How much are lab grown stones worth?

I am taking a bench jewelry class and I got a list of reputable wholesalers in the Diamond Districts NYC. So I went to R Gems. Amazing selection. I asked for a round sapphire, 6 to 12 mm. I actually got the wrong stone, I needed a cabochon and got a round.

I asked how much for the round and he said $35 for 11mm. $65 for a 14mm. That is a good price, I got the 11mm.

I looked that stone up on Stuller and it sells for $867!

So what is going on? Are online wholesalers like Rio Grande and Stuller a rip-off or did I just get lucky? I KNOW if I try to buy a stone on the ground level in the diamond district they ask for more.

Now if only I could find a place that sells diamonds for 25x less than Stullar! I hear the best place to buy diamonds is at auction? After today I realize I have no clue how much stones are worth.


This is a great question! Someone explained to me once that there are different processes to grow certain stones and that all synthetics aren’t the same. Sadly, it was a long time again and I don’t remember what the difference is between them. I’m really looking forward to hearing the answer to your question myself!

Thanks for bringing it up!


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Go to Synthetics that are made by the Chatham process have, as long as I can remember, the preferred but more expensive synthetic stones. Their process makes for a superior product.


Hello SteveS,
Welcome to the wild, wacky world of gemstone prices! I agree with Jo Haemer that you will find some useful info at the IGS site. I searched and found an article on “Understanding Gem Synthetics…” which would be helpful. Price is dictated somewhat by whether the synthetic is widely available and created by a fairly cheap process…that depends on how complex the equipment is, how much energy it uses and on economies of scale when the equipment has become widely available. A lot of CZ is made and the equipment for the Czochralski process by which it is manufactured is readily available. So rough CZ runs from maybe as little as ten cents per carat in rough to maybe a dollar for some colors which require rarer dopants…that is a minimum price if you know where to look. Some suppliers will charge more because they are “boutique” dealers and sell small quantities. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but there it is. The flame fusion process (also called the Verneuil process) is ubiquitous and has been around since the 1880’s to produce corundum. Prices are about like what I quoted for CZ. Flame fusion is also used to produce many colors of synthetic spinel in the same range of prices. Flame fusion stones are easily recognized by their striations and bubbles under the micoscope, altho’ sometimes striations can be hard to see if the stone has been annealed, but most are not.

Jo mentioned Chatham ruby, which is produced by another process and they are more expensive because of the process and because of the name recognition which has built up over time. The processes used by Chatham for emeralds and corundum and by Biron and others for emerald are either hydrothermal growth or flux growth. I’m not entirely clear which is which and the premium makers don’t help, because they don’t name their process, but just talk about how long it takes, etc. This is part of “romancing the stone,” i.e., marketing.

While IGS gives some broad price categories for gemstones, I didn’t find any prices there for synthetics. Generally, you just have to search around to find the best prices. Some sites are obviously marketing to consumers (even tho’ the stones may be loose gems), so the prices can be called “retail.” Others are selling to jewelers (like perhaps Rio and Stuller) and that would be a jeweler wholesale. Jewelers use these vendors because they are well known, convenient, and reputable as well as offering one stop shopping for gems along with tools, metal, etc. Also, jewelers may have established accounts with them. In the tier below this in price would be bulk suppliers who might not have offices in the US or Europe, and their prices might be lower, but it might be a little more difficult to work with them because of shipping costs, shipping times, language problems communicating, etc. Then there are outliers like US dealers who have inventory that they are still selling at ten year old prices, rockhound estates, etc. And then there’s GemRockAuctions, which has a little bit of everything. Some folks love to buy there, just like some folks love Ebay, while others wouldn’t be caught dead buying there.
So there are a few guidelines which might help, but above all, cultivate your sources and your experts and caveat emptor, always! One site which has a lot of various synthetics which I stimbled on while googling for this reply is: HYDROTHERMAL & PULLED CZOCHRALSKI - Cubic Zirconia (CZ), Natural & Synthetic Gemstones on Sale |
So, once again, help, I’m talking about gems and can’t shut up, but I hope this is helpful. -royjohn


Lab grown diamonds are about 2/3 the cost of natural… they are produced from a small diamond seed and purified graphite and compressed to 2 million pounds psi or more (45 to 60 giagpascals), and a temperature as high as 2,000 degrees F (1000 degrees C) to simulate the conditions of natural stone growth at condtions in the earth’s mantle at 150 to 200 km depth where diamonds are naturally formed… These extreme PT conditions have to be contained for a year or more to grow a gem diamond. The process is very energy intensive and also very dangerous because mechanical failure will result in a powerful explosion…but will produce indistnquishable from natural high quality stones… the Chinese are know for selling fraudlent lab diamonds as natural stones… only mine to retail certified stones can be fully trusted, for very high dollar stones…those are deBeers and Australian.

