Blue sapphire is a gem that draws attention when set in all kinds of jewelry. These gems are considered to be precious stones, typically blue-tinted. Interestingly, the value of blue sapphire depends on the shade of blue, with darker hues making them more expensive. This, coupled with its clarity, cut, size, and color, works to give blue sapphire its actual value.
Sapphires get their name from the Greek word “sappheiros”, meaning blue. Sapphires are part of the corundum family; rubies are also part of the corundum family as some of the hardest gemstones.
The star sapphire is the most famous kind of blue sapphire, which has— as its name suggests— star-like qualities. Another famous gem is the Black Star of Queensland, with a carat weight of 733 rendering it the largest sapphire in the world.
The special touch that sapphires add to jewelry, be it an engagement ring or when you wear a pair of earrings, makes these gems very sought after. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that companies have attempted to make lab-grown sapphires, successfully managing to create excellent replicas of natural sapphires.
As the name suggests, a lab-created blue sapphire does not occur naturally. This sapphire gemstone is grown in a lab, with the science behind its creation meaning that it has a chemical makeup identical to that of natural sapphires. The quality of synthetic sapphires is made up of its mix of chemicals, minerals, and outer optical properties on its outside. Both synthetic and natural sapphires are made with aluminum oxide!
Essentially, what differentiates natural sapphires from synthetic sapphires is their creation – where one occurs in nature and the other by science manufacturing. The rare nature of natural sapphires has meant that lab-grown sapphires are crafted to act as a brilliant alternative to the sapphire gemstones that occur in nature. Lab-grown sapphires also have less of an environmental impact.
One way to make lab-grown sapphires is to use the flame fusion/flux method. This process dissolves elements and allows them to crystalize over time. The crystals that form are valuable in the same ways that the ones from the Earth are. The flame fusion method of growing sapphires can take as long as a year. However, the technique is good for the environment in that it is sustainable and eco-friendly. By the end of the process, the stones look natural.
*Flame fusion sapphires are the most expensive kind of lab-grown sapphire.
The flame fusion method uses a melt process in which flame-fueled heat melts the main mineral in corundum called aluminum oxide powder. Then, the melted droplets come together to craft a boule. When a range of minerals is added to aluminum oxide, different color varieties of sapphire are created. For instance, the addition of chromium to aluminum oxide is the secret behind how a synthetic ruby is crafted.
This melting process to create sapphires involves using radio waves to melt aluminum oxide.
A seed crystal sits at the tip of a rod. It is dipped into the aluminum oxide mixture while being rotated slowly and then is removed -this creates a sapphire column. This kind of lab-created blue sapphire uses an expensive method of synthesis.
The solution process used in making a lab-created blue sapphire is known as hydrothermal synthesis, where the natural formation of gemstones is mimicked. The minerals used in this process are subject to high-pressure levels and heat temperatures that cause the seed crystal to have sapphires form on them.
Lab-created sapphires have an identical mineral makeup as natural sapphires and can absolutely be considered real sapphires. A lab-created sapphire that is grown with the flux method has an appearance that looks precisely like a natural sapphire of the highest quality. In order to tell the actual difference between natural sapphires and lab-grown sapphires, a professional gemologist is required.
The color of a high-quality sapphire has a blue that is medium and vivid in tone, with no brown or grey overtones.
A high-quality lab-grown sapphire captures the color of a natural sapphire perfectly. A good quality lab-created sapphire is eye-clean and bright. A Chatham sapphire, for instance, is a natural sapphire that is grown in a human-controlled environment. This kind of natural sapphire can act as a good guide for learning about the color of other sapphires.
Sapphires are type II gemstones; lab-created gemstones of this kind tend to look flawless. On the other hand, a natural sapphire tends to have inclusions in them regardless of whether some gems appear to be eye-clean.
The most popular cut for sapphire is an emerald cut because it provides a color deeper than all other cuts. Other popular cuts are oval and cushion; nonetheless -Lab-grown sapphires can take any shape the buyer desires. However, a lab-created sapphire needs to be carefully cut. The quality of the cut is critical to the gemstones’ facet evenness.
It is essential to know that synthetic does not mean fake; synthetic means natural elements do not make something. This is the case not only with lab-created blue sapphire, where even rubies, emeralds, and other mined gemstones can be crafted synthetically. The crystal structure of blue sapphire is made from corundum -corundum can be found and mined in nature or a laboratory.
In a synthetic sapphire, no synthetic elements are used to create corundum; therefore, the core elements to create sapphires are the same both in natural and synthetic sapphires.
One needs to look closely to spot the difference between a natural sapphire and a lab-created sapphire. One must examine the formation methods and the environmental conditions for both the lab-created sapphire and natural sapphire.
Research around lab-created gemstones exists that might help one understand the difference between these stones. So whether you are looking for an engagement ring, earring, or any other kind of jewelry, gem experts have committed a great deal of time, both in gem labs and research, to providing helpful analysis around these critical differences.
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