Natural vs Lab-grown (Synthetic) Sapphires

Natural sapphires or lab-grown sapphires? What makes one type, better (or worse) than the other? More importantly, what is the characteristics of natural and lab-grown sapphires, that sets one apart from the other? Well, we’re here to clarify this and other important questions for you. Just remember that the word ‘natural’, in the world of gems is often confused with untreated gemstones or gem which have not undergone the process of curing. More on this at the end of this page. So read on.

What are Natural Sapphires?

This is a question that has been asked many times before. Simply put, sapphire is considered natural, when the gemstones in question are taken from the formations of the mineral conundrum, that has hardened over the course of millions of years, that are found in a variety of mineral, and gravel or even stone deposits in various parts of the world. Sapphires are known for their most popular colour varieties: blue, including the many shades of this particular colour; white, pink, and increasingly yellow. Sapphires, the natural ones, differ from other types of natural gemstones, based on their crystalline character, along with the absence of a single distinguishing colour with respect to other conundrum based gemstones: the colour Red. As red varieties of the mineral conundrum fall into the category of rubies.

What are Synthetic Sapphires?

Synthetic sapphires or lab-grown sapphires are, as the name implies, are artificial variants of this gemstone type. Lab-grown sapphires are artificially made in labs, or other controlled environments, where the natural process of sapphire formation, which can take ages, are accelerated by artificial means. Lab-grown sapphires are identical to natural ones in virtually every single way. With the obvious difference being their synthetic character.

Natural vs Lab-grown Sapphires

Further, owing to their lab-grown origins, synthetic sapphires tend to exhibit qualities that differ from natural sapphires. Such as: having fewer or no inclusions. Location. Since sapphires are mined and supplied from certain gemstone ‘hot spots’: with a place like Myanmar, Thailand, Ceylon. Countries that don’t have a history of sapphire mining and/or who are not in the business of trading in natural sapphires might resort to supplying artificial variants.

Natural Sapphires

Lab-grown Sapphires

Sourced from Nature

Artificially Lab-grown

Supply limited to a number of countries

Found in any country where the tech is available

Contains blemishes, depending on the gemstone

Usually no blemishes

Prices may vary, but generally higher

Lower price, owing to its artificial character

Commands a unique, geographical demand

A natural substitute. Not as highly valued as synthetic diamonds in contrast to natural diamonds

Which Sapphire type should you go for?

This is a tough question to answer. But a simple one if you know what you are going to go. If you are seeking a gemstone that contains all the qualities of a naturally sourced gemstone, but that comes with a lower price tag, and with great accessibility, then artificial (lab-grown) sapphire variants could be the right choice for you. Further, if you are looking for a gemstone with fewer blemishes, and a larger carat, once again, lab-grown sapphires are the way to go. However, if you like the mystery, and history that comes with naturally sourced sapphires; and has a mind for the romance that is associated with naturally sourced gemstones, notably their geographic affinity (e.g Ceylon Sapphires), then the natural ones, despite their higher price, is the way to go.

Are Natural Sapphires Cured (Treated)?

More often than not, the answer is yes. Sapphire gemstones, like anything that has been taken from nature, are subject to some form of modification. The heating of the gemstone is one such method. However, the heat treatment of the gemstone is not a straightforward one. As they are many competing ways in which sapphires are treated. And how these affect the final quality of the gemstone. For the answer to these questions, you could check out our dedicated page on Curing sapphires. For now, just remember that a Cured sapphire is still a natural one.