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Cultured diamonds terminology


#1

was: [Source] Cultured Diamonds

When talking about synthetic gems vs natural, such as lab grown
corundum vs natural sapphire/ruby, I don’t like the word "synthetic"
either, but I DO use it, simply because it is the accepted and
generally understood terminology for such gems. It is generally
understood in our circle of jewellery makers and gemologists but
unfortunately not generally understood by the buying public.

The word “synthetic” in general use does have "artificial"
connotations, such as in fabrics. You do your laundry, washing
natural fabrics such as cotton, linen, viscose using the appropriate
settings on your washing machine. Then you do your man-made fabric
garments which are composed of things like polyester, nylon,
acrylic, using the “synthetics” programme of your washing machine.
Similarly you can buy things made of natural leather or things like
PVC which is sometimes called synthetic leather. And so for the
majority of people at large, synthetic means artificial and
definitely not the same chemically and physically.

That is the reason why I tend to explain the terms synthetic
(chemically and physically identical but man-made) and simulated
(man- made and chemically and physically different to but similar in
appearance) if using such gems in a piece of jewellery. However, I’m
not sure the buying public will ever get the terminology we use to
describe or define jewellery/gems. Not all jewellers understand the
difference surprisingly. And not all jewellers understand the
different forms of the word karat/carat either, as you still see
jewellers advertising 18ct gold rather than 18K gold, so what chance
do the public stand?!

I think people’s perceptions/prejudices are deep routed and it’s
only those who choose to educate themselves that will get the
difference between the various terminologies. There will always be
the customers who for their budget, will much prefer to buy poor
quality natural gems over better quality synthetic equivalents
because they see man- made gems as inferior, no matter what. But
equally there will always be others who don’t mind buying synthetic
(or simulated for that matter) because they can have a good clarity
gem for a reasonable price and don’t really care how it was made.
Then at the other end of the scale, there will always be those
customers for whom money is not an issue as they can afford to buy
the best quality natural gems and in that case, such terminology is
not an issue for them either. Sadly, most people are prejudiced by
the junk they see in the high street windows - that’s proper
jewellery to their minds. To my (much- maligned) M-I-L, there is only
one form of garnet - red garnet - because that’s the only type she’s
ever seen. When I showed her some lovely Spessartine garnet, she
dismissed it as “very washed-out” garnet as it wasn’t red, but
orange. I’ve given up trying to introduce her to stones such as
demantoid garnet or Merelani mint garnet, Tsavorite garnet, etc, etc,
as “garnets are meant to be red not green”. Any rubies with a pinkish
tint are not “proper” rubies as they too must be scarlet for her to
accept them. Oh and sapphires are meant to be virtually black!!! Go
figure. Sapphires that are definitely blue are “too pale”! You can
try to educate people as much as you like but they will only listen
and try to understand if they really want to.

But I guess we’ll plod on in an attempt to educate people. Sorry for
the whinge!

Helen
UK
http://www.hillsgems.co.uk


#2
But frankly, compared to cultured pearls, this stone seems to me
very similar to a cultured pearl. Shall we call this cultured too? 

Peter, your discussion is well-reasoned and compelling. I guess I’m
convinced. No “cultured” diaminds for me! I think, however, that I
prefer the term “lab-grown” in general instead of synthetic, as it
doesn’t seem to carry the “tacky” connotation as much. Is that
gemelogically satisfactory?

Noel


#3

Noel,

Peter, your discussion is well-reasoned and compelling. I guess
I'm convinced. No "cultured" diaminds for me! I think, however,
that I prefer the term "lab-grown" in general instead of synthetic,
as it doesn't seem to carry the "tacky" connotation as much. Is
that gemelogically satisfactory? 

“Lab grown” is probably considered acceptable, simply because it’s
not ambiguous and sees fairly wide use. Nevertheless, remember that
the actual formally correct term remains “synthetic”. Any tackiness
attached to that word comes not from it’s proper gemological uses,
but from vague public perceptions. Altering one’s behavior, in my
experience, to accomodate vague public fads and unfounded
perceptions ends up being somewhat of a waste of time, and can lead
to unfortunate misunderstandings. If you send a parcel of natural and
synthetic stones to GIA for identification, for example, none of the
synthetics will come back with their GIA paperwork describing them
as “lab grown”. They’ll be described as “synthetic”. For my money,
I’d prefer to use the proper term when describing a stone to a
customer, and then add the additional explanation of just what that
term means, the technology used to grow the stone, and the grounds
for admiring and desiring such a stone. In my experience, that sort
of honest and truthful description is more empowering to both the
jeweler and the customer, and gives the customer’s real reasons to
either appreciate the synthetic for the beautiful gem and technical
marvel it may well be, or to validly decide that they’d prefer a
stone that comes from mother nature’s laboratory. At which time I
might also mention the rarity of natural gems which have not been in
some manner treated and enhanced, which would again, put in clear
light the different distinctions, and why each might be valued or
desired. Or not.