Corundum synthetics were first produced at the turn of the century using an oxyhydrogen flame to slowly accrete powedered alumina with coloring agents (chromium for ruby) This process is very cheap but the end product at best is microcrystalline and if grown too fast, a glass…the internal crystal structure is distorted and unsuited for high quality synthetic stones… it is still used for cheap simulants and for watch bearings. That is called the verneuille process, but Czocharlski technique is a refinement thereof, wherein by the raw materials are heated and very slowly pulled thru a submelting zone to cause crystalization… The process is still the only way to make ultra purity crystalline silicon which later can be doped with trace elements to make semiconductors. i’s a zone refining process…, .

Chatham stones are applicable to both corundum and beryl stones… they are made by a flux fusion method. Lithium molybedate or other chemical materials are used as a flux to lower wthe temperature of melting or aluminum oxide or beryllium oxide… otherwise, the melting temperature of alumina is too high (2000 degrees C, or almost 3,800 F) These stones are more expensive as large crystals take time to grow. What I understand is they can be distinquished from natural crystals by characteristic flux inclusions. Most of the high quality synthetic stones are made by this process…

The hydrothermal method is the only way that synthetic quartz is made… seed crystals can be hung in a high pressure autoclave, with silica and an alkali, such as sodium carbonate (washing soda) with the alkali facilitatiing the dissolution of silica… the solution becomes silica saturated, and the temperature is slowly reduced induce crystallization on the seeds… the pressure is 130 to 145 megapascal (14,500 psi for 100 megapascals)…the temperature has to be at but not exceeding 575 degrees C, low temperature “normal” quartz is the alpha phase, the higher temperature phases are beta quartz, cristobalite and tridymite…a higher temperature than the critical will cause a phase shift and induce twinning and not create a perfect crystal. Synthetic quartz is manufactured on a massive scale for electronics and other applications that exploit it’s piezoelectric properties… think of quartz watches…
Hydrothermal emeralds use a similar method but the crystal shape is not hexagonal… growth lines are distinctive…
Hydrothermal processes best mimic the growth of lower temperature, lower pressure gemstones, particularly those that form in hydrothermal veins and pegmatities… mineral paragenesis in these kinds of deposits fascinate me, as they are also ore forming as well as gemstone forming processes…
Pegmatites host beryl, tourmaline, rose quartz, smokey quartz, amazonite…they are highly enriched in incompatible trace elements that can’t fit into the crystal structure of granite minierals (potassium alkali feldspar, quartz, muscovite mica)…these trace elements crystalize out as gem minerals of unusual composition with lithium, beryllium, cesium, as long as the pressure of crystalization is less than 1 kim depth equivalent (330 kilobars or 33 gigapascal)…pegmatites are abundant where I live in the Black Hills of South Dakota, there are no gem quality beryls, tourmalines, spodumene, emeralds because the depth of crystalisation was 5 km, causing masses of crystal intergrowth…gem crystals can be of gigantic size but it took nature thousands of years to slowly cool superheated hydrothermal solutions to produce them…

Cubic zircornia is produced by the “skull melt” process, first mass produced by the Russians. very refractory material that normally would take 4000 degrees F (for zircornia, it’s almost 5,000 degrees) or higher to melt are placed in a “skull” of the same composition… heating is accomplished in the center by focusing radiofrequency energy on the interior. It’s also called a “cold crucible” process… crystalline cubic zircornia. Cubic zirconia has an isometric crystal structure, of which the cube is a subset… natural zircons have the same chemical composition but are tetragonal in crystal structure. They can be easily distinguished by plane polarized light…the degrees of rotation to extinguish refraction can be done optically…

I hope some fact checks me on what I just wrote and I don’t want to be too didactic…i’ts the geochemist in me that is coming out again… Roy John only knows too much of that… I went on a tangent in a discussion of cracking in a heated sapphrire…


PS: making synthetic opal, color change alexandrite and turquoise were the last to crack… now every gemstone can be made synthetically using processes that mimic but also short cut natural processes.


the above was too long to fit on one post… what I meant to add was that further complicating things is that natural stones are routinely treated, heat, irratidation, etc to improve their appearance… this is so common place that it’s accepted as natural. the same processes by which nature created gemstones and metal deposits, both base and precious, can be lab mimiced, except for time…The GIA’s website is invaluable in looking into these things. Their stated mission is to bring some order to the gemstone market and to combat fraud…In addition, wholesale and retail prices can vary widely… more producers entering the market has kept the lid on prices of some stones… carrying costs at the retail level is very high for inventory that moves slowly… anything at retail can be double wholesale due to high inventory costs… Hope that this has been informative and not too didactic and not off on a tangent…


No this is very helpful, thank you. Now I need to decide if my customers will care if they are natural or synthetic.

