Fine Art Behind-the-Scenes: Mined vs. Lab Created Stones

Janice Stiles

The jewelry industry is erupting with necklaces, rings, earrings, and other unique items created using a rainbow of gorgeous gemstones. Some are created with natural stones, while others use man-made alternatives—some of which are superior in brilliance and appearance. It’s important to keep in mind that high-quality, man-made stones are not intended to deceive, and just because they are lab-created, they are not necessarily low-quality.

There are a few terms used to describe this wide variety of gemstones—natural, genuine, enhanced, treated, and lab-created—and it's important to understand their distinctions.

Framed Topaz

Natural Stones

Natural gemstones are formed in nature with no interference from humans, other than mining; cutting and/or faceting; and polishing. If a stone is labeled natural, this means that it has not been treated, enhanced or altered beyond these processes. 

Genuine Stones

Genuine gemstones are composed of natural stone, but they have been treated in some way to enhance appearance.

Enhanced Stones

Enhanced stones are often referred to as “treated” stones. Natural stones may have discolorations, cracks, and/or inclusions, so often, treatments are applied to fix these “flaws” in the stone. For example, natural sapphires are sometimes treated with extreme heat to generate more clarity and a more cohesive, blue color. I like to describe natural stones with the term “mined”, but I am careful to disclose any treatments or enhancements they've undergone. 

Lab-Created Stones 

Aurum Emerald

Lab-Created gems are just that—made in a laboratory. They are genuine, but not natural, as they were not mined from the ground. Many lab-created gemstones have the exact chemical composition of their counterparts in nature. 

If you prefer a more even color and don’t like visible flaws, lab-created stones are an excellent choice, as the lab process results in a more “perfect” appearance. An example is emeralds, which are very expensive if natural. A lab-created emerald is chemically and optically the same as a mined emerald. 

Other terms to be aware of include synthetic, simulated, alternative, faux, and fake, as these descriptions typically indicate some type of inferior product. Glass can look very much like a sapphire, as can cubic zirconium; but they have little value, and their appearance just doesn’t hold up. Ask questions, and a reputable jeweler will give you straight answers. Even an “I don’t know” is better than something made-up. In the end, buy what you like with the best materials you can afford, as your jewelry is meant to last a lifetime.


If you have any questions about the various types of stones, or if you're excited to work together to create a custom piece of fine-art jewelry featuring your favorite gemstone, reach out to me at today!

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