cheers
Peter


#4
I think, however, that I prefer the term "lab-grown" in general
instead of synthetic, as it doesn't seem to carry the "tacky"
connotation as much. Is that gemelogically satisfactory? 

Just a short one - partly I know a lot about stones, but I’m not a
GG. I’m not sure of the law, but Noel’s statement above also has some
baggage. All lab-growns are synthetic, but not all synthetics are
"lab-grown" - at least that’s how the trade thinks about it. A
Chatham is “lab-grown” because it is literally grown in a lab. A
Verneuil is not, because it’s powder sprinkled through a flame.
Arguments could be made, but that pretty well sums up the thinking in
the trade. As Daniel has always pounded away at, and good for him, is
that honesty and openness is the best policy. It’s when people in the
trade try to soften the blow by making up buzzwords that trouble
begins. Diamondaires, anyone? I understand that it’s somewhat about
making the sale, but saying it’s lab grown or synthetic or cultured,
aside from pearls, doesn’t change what it is, either.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#5

have we heard the term “spin” latley?

the word “synthetic” in general use does have "artificial"
connotations, such as in fabrics. "

i must say this is a good point and is most likely the primary source
for the seed of discomfort in the buying public when the term "
synthetic " is heard by the common folk of the purchasing public in
the context of jewelry and gemstones ! did the term’s "synthetic"
usage as it is applied to gemstones originate with G.I.A. ?

my 1971 copy of websters dictionary of the english language defines
"synthetic - Of pertaining to, proceeding by, or involving
synthesis: opposed to analytic;chem.noting or pertaining to compounds
produced artificially by chemical reaction in a laboratory as opposed
to natural origin; " " not authentic or genuine ;.- N. Any product of
synthesis.-"

this bit of language contains quite a bit of and room for
argument thus the need for education (the amount of which is sadly
not present at high levels with some of the purchasing public)

the term synthetic does seem to have connotations because of popular
usage in todays society i would agree that advertising and industry
as relative to fabrics hve given the word synthetic a negative feel
to it after all who wants to wear polyester ? -goo


#6
I think, however, that I prefer the term "lab-grown" in general
instead of synthetic, as it doesn't seem to carry the "tacky"
connotation as much. Is that gemelogically satisfactory?

As a Gemologist (1977) and having retail stores for 21 years, I have
explained to my customers as I was taught, synthetic means
chemically identical to the natural, made by man. I do not understand
why someone would associate synthetic with “tacky” connotation.

I have not experienced that with my customers. Some might prefer
natural gems to a man made ones, but the customers who cannot afford
a natural gem in the size and quality they desire hardly consider a
synthetic “tacky”. Lab created is how, synthetic is what. Lab
created does not mean synthetic. Simulants are lab created. Lab
created does not mean chemically identical. If you feel better using
lab grown, use that. Synthetic is the technical and correct term. You
could say lab grown synthetic. Then you get the prestige of the lab
grown with the tackiness of synthetic and it equals out and is
technically correct. Sometimes words are used because of inherent
meaning. Most correct term for identification.

Richard Hart


#7

Goo,

As has already been pointed out by Peter Rowe, the term "synthetic"
has a quite distinctive gemological usage. When dealing within the
jewelry trade it doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) really matter how it
has been used or abused in other trades.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambrige, MA 02140
www.spirerjewelers.com


#8

Hi Goo, List…

the word "synthetic" in general use does have "artificial"
connotations, such as in fabrics. " 

What I’ve always used in the term “man-made” or “made by man”…
From there you can launch into more to the individual as
needed… Explain “synthetic” in terms of gem jargon or whichever…

Gary W. Bourbonais


#9
As a Gemologist (1977) and having retail stores for 21 years, I
have explained to my customers as I was taught, synthetic means
chemically identical to the natural, made by man. 