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I guess that your customers will have to decide… most of the good quality synthetic stones, inlcuding rubies, emeralds can’t be distinquished by the naked eye from natural…besides being very attractive even in the raw crystal clusters… flux inclusions under magnification should distinquish them from natural. Genuine Lab grown stones are labled as such by the manufacturer…

Diamonds are impossible to tell natural from synthetic by any optical, physical or other means. the crystal structure is identical… naturals grow from small seeds also… all physical and optical properties, including X ray crystallography, are the same for both… Natural green diamonds are very rare and accordingly very expensive… naturally occurring radioactivity introduces dislocation/vacancies in the crystal structure that become color centers…artificially grown white diamonds can be irradiated with high energy gamma rays from a cobalt 60 source, high voltage electrons, or neutrons to create the color centers, that are full thickness and not just a surface treatment… Under natrual conditons, this is unusual and rare, because kimberlites and lamprophyres that are their host rock are not enriched in uranium or other radioactive elements… irradiation with neutrons and gamma rays will penetrate throughout the entire diamond given evendispesed color centers.
The GIA main gem research lab with all of the expensive million dollar high tech instruments, put out a warning a couple of years back that green diamonds without a certificate or forged certificates are a real dangers. The annual Goldscmidt Geochemical Society meeting that was held in Honolulu the year before last, had two lectures on diamonds and colored stones and their synthetic counterparts, given by post doctoral fellows…Green diamonds were the greatest concern…non destructive techniques can still be employed to trace some colored stones to the mining districts from which them come in West Africa…colored stones, especially corundum ones are sold at wholesale in lots with mixed origin stones in them… As part of the GIA’s mission to protect the industry from fraud and have a transparent orderly gem market, they are able to use high tech equipment to run trace element signatures on almost any stone that characterizes their origin… synthetic green diamonds are both practically and theoretically impossible to distinguish from the real…The diamond syndicate, which includes deBeers and the Australian producers meticulously trace their stones from an individual mine to retail… the certificates of authenticity and the GIA certificates are dependent on that tracing…but they only control 40% of the market now… West African and Brazilian mines make up most of the rest. Some of the West African stones used to be called “conflict or blood” diamonds…Except moe opacity in the WWest African diamond market, as there were, just within the last couple of years, military backed coups against 7 West African former French colony governments…Russian sources under Putin’s government have become opaque…while the Chinese have developed the most sophisticated ways of committing fraud…Eg, laser engraving “deBeers” on the girdle of lab grown stones, irradiation, adding trace light elements to avoid detection by X ray florescence, and laser ablation mass spectrometry…the colored stone market has also become more chaotic with the discovery of colored stones in West Africa, primary sources of emeralds like Colombia, Brazil and more recently Afghanistan, being mixed with West African sources. Same has gone for corundum stones, sourced from Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand… Columbian emeralds are still the primary source of chromuim color centers, the rest of the world has vanadium colored emeralds…They can be distinguiished by characteristic inclusions and chromium… the vanadium stones are harder to trace… …


Thanks to RoyJohn again!.. he is the voice of reason and common sense in a complex market and he does absolutely know a ton about the subject.

the post prior to the last was misdirected to Roy John… thanks to him again… It was meant to respond to SteveS11930…
I don’t want to talk anymore about this on this forum anymore… I’m approaching it from a different and theoretical science perspective than one that is truly useful for practical jewelers… I defer anything else to Roy John who is a practicing expert…


Lisa Rosen from IGS/Ganoksin here. I’m just jumping in to say that the IGS Gem Price Guide doesn’t track lab grown prices because they are falling fast and furiously. We won’t be able to keep up. The prices that you see will be for mined stones.

Interesting discussion! IGS has many articles on lab grown stones. Let me know if you want me to tease anything out specifically.

