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Simulant vs. Synthetic

When you’re looking for an economical alternative to natural gemstones at our custom jewelry designer in Seattle and Bellevue, you have two main options: gem simulants and synthetic gems.

For many, a diamond not found in nature is a fake, and that's the end of the story. Or is it? The truth is that there is more to non-natural gemstones than meets the eye. Simulated gemstones and synthetic gemstones are both lab-created, but their similarities do not go far beyond that.


A simulated gemstone is one that is created in a laboratory, but it is created solely to replicate the physical appearance of a precious or semi-precious gem. The process to form these imitation stones focuses on creating an identical exterior look, rather than making a physically composed equal. That usually means that simulants have a different atomic make-up than the real jewel they are attempting to imitate. Primary uses for simulated gemstones are in the jewelry market. These stones are cheaper to make than synthesized stones, and they allow consumers to circumvent the high cost associated with finding a real gem beneath the earth’s surface. Because these stones are so cheap to make, they can be offered as low priced jewels to a wide array of consumers. Simulants offer many options for jewelry buyers.

Jewels signify wealth and beauty, but they are very costly. Those who cannot own the real thing, can easily own the imitation. And, in fact, they can own several imitations, making it possible for many people to create an accessory collection equivalent in size to that of a queen.

There are some downsides to simulants, though. In some cases, they may not be as sturdy as real gemstones. And, because they are mass-produced, the jewelry settings used for simulants tend to be inferior to those used for real and even synthetic jewels.


A synthetic gemstone is an exact replica of the real deal, right down to its atomic structure. Two gemstones that are commonly formed in a lab are cubic zirconia and moissanite. Both have identical compositions to their natural versions. They even have the same physical look and hardness as their natural twins. These two gems, however, are also common simulants for diamonds. They do not have the exact physical properties of diamonds, but they are very similar in appearance. In order to create a true version of a natural gemstone, gemologists study the natural formation process and chemical composition of gemstones found under the Earth’s surface and then attempt to replicate this process in a laboratory. Successful synthesizing leads to artificial jewels that are almost indistinguishable from the real ones.

There is, however, one main difference between natural stones and those made in a lab: imperfections. Since their environment is sterile, lab-created stones are free from possible inclusions of other minerals or interference. They also are free from blemishes that occur in real gems when they encounter heat, pressure and nearby rough surfaces. Synthesized jewels are flawless versions of their natural counterparts. Because they have the same physical composition as their parent stones, synthetics are available for the same uses. Lab-created moissanite, for example, is useful in laboratory experiments that require the use of intense heat.

Synthetic jewels are also great options for jewelry. They create a price middle-ground between more expensive real gems and much cheaper simulated ones. Synthetics provide the real feel, density and look of a natural gemstone without the price tag.