Manmade, Synthetic, and Imitation Gemstones

Manmade, Synthetic, and Imitation Gemstones

Posted by BarlowsGems on 20th Jun 2023

What is the definition of, or difference between: manmade, synthetic or imitation gemstones?


A synthetic stone is a laboratory grown stone that exhibits essentially the same physical, optical and chemical properties as its naturally occurring counterpart. Gemstones that are commonly made synthetically are ruby, spinel, sapphire and quartzes (including amethyst).

Synthetic gemstones have been manufactured since the late 1800s, and their production is often because of 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.

The Federal Trade Commission requires that any gemstone material produced in a laboratory must be disclosed during a sale.


An imitation stone is also a laboratory grown stone that simulates the appearance, but does not necessarily have the same properties of, the gemstone it imitates. This is often done to make a “new gemstone”, such as a cubic zirconia in various colors.

Imitation stones may also be made of glass, plastic, or ceramic, and resemble a real gemstone. Imitation gemstone are sometimes as beautiful as a genuine gemstones, without the imperfections and expense of owning genuine gemstones. These stones may need special care and you should avoid exposing them to chemicals, cosmetics, abrasives, and shocks.

The picture above is Goldstone, a lovely sparkling manmade glass, often used in the lapidary field for carvings and even cabochons.


Though included in this blog, a cabochon backed for stability is not considered a fake or manmade gemstone. Many attractive gemstones would never be suitable for jewelry if not for this process. However, if the stone is backed to enhance its beauty it may be considered fake, a piece of quartz backed by a blue mirror and sold as a sapphire is fake. At the very least assembled stones should always be declared.

Multiple layers or combinations of manufactured and natural gemstones are fused, bonded, or otherwise joined together to imitate the appearance of a natural gemstone, utilize a piece of gemstone that is not stable enough or pretty enough on its own, reduce the price of an expensive gemstone material, enhance the appearance of a gemstone, create a unique new gemstone, or generate an unusual color combination.

For example, we commonly back fragile materials such as Chrysocolla-Malachite or Charoite with a black agate for stability while setting and wearing. And gemstone ammonites and opals are often made into duplets and triplets.

A gemstone doublet is two separate gemstones or materials are bonded to create one gemstone. The structure of a doublet varies, but usually the top portion of the doublet is typically the real gem. The lower part may be a gemstone material of lower quality, a harder material for stability, or a darker material to enhance the appearance of the stone.

A triplet is most commonly made with gemstone ammonites and opals. It is where a usually clear cap of natural or synthetic materials such as topaz, sapphire or quartz is bonded on top, and it may protect the gemstone by being harder or more durable, or enhance its appearance.

Another type of assemble gemstones are intarsias or inlays, where tiny pieces of gemstone are pieced together into a work of art.

Mabe Pearls are another example of assembled stones. Pearl farmers make them from usually hollow "blister pearls" harvested from the shells of various mollusks. Since these blister pearls form from the shell of the animal rather than within the body, they're not considered true pearls. A mother-of-pearl blister is cut from the shell, filled with a special cement and a mother-of-pearl bead, then cemented to a mother-of-pearl back.

Reconstructed turquoise is a mix of natural turquoise that has been crushed into a powder and mixed with other plastic materials such as epoxy.

Be sure and read last month’s blog:

Enhancements in Gemstones

And check back next month for if you would like to learn more about Backing Your Gemstones!

Thanks for reading!