the exception of those who would prefer to buy a man-made gem because of the environmental aspect.
But you can be sure as the technique for growing diamonds spreads and is put into practice more places, the price will drop to a place where it will be similar to what has happened with rubies, etc.
If you have a question about jewelry, diamonds, or gemstones - send to Cliff and he will do his best to answer it for you.