Natural, Treated and Synthetic Gemstones: What's The Difference?

September 23, 2020 2 min read

natural, treated and synthetic gemstones

We sell a large range of gemstones at Sterling & Wilde, and we do our very best to accurately describe each one so you know exactly what you are buying. We thought it would be useful to publish a glossary for the terms we use on the website, to help you in your jewellery purchase decision making.

Natural Gemstone

A natural gemstone is one formed in nature. For example: a diamond, sapphire or emerald formed in rocks within the Earth's crust thousands or millions of years ago. Alternatively, a piece of amber formed from tree resin. A naturally formed gemstone can be treated.

Treated Gemstone

It's incredibly common for naturally formed gemstones to be treated. For example, most rubies and sapphires have been heated to improve their colour, where as most emeralds have had their fractures filled with oil to improve their appearance. Some gemstones are irradiated to change their colour, while others are irradiated then heated as a colour treatment.

We do our very best to detail suspected treatments on our product listings and we do not sell gemstones that have been filled with glass.

Synthetic Gemstones

A synthetic gemstone has been grown by humans using specialist equipment, usually over a period of weeks. It will be made identically to a natural grown equivalent. So for example, to be called a synthetic sapphire, the stone must have the same chemical composition as a sapphire grown in the earth. A common man-made gemstone is synthetic cubic zirconia - it does have a natural counterpart, though it is very rare.

Synthetic gemstones offer a cost effective alternative to natural stones. Since their value is considerably lower, they must always be accurately described.

Gemstone Simulants

Simulants can be natural or synthetic, and their job is to mimic another gemstone. So for example, cubic zirconia is a common diamond simulant, since it can look quite similar to diamond to the untrained eye. But it is not a synthetic diamond, because it does not have the same chemical composition as diamond. Other diamonds simulants are paste (glass), colourless sapphire (which could be natural or synthetic) or synthetic moissanite.

We are always on hand to answer questions about our gemstone jewellery, and you can reach us at or 0207 846 0254.

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