Imitation and Synthetic Gemstones
In view of the unquestionable fact of high value and rarity, there has been a continuous, good and ready market for Gemstones. Simultaneously, the imitations or cheaper varieties also flood the market.
Generally imitation Gemstones are made not only to deceive the buyers, but also to fill the gap between high cost real and low cost real looking ones.
The imitation Gemstones are made from any material, natural or man-made, that could give a similar look, enough to be taken as for the real and more expensive Gemstone.
It will be astonishing to know that imitations are being made from much before the time of so called industrial revolution which appeared to have changed the world from man made goods to machine produced goods. It is reported that imitations have been made for at least 6,000 years or before.
The Silapathikaram is one of the five great epics written in Tamil language by "Elangovadigal" revolved around a virtuous lady named Kannagi. Her husband Kovalan was killed by the king for a mistaken identity of Queen’s lost anklet. Kannagi’s anklet was made of invaluable precious Rubies whereas that of queen’s was of ordinary imitation pearl.
The Victorians also used a number of materials including glass (paste), plastics and resins to imitate both natural mineral Gemstones and the organic Gemstones such as Amber and Shell. Similarly, the blue faience (glazed clay) was used by the Egyptians to imitate turquoise.
Gemstones made in laboratory will have the same chemical composition as their natural counterparts; and these are called as synthetic Gemstones. Synthetic Gemstones will therefore have the same physical and optical properties of the natural Gemstones. Records say that in 1902, French scientist Auguste Verneuil (1856-1913) established the first commercially successful process for manufacturing synthetic Gemstones. He first manufactured Sapphires and Rubies, by flame-fusion process, melting the powdered ingredients (adding colouring agents to aluminium oxide) and allowing these to drip on to a revolving stand. While the stand revolves, the drips cool and solidify, forming a pencil like shaped solid Gems, which are then faceted.