for many years i have been of the same mind in the usage of the term
synthetic as it applies to gemstones and my studies with GIA, but
since the point was raised about fabrics in context with the
ingrained common meaning of the word synthetic and reading the
Websters definition I am inclined to change my mind! websters
dictionary does in fact define synthetic as “not genuine”. the
dictionary is available to everyone in the buying public even if you
do not own a copy one is available free of chargeat the local
library! is it possible that GIA has attempted to change the meaning
of the word synthetic? or is it possible that GIA is focused on one
aspect of the term synthetic that is misunderstood by most people?
not everyone is scientifically minded! do we want to be correct? or,
do we want to lose sales by making our clients feel inferior?

respectfully - goo


#10
the word "synthetic" in general use does have "artificial"
connotations, such as in fabrics.

There is no synthetic cotton or silk. There are artificial fabrics,
not synthetic fabrics. I do not know how a word can be used
inappropriately and have “connotation”.

Synthetic and artificial both mean man made.

To say a material is synthetic when it is not and then say synthetic
has an artificial connotation does not make sense.

Since synthetic means chemically the same as the natural, something
synthetic can be artificial, but something artificial is not
necessarily synthetic. So we cannot imply that something artificial
is synthetic, and there is no connotation. The connotation for
synthetic should be that it is chemically the same as what occurs in
nature.

There are no fabricologists that have to separate synthetic fabrics
from natural fabrics from simulant fabrics.

Calling things what you want to because of what the public might
think or feel instead of educating them does a disservice to this
profession in my opinion. Sometimes hammering can be done with words.

Richard Hart


#11
not authentic or genuine 

Goo, I think this is the crux of the whole thing in the public’s
mind.

One of the attributes of gemstones in general is preciousness.
There’s a psychological need involved, that of acquiring something
special. So the word synthetic conjures up the idea that these things
are punched out by the thousands(which they mostly are) and therefore
there is no rarity. People equate rare with valuable.

Think about it. Historically, gems until recently have been natural
phenomena, gifts from the gods or whatever. People ascribed
supernatural powers to them. Even today people are still emotional,
if not downright superstitious, about gems. Because of their origin.
The same cannot be easily said about synthetics. I’ve seen numerous
times people get crestfallen when they’re told their ancient family
jewels are not genuine. Its more than $value, its a hero dethroned.
So, I feel, people look for the word genuine to be legitimately
attached to their purchase of a gem. In a world that likes black and
white definitions the opposite of genuine has become synthetic. If
synthetic didn’t have a negative connotation in many peoples’ minds,
the price would be the same. In fact if price were determined solely
by color/clarity blah blah blah, really nice synthetics would
sometimes be pricier than their natural counterparts.

Certainly there are different markets and different levels within
those markets and a number of consumers aren’t really terribly
concerned with genuine vs synthetic. So, lucky for them they have
alternatives. And lucky for the jewelers who fill that need.

But the larger issue is that of trust. Even if a jeweler innocently
mislabels a stone, with no intent whatsoever to mislead,(maybe he
used cultured instead of synthetic because he’s equally prone to
culture osmosis) the client HAS been mislead and he may never see
them again, or their friends. Worse, he may have a legal problem.

Like it or not, people look to us as experts in our field. So it
becomes more than just a moral issue to correctly label gems, its a
matter of self preservation.

Sorry, that was pretty wordy considering I could have just over
simplified with, “there’s no romance in synthetics”.


#12
There is no synthetic cotton or silk. There are artificial
fabrics, not synthetic fabrics. 

That would depend on how you’re using the word synthetic. Indeed,
there is no synthetic cotton or silk. At least not yet. But there ARE
synthetic fibers. Used to describe the somewhat broader term of
fibers, from which cloth can be made, synthetic versus natural fibers
is a perfectly fine use of the term. Likewise, natural or synthetic
fabric is fine, so long as the exact type of fiber is left open. In
this case, synthetic is referring to the man made origin of the
fiber, and the main definition of interest is the fibrous nature of
the synthetic, allowing it to be made into synthetic fabrics serving
similar functions to natural fabrics, without going so far as to
delve into the chemistry of the fiber itself. In gemology too, there
is a limit to how far we ask the duplication to take place. Synthetic
gems, while chemically and crystalographically the same as the
naturals, may still have differences in inclusions, color banding, or
other structural features that do not interfere with the basic
gemological identification of the material. With the fabric, perhaps
the essential identification is in the performance of the fabric,
which can, if made the right way, end up performing the closely to
the same way as some natural fabric would do.

