BIG Newsletter: It’s Really Not Confusing


by Abe Sherman


Recently, I was taken aback when one of our clients, the 2nd generation owner of his company, exclaimed, “Man-made diamonds are not synthetic!”


After my head stop spinning like a top, I explained to him that a gemstone grown in a laboratory is synthetic.  It is not ‘cultured’ like a pearl or similar to an orchid grown in a greenhouse.  It isn’t at all rare and can be grown quickly in enormous quantities anywhere in the world – which they are.  Their prices will certainly drop, their sizes will increase and we really don’t know the effect synthetics are going to have on the natural diamond market…but I can’t imagine anything good will come from it.  


I’ve been thinking about all the reading we did while at GIA (I attended in 1977 so there are likely many more authors since then). Books and course materials written by Shipley and Liddicoat and Gubelin and Kurt Nassau, {Growing Synthetic Crystals (1964)} and for generations those of us who studied gemology and learned after months of doing lab work, how to separate natural from synthetic material, that gemstones which were grown in a lab were synthetic.  Period.  


It’s not that hard and should not be at all confusing.      


The synthetic diamond industry is promoting synthetic diamonds but they are doing all they can to avoid using the term synthetic. They are marketing their diamonds as man-made and are shouting as loud as they can that their diamonds are not synthetic but are ‘grown’ which somehow is supposed to alleviate them from their reality. It’s no wonder why they are avoiding calling them what they are – synthetic, because that would diminish their value in the consumers mind. Well, here’s a little tip for you; at some point consumers are going to realize their “man-made”diamonds are synthetic and their not going to be happy.  They indeed are man-made, which is the very definition of synthetic. 


They are synthetic. Please stop trying to sell them as anything other than that.  It’s dishonest.  Alternatively, see if you can get GIA to change their definition of what a lab-grown, man-made gemstone should be called! 


The following is from GIA’s website:


 A synthetic gem material is one that is made in a laboratory, but which shares virtually all chemical, optical, and physical characteristics of its natural mineral counterpart, though in some cases, namely synthetic turquoise and synthetic opal, additional compounds can be present.


Synthetic gem crystals have been manufactured since the late 1800s, and their production is often marked by a need for them in industrial applications outside of the jewelry industry. The first success was in producing synthetic ruby of faceting quality. Synthetic crystals are used in communications and laser technology, microelectronics, and abrasives. Because synthetics for jewelry applications can be “made to order”

[i.e. consistent color and crystal shape] given the right ingredients, time, and the facilities to grow them, they are likely to be much less rare than natural gems of equal size, clarity, and saturation of color. Because of this, and because it is possible to confuse them with gems that are naturally occurring, there are strict guidelines regarding how they are marketed and sold.

In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission requires that any gem material produced in a laboratory be described in a way that leaves no doubt that it was not produced naturally. It is considered to be a deceptive practice if a synthetic gem material’s origin is not clearly disclosed throughout the distribution channel at the time of sale, from the manufacturer to the consumer. There are also a number of industry organizations such as the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA), the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA), and the World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO) that have formulated specific guidelines for their members regarding the disclosure of synthetic gems at the time of sale.