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It Is What It IsMicroscopeMicroscope

With a growing number of imitations, treatments and enhancements of gemstones, our laboratory is equipped with the latest equipment to identify the stones forensically and accurately.

Synthetic or Simulant?

The jewellery industry uses special terms for manufactured and look-alike gemstones: synthetic and simulants. The differences between them are subtle, but very important. Synthetic refers to a manmade material with essentially the same chemical composition, crystal structure, optical and physical properties as the natural gem material. There are also materials that simply look like natural gems. These products are called simulants or imitations and can be either natural or manmade. Substitute is an older term for the same thing.

Treatment of Natural Stones

What is very common in the marketplace are gems that have been treated to change their appearance. A topic that often comes up is whether a particular gemstone is or isn’t treated. In a sense, humans alter all gem materials after they are found in the earth in order to prepare them for use in jewellery. Natural gem crystals are transformed from their rough crystallographic form into the shapes, outlines, and degrees of polish in the gemstones that we appreciate and wear in jewellery. These steps are and have always been the routine procedures used for manufacturing gemstones.

Beyond traditional cutting and polishing, gems can often be treated in ways to alter their colour and/or clarity. In addition to enhancing their appearance, the process may also improve (or in some cases diminish) the gem’s durability. Because these treatments are not always apparent to the consumer and even at times difficult to distinguish even by experts, it is necessary and legally required for anyone selling a gem (including consumer to consumer) to disclose the treatment procedure it may have received.

Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 and the Fair Trading Act 1986
Non-disclosure of a treatment could cause a person to believe that a particular gemstone was of higher quality naturally and therefore be more valuable than it actually is. An added challenge is that treatments can be permanent, long lasting, or short-lived under normal jewellery use. Treated gems may require special care by their owner.

Finally, treatments for gemstones are constantly being changed and refined, and the detection of these new treated gems is an important part of ongoing gemological research.