Choosing Between a Natural or Lab-Grown Gem? Read This!

Kristen Baird

Lab vs Natural Gems Blog by Kristen Baird

This Petite Pop necklace features lab-grown ruby in 14K rose gold and lab-grown alexandrite in 14K yellow gold.

When it comes to gems, I love color! I even chose a deep blue/purple spinel for my own engagement ring. Most of my jewelry features colored stones as well, from my signature Ripple Rings to some of my favorite commissions. But did you know that many of the gems I choose, especially for my new Graceful Glimmer Collection, are lab grown? If you check out my site, you will notice many listings that include lab-grown gems. (I will always indicate if a gem is lab-grown, so if you do not see this information, you can trust that it is a natural gem.)

While I love a beautiful natural stone, lab grown stones can offer brilliant color for a fraction of the price. But there are a lot of myths surrounding lab-grown stones, which make some people hesitant to opt for them. I can break down the truth behind lab gemstones and help you decide what type of stone is best for you!

Are Lab-Grown Stones Synthetic?

No! Synthetic stones do exist; they are glass, plastic, or some other imitation material. Lab grown gemstones are the opposite. Rather than manufactured, they are grown. Rather than imitation, they are the real thing. One of the top producers of these gems, Chatham, compares the process to putting ice in a freezer. Sure, you’re making it at home in a controlled environment instead of outside in a lake with below freezing temperatures, but it’s still real ice! It’s probably also a lot cleaner and clearer than ice you find outside. Similarly, lab grown gems often have brighter or more intense colors with less flaws.

Sandy Breeze Gem Bangle with Lab Grown Sapphire by Kristen Baird

Sandy Breeze Gem Bangle

How Are Gems Grown?

Every type of gemstone is made from a unique combination of minerals, like an ingredient list. For example, emeralds are made of beryl and chromium. Sapphires are made of aluminum oxide, iron, and trace amounts of other minerals. The different combinations of minerals determine what color your gem will be: what specific shade of blue, green, yellow, red, ect. When gems grow naturally in the earth, it takes a lot of luck for the perfect combination of minerals to be present to create the ideal color. It also takes ideal conditions and millions of years to grow a crystal!

If you ever grew rock candy as a school science experiment, you have a good idea about how lab gems are formed! It’s basically the super-high-tech version of the classic experiment. In a lab, a tiny crystal will be placed into a chamber surrounded by the right combination of molten hot minerals. This chamber is heated to super high temperatures (around 1100 degrees celsius!) to imitate the Earth’s core. After about a year, the chambers are opened and voila, stunning, real gemstones have formed. 

Dandelion Bloom Ring Stack with Lab Grown Stones by Kristen Baird

The Dandelion Bloom Ring is available at As a side note, you can learn more about lab diamonds here

The Price of Lab-Grown vs. Natural Gems

It’s easier to grow a colored gemstone in a lab than it is to find one in nature. (Although considering all the science and technology that goes into it, I wouldn’t exactly call it easy.) So, naturally, lab-grown gems are a lot more affordable than natural gems. I’m talking thirty to eighty percent more affordable. That’s serious stuff! Even better, it is absolutely impossible to distinguish between a lab gemstone and a natural gemstone with the naked eye. They are chemically identical substances, after all. So what you’re gaining in price isn’t being lost in quality. 

Are There Any Benefits to Natural Stones?

Of course! A truly beautiful natural gem is a rare and lovely thing. There will always be an element of je ne sais quoi about a natural gem. It has a history and a romance that is truly hard to capture and recreate man-made. After all, human beings have been making jewelry out of gemstones since before written history, so there must be something special about them. At the end of the day, no one would bother growing gems in labs if there weren’t such a high demand for natural ones!

Raindrops on Roses Ring with Lab Grown Emerald by Kristen Baird

The Raindrops on Roses Ring is a lovely choice for a alternative engagement ring.

Which is Right For You?

There is no one “right” answer when it comes to gemstones. I use both natural and lab-grown gems in my jewelry. It all depends on what’s important to my client and what they prefer to spend their money on. (Something to consider: money saved on a stone can be put toward the actual design of the jewelry.) For some people, having a natural stone carries a special symbolism. For others, the rarity of natural gems is less significant. It’s up to you, but having the most accurate information will help you decide which stone best meets your needs. As for me, I love them all!

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