The problem in this particular thread of discussion is that it’s
crossing from one nomenclature family to others. A fauilt sometimes.
of the nature of language. Synthetic as refers to gems, has a precise
meaning when referring to gems, as defined not by the standard
universal dictionary, but more importantly, by the gemological
community, the users and definers of the terms of gemology. To bring
fabrics into it is a red herring, since that whole field may have
it’s own set of standard definitions and uses of the term that may
not exactly match the uses of the term in gemology.

This is, by the way, a common enough situation. You know the old saw
about each profession inventing it’s own language in order to keep
outsiders from understanding that profession, (or the saying went
something like that. Don’t recall the exact words). Like medicine,
insisting on using latin and greek words for anatomy and diseases.
Confusing language that sounds like greek to everyone but the
doctors… :“sir, you have gastritis.”…“Oh gosh. Is it serious? I
thought it was just a stomach ache…” “yeah, that’s it…” General
industry melts a mix of silver and copper and zinc onto things in
order to join them, and calls the process brazing. Then they use a
mix of tin and lead the same way to join things and call it
soldering. We jewelers, on the other hand, call both methods
soldering, except one is hard and the other soft, and for many of
us, brazing is a method of cooking dinner…

Be careful with nomenclature. It’s often very specific, not only to
the meanings of terms, but also in what settings and contexts it
holds those meanings.

Peter


#13
websters dictionary does in fact define synthetic as "not genuine". 

Well Goo, in fact synthetic gem materials are not “genuine”. They
are man made duplicates of the gem materials.

is it possible that GIA has attempted to change the meaning of the
word synthetic? 

There is an actual science of gemology. While the GIA has had a large
part in it’s development it is not the be all and end all in this and
it has been from a concensus within the gemological community that
the terms that are used are the acceptable ones. Please don’t turn
this into an anti GIA thing. The term “synthetic” as it applies to
gem materials, in the science of gemology, has a very clear,
definable meaning (as has been stated so eloquently by Peter Rowe
already in this discussion). It really doesn’t matter how it is used
elsewhere, or by other people. Within the science of gemology, which
is the science that all jewelers and gemologists use in their work
with it is clearly, and quite precisely defined. It is up
to you, as the jeweler or gemologist, to explain to the clients, in
clear and easily understood terms exactly what the term means within
the context it is being used. If you choose to sell synthetics, and
be a jeweler, then you need to be able to do this. It’s as simple as
that.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambrige, MA 02140
www.spirerjewelers.com


#14
Calling things what you want to because of what the public
might think or feel instead of educating them does a disservice to
this profession in my opinion. Sometimes hammering can be done with
words. 

But in this case, the “uneducated public” is correct. "Synthetic"
has a broader meaning in general use than it does to a gemologist. It
is not reasonable to expect the public to know that you use the term
in a precise technical manner. Check any general dictionary.

As a computer programmer, when I say “hash”, I don’t mean corned
beef and potatoes. But I don’t expect the general public to know how
to code a hash sort.

Al Balmer
Sun City, AZ


#15
I am inclined to change my mind! websters dictionary does in fact
define synthetic as "not genuine"." 

Here we go again…Synthetic means man made, it means not genuine.
Genuine means made by nature. But synthetic also means that a man
made gem is chemically identical to a gem that occurs in nature.

What other word can you use to indicate that a man made gem material
is identical chemically to a natural gem material? (Hint, lab created
does not).

Gemology is a system used to separate natural gems from created gems,
and to separate one gem material from all others, natural or man
made.

Do we need a remedial class for those in the jewelry business and
those on this forum that still do not understand? There is a
scientific basis for Gemology.

Do any of you have an issue that there is a system that has been
established as a form of communication to determine how to separate
gems by something other than guessing.

Apparently some people on this forum are as confused as the public.
No wonder the public is confused.

Seems to me that someone who needs to use the term lab created
instead of synthetic might just be manipulative instead of educating
someone who might not understand. I never make my customer feel
inferior explaining what synthetic means. They are very appreciative.
I do use the term lab created. And it is always followed by an
explanation that the gem is synthetic ( if it is as opposed to
simulant, opening another can of worms?) and that a synthetic is
chemically identical to what occurs in nature. Brevity and clarity.

Perhaps some of you are condescending toward your customers. If you
think your customer does not understand something, educate for your
sake, and mine. Do not stoop to the level of ignorance you assume for
them.

