From garnets and sapphires to rubies and tourmalines, these gemstones and many others have been chosen for their durability, rarity and distinct beauty. Most gemstones are formed far below the earth’s surface and fall into four main categories - igneous, hydrothermal, metamorphic or sedimentary.
Both natural and genuine gemstones are real precious stones. However, there are some differences between them that can affect the outcome of the stone’s resiliency and appearance. Here’s what you need to know about natural and genuine gemstones.
What Is a Natural Gemstone?
Natural gemstones are formed untouched in nature. Besides being mined, cut and polished, these stones have no interference from humans. What makes natural gemstones differ from genuine gemstones is that they have not been enhanced, altered, or treated. Instead, they retain their rough beauty and original coloring and transparency. Their natural brilliance is what makes natural gemstones so popular.
A natural gemstone can be broken down into two main categories: precious gemstones and semi-precious gemstones. Diamonds, beryl (aquamarine and emeralds), corundum (sapphires and rubies), opal, and topaz are all classified as precious gemstones. Most other types of gemstones are classified as semi-precious.
Enhancements can help jewelry manufacturers improve the look of lower quality gemstones to entice buyers. However, once a gemstone has been treated it is no longer considered ‘natural’. Due to the rarity of natural gemstones, they are generally more expensive but offer a level of beauty that cannot always be found with genuine stones.
It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish a natural gemstone from a genuine gemstone, especially when the product’s description is not forthright. There are several ways to tell these two stone types apart. First, look at their appearance. Natural gemstones will have flaws and no two stones will look exactly alike. Also, consider the price of the stone. The market price of authentic, natural stones is always higher than that of imitation gemstones.
What Is a Genuine Gemstone?
Like a natural gemstone, a genuine gemstone is a real stone that has been formed in the ground. This differs from a synthetic gem that is made in a laboratory setting. What makes genuine gemstones unique is that they have been treated in some way to enhance their cut and/or appearance.
Treatments are generally used to fix certain “flaws” that a stone may naturally possess, such as a crack, inclusion, or discoloration. Some treatments, such as the use of extreme heat on natural sapphires, can help improve clarity and help the stone achieve a more cohesive, blue hue.
Due to advancements in technology, it can sometimes be difficult to determine if a gemstone has undergone treatment and what treatments it has had. Some of the most common treatments performed in the gem trade include:
- Dyeing – This treatment is one of the oldest gemstone treatments still used in the industry today. Dyeing involves the introduction of one or more coloring agents into a gemstone to achieve a new color, to improve color uniformity, or to enhance an existing color.
- Coating – A coating treatment is performed by applying a thin film on to the surface of a gemstone, either partially or completely. Coatings help to improve the luster, color, or brilliance of a stone and can sometimes improve their surface wear resistance. The most common gemstones that receive coatings include topaz, beryl, and quartz.
- Heating – Many genuine gemstones receive heat treatments to alter their color. This treatment dates to the 20th century and is typically undetectable in most stones. In stones like sapphires and rubies, heating can help improve the gemstone’s clarity and color.
- Fracture Filling – Fracture filling stone treatments consist of filling surface breaks or fissures in gemstones using resin, colorless glass, or another substance. This treatment is usually done to improve the transparency and durability of a stone.
- Diffusion – Diffusion is a treatment usually performed on sapphires that creates a thin blue layer that can be observed using diffused light. This treatment is performed using extremely high temperatures while implementing elements like titanium, chromium, and beryllium.
- Irradiation – This treatment can also be used to alter the color of a gemstone. Irradiation uses gamma, neutrons or electron bombardment, followed by a heating phase to change a stone’s hue. Irradiation is most often used on blue topaz.
- Oiling – Another common treatment used on genuine gemstones is oiling. This treatment refers to the filling of surface cracks or fissures with a colorless resin, oil, wax, or other substance to improve the stone’s appearance. What makes oiling different from many other treatments is that it is not usually permanent.
Choosing a Gemstone for Your Jewelry
Before investing in a gemstone, it’s important to know where the stone came from. Gemstones can be created in a variety of ways, from natural and lab-created to stimulated stones that look like the real thing but are not made from the same minerals. When choosing gemstones for your pre-made or custom designed jewelry, you’ll want to consider what qualities of a stone are important to you.
At Chinchar Maloney, all our diamonds and gemstones are natural and untreated. Our diamonds are also ethical and conflict free. From our custom engagement rings and Montana sapphire jewelry to our naturally colored diamonds and selection of modern rustic stones, you can count on each gemstone to be one of a kind with beautiful rough areas and surface inclusions. These “flaws” are what give each stone its unique character.
Chinchar Maloney is an expert in handcrafted jewelry and ethically sources all diamonds and gems from dealers who strictly adhere to the Kimberley process. If you’re in the market for a natural diamond engagement ring, piece of gemstone jewelry, or wish to build your own engagement ring, contact our team of knowledgeable jewelry experts at 503.946.8227 or shop our jewelry collections online.