You state , in reference to a statement in Liddicoat’s 10th edition
of his “Handbook of Gem Identification” ; “It is apparent that
Richard Liddicoat does not insist that a synthetic gem have a
natural counterpart”. I don’t know about that but in the 12th
edition, fourteen years later he was quite clear about the matter.
Page 85, Chapter X, “Manmade Gem Materials”, The first sentence
says"A synthetic gem material has the same chemical composition,
crystal structure, and consequently the same physical and optical
properties as the natural gem it represents". He then states in the
third paragraph, same page, quote, “Synthetic gem materials, such as
flame-fusion corundum, spinel and, later, rutile and strontium
titanate have long been availble. (Since strontium titanate is not
found in nature, it is not a true synthetic gem material.”) end
quote. Can’t be much clearer than that!

As for Webster’s “Gems, Their Sources Descriptions and
identification” you say , referring to a statement made in the
third edition of that tome, “Even though I never met Mr. Webster I
think he agrees that a “synthetic” gem does not need a natural
counterpart”. Fourteen years later, in the 5th edition, p. 389,
Chapter 18 “Synthetic Gemstones” the first line of the chapter
reads,( quote,) “Present thinking and commercial rules restrict the
adjective ‘synthetic’ to materials which, while being manufactured
by man, have a natural counterpart, however unornamental this might
be.”( end quote). Also crystal, (pun intended), clear.

To throw another authority into the fray, Hurlbut and Kammerling’s
book “Gemology” Second edition, (1991) states on page 6, "When a
man-made material essentially duplicates the optical, physical, and
chemical properties of its natural counterpart, it is termed a
synthetic.Later in the same paragraph it states “Other man-made
materials merely mimic various gems; that is they resemble them but
do not have the same properties. Such materials are termed
’imitations’ or ‘simulants’” etc…

Therefore, in the gemological sense a man made gem material which
has no natural counterpart is a simulant. I rest my case.

By the way, I also am an old cruising sailor, having “swallowed the
anchor” some twenty years ago. Should you ever sail into Kodiak,
give me a call. I’m in the book. Jerry in Kodiak.

  Therefore, in the gemological sense a man made gem material
which has no natural counterpart is a  simulant. I rest my case. 

Hi Jerry, I follow your explanation and logic all the way to this
last statement, which is erroneous. A material (whether man-made or
not) can only be called a simulant if it is being used to mimic or
imitate another substance. It is perfectly possible that someone
could make a material that is beautiful enough that we might agree to
call it a gem (FTC notwithstanding), but which does not and is not
intended to mimic/simulate any other substance. In that case, it
would be just a man-made gem (or, if you accept Steve Green’s
argument, a synthetic gem). Either way, it is not a simulant because
it is not simulating anything!


It occurs to me that the pharmaceutical industry has to be very
careful with terminology. Are there any examples that would apply to
For example, do they use the word “synthetic” to describe
a man-made hormone that is chemically identical to a naturally
occurring hormone? What about a drug that performs the same function
of some natural substance but is chemically different?–is it a
synthetic, or is there another term used?

The lines still get blurred with drugs that don’t mimic any known
bodily process.

I figure that a synthetic gem is a man-made copy, chemically and
physically identical to the original. A simulant only looks the
same, so a cubic zirconium is a diamond simulant.

The blurring of the lines: YAG is man-made but marketed as a new
variety of gemstone, not as a substitute for any natural stone. I
consider it a synthetic gemstone–but who am I to say?


Either way, it is not a simulant because it is not simulating

Beth, Your point is well taken, a simulant must simulate. I think
however that a man made material having no natural counterpart,
simulating nothing, but beautiful enough to be called a gem, "(FTC
notwithstanding}"requires a new descriptive term. I don’t think the
FTC and other authorities in the field, (Liddicoat among others),
all of whom say that to be called a gem the material must be
natural, can be dismissed that lightly. To call dichroic glass a gem
for example would be a gross distortion , yet it is certainly man
made , beautiful and simulates nothing. Any thoughts? Jerry in

...a man made material having no natural counterpart, simulating
nothing, but beautiful enough to be called a gem requires a new
descriptive term. To call dichroic glass a gem for example would be
a gross distortion , yet it is certainly man made, beautiful and
simulates nothing.  Any thoughts? 

Hi Jerry, I’m not sure how dichroic glass fits into this discussion
about gem nomenclature. If you’re questioning why a particularly
beautiful type of man-made glass couldn’t be called a gem material,
try convention, and the fact that it’s, well … glass (which does
have a natural counterpart in obsidian anyway). I would think that
the material you describe – man-made, having no natural counterpart,
beautiful enough to be called a gem (and, I would add, of crystalline
structure) – is so rare that I doubt special terminology is
necessary. If you really pushed me though :-), I’d have to come up
with something less than satisfactory, like “jewelstone.”


I’m not a fine jeweler, my work is very nontraditional, and I work
in other media too. I feel lucky to have the artists life, but it
doesn’t give me the cash flow to afford diamonds. So I buy CZs in
good settings for that prosperous well groomed look- and I think I
look great in “diamonds”. And I do go places where I need to look
like the other docters wives ;D. Add to that the horrible muggings
several prosperous freinds have had for their big rocks, and I feel
safer in good quality CZ jewelry. Silly of me, I know I could still
get jumped for it, but it wouldn’t be the loss the real thing would
be. I have some family peices in a bank box, and the insurance
premiums to take it out and wear it are absurd.

I have no problem paying for good settings and design and quality
work, I just don’t see it as practical to buy weeny little diamonds
when I can have effective CZs and still afford the other things I
like, such as big chunky semi precious arty peices. I would like to
find more CZ in say, 14k settings that are well designed but most of
the settings are junk, sterling you can’t clean properly, or vermeil
that will wear off in no time. Or the ones that look like the
Something-Mart rip off jewelry counter. Think of it as a better class
of paste, not really costume jewelry but still a bit of subterfuge. I
bet there’s a bigger market than anyone thinks.

Lizzy Claiborne

Aren’t we falling into the semantic trap of abusing the word
"synthetic" here? The word actually describes the product of a
process of synthesis, and it has, mistakenly or not, accrued the
secondary pejorative meaning of vaguely false or fake. it’s a little
like trying to decide if something is or is not “cool”…on the one
hand one can say that ice is cool, but then one can also say that The
Red Hot Chilli Peppers are cool ! See the difference? Steve Holden new

Hi, Beth-

If we exclude from Steve Green’s musings the category of materials
which are (1) lab-created but which (2) have no natural counterpart
and which (3) do not emulate a naturally occuring stone, then I
have to ask- why are we using up all of this bandwidth? If a
lab-created stone has a naturally occuring counterpart, it is a
synthetic; if it emulates, but is not identical to, a naturally
occuring stone, it is a simulant. Every category of material save
this one, of which you state that no special terminology is
necessary, already has a category already designated.

Lee Einer