If you worked for me, you would be educated as to what is proper
terminology. You make up stuff based on what you think the customer
needs to hear because of “ingrained common meaning”, and you would
be doing something somewhere else.

The word synthetic is in the foundation of terminology in Gemology.

Richard Hart, Graduate Gemologist in Residence (1977), and proud of
it.


#16
for many years i have been of the same mind in the usage of the
term synthetic as it applies to gemstones and my studies with GIA,
but since the point was raised about fabrics in context with the
ingrained common meaning of the word synthetic and reading the
Websters definition I am inclined to change my mind! websters
dictionary does in fact define synthetic as "not genuine". 

Synthetic does mean not genuine as it relates to gemstones made in
the lab.

This is correct and appropriate description.

Let us recall the basics. A genuine gemstone must possess 3
properties. It must be durable: it must be beautiful; and it must be
rare. If any of the above is lacking, the term gemstone should be
qualified. Lab-grown material is qualified as “synthetic”.

This should not be taken as disparagement towards synthetic
material. Synthetic gemstones are beautiful, and durable, but they
are not rare! That should also make us think of how do we call
gemstones whose appearance was enhanced in one way or another.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#17

The terminology (for stones, I’ll leave pearls alone thank you very
much!) that I picked up from numerous web searches and books, and
some of the reasons why they are used are listed below…

Synthetic: synthesized, a chemical process (sapphire’s are
synthesized so is Nylon). Man-made: anything from the hand of man
(does not include treated natural stones). Created: this is used for
diamond, as they are pure carbon there is no synthetic processes
going on, therefore they are created from “raw” carbon (either as
graphite or soot).

So they are either: “man-made” or created, but not cultured or
synthetic. All these kinds of stones can be called lab grown too, if
you feel like being a bit vague.

Cheers, Thomas Janstrom.
Little Gems.
www.tjlittlegems.com


#18

Hi Richard,

You seem to have missed my point completely.

the word "synthetic" in general use does have "artificial"
connotations, such as in fabrics. 

You quoted what I said above and then you said:

There is no synthetic cotton or silk. There are artificial
fabrics, not synthetic fabrics. I do not know how a word can be
used inappropriately and have "connotation". 

I KNOW that there is no synthetic cotton or silk. It wasn’t me who
labelled man made fabrics as synthetics - it is (I can only assume)
the washing machine manufacturers. Look on most washing machines (at
least here in the UK) and you will see “synthetics” on the programme
dial. Don’t shoot the messenger.

I NEVER suggested “Calling things what you want to because of what
the public might think or feel instead of educating them”. If you
read what I said, I actually said that I DO use the correct
terminology when describing synthetic gem material, because it IS the
correct terminology. I also said that I go on to explain what it
means so that the buying public aren’t confused. But I know for a
fact that many people just don’t get it because of the misuse of the
word synthetic - that was the whole point of my post on the subject.

Helen
UK
http://www.hillsgems.co.uk


#19
Since synthetic means chemically the same as the natural,
something synthetic can be artificial, but something artificial is
not necessarily synthetic. So we cannot imply that something
artificial is synthetic, and there is no connotation. The
connotation for synthetic should be that it is chemically the same
as what occurs in nature.

even though i agree with your argumentthat is not a factor in this
point of argument! when i READ the my 1971 edition of websters
dictionary of the english language definition of the word synthetic
it in fact,does NOT reflect your definition of the word synthetic! if
you are going to quote me then quote me incontext, synthetic is
defined broadly and one of its usages does infact claim that a
synthetic is “not genuine” as for your point,websters does NOT claim
a synthetic to be “chemically identical”.

best regards goo


#20
since the point was raised about fabrics in context with the
ingrained common meaning of the word synthetic and reading the
Websters definition I am inclined to change my mind! websters
dictionary does in fact define synthetic as "not genuine". 

The definition of the word synthetic ‘as not genuine’ in reference
to fabric is correct.

As far as I know there is no synthetic cotton, silk, wool or any
other fabric made from a natural material. All synthetic fabrics are
of man’s creation, nylon, rayon, polyester etc. Therefore they cannot
be a copy of a ‘genuine natural’ product.

A synthetic diamond (& most other synthetic stones) on the other
hand has the same chemical composition, same physical attributes as
the natural stone it duplicates.

Any synthetic stone is also ‘not a genuine’ natural stone, but it is
’identical’ to the natural stone.

I think the problem is the the schools in the US aren’t doing a good
job of teaching the use of the English language.

Dave