  • Lisa

Thanks for the praise for my post or two on synthetics, but I have to say that my knowledge may be a little more than some here because I track gem prices because I am a cutter who aspires to be a commercial cutter and cut stone merchant. I know something about synthetic prices because some of my cohorts in the cutting biz have actually been able to make money cutting exotic and premium synthetics for people who like the unusual and for folks who like Big Bling and will pay for it in a custom setting.

I know only a little about what Lisa mentioned, lab diamonds. I do read the news from Gemworld and they and others in the trade do say that lab diamond prices are dropping fast. They were at about half of natural for a while, but that was for initial first sales from a retail jewelry store, mainly for engagement rings. Resale on these stones is very little unless you find another person who is getting married to take the stone/ring off your hands. I didn’t believe it until I looked at ebay, where you can sometimes find lab diamonds for very, very little money…and I mean ring sized stones of decent quality. So caveat emptor.

Gemstone prices are very difficult to pin down because there are so many market niches and so many sellers. So you just have to do your research, and for the lowest prices on colored stones, it helps to know people who sell for less and focus on the turnover rather than the price, and if you are dealing in rough, it helps to get close to the source, like with drugs (sorry, but it’s an apt analogy). The more people in the supply chain between you and the actual gem mine, the higher the price in general…however, evern there there will be exceptions where a miner tries to sell for unrealistic prices or where a Thai group in Africa buys up a huge amount of rough at a low price and then sells pieces of it for a lower price than the miner…you just have to do your price research and look all over on line and also search out your sources and know them. I just spent $500 on a small rough parcel from Pakistan which I had only one picture of…I couldn’'t get the guy to turn the rough 90 degrees and take another picture…I have bought from this guy before, so I took a risk and bought again. I probably can’t trust his description of “eye clean” to match up with mine, but this will start a conversation on terms and maybe he’ll eventually be a very good supplier…I already got him to hi-grade the parcel, so maybe on the next go round I can send him BACK pictures of the stones he sent me and tell him why I can’t buy those any more. It’s a process of developing trust and cultivating your supplier. Before you tell me I’m nuts, let me say that I figured out that the color and size of the stones was such that I won’t lose money. The worst that can happen is that I will end up not getting paid for cutting the stones. The alternative is to buy from “boutique” facet rough dealers who sell to guys who are hobby faceters who are risk averse and buy one piece at a time. Those guys are paying at least double to quadruple what I am paying and more…prolly more than you wanted to know about gemstone faceting and gemstone markets, but when you are starting a business, you will lose your shirt if you don’t try to know this stuff. I talked yesterday to someone I consider one of the premier cutters in America, he is that talented, and with maybe 30 years experience, he told me he still doesn’t understand the gem markets totally. That’s why he cuts for other people and lets them sell! You just have to keep on top of your market and learn from each sale…moderators, tell me to stop if this belongs somewhere else… -royjohn


Please don’t set me up as the expert, as I try to keep up with all the gemology, but I’m not a practicing gemologist who can spend hours catching up on diamonds or even synthetics, because it isn’t my main gig. To be a crack gemologist-appraiser, you have to see a lot of stones every day and have the time to keep up with auction prices of estate pieces and all the minute details of synthetic stones and lab diamonds. When I finished my gemology cert in 1996, I couldn’t find a local gig under a master gemologist appraiser and I wasn’t free to move somewhere to find one, because I had another career in psychology to run and a family to support. so I keep up as best I can, but I don’t know by sight all the natural inclusions and synthetic inclusions I would need to know to ID synthetic from natural in most cases.
Let me add only a little qualification to what jsfandskh said about synthetic colored stones and lab diamonds…a lot of natural diamonds have inclusions that ID them as natural. Some lab diamonds are identified by inclusions, too. So if you can put in the time, the microscope is your friend and you may not have to send too many stones out to the experts at GIA or another big lab that has all the expensive instruments. There are some diamond screeners which a big jewelry store can afford (like $5K or so) which ID lab diamonds. I an not up enough on those to tell you which one you should get or how reliable these are, but they are there and eventually the technology of detection will probably catch up to the technology of manufacture. At present, however, there ARE some diamonds that don’t have inclusions that ID them as either natural or synthetic and don’t have other characteristics that are amenable to easy, cheap testing (like UV fluorescence or electrical conductivity)…and those you need to send out for ID. Since the ID only costs ~$350, if it’s a diamond costing over $1K, you’d probably be silly not to send it out and protect yourself with a good report.
As far as colored stones are concerned, the situation is similar. Because most emeralds and rubies and a lot of sapphires which are pretty expensive have inclusions, it is often not that difficult for an experienced gemologist-appraiser who works with these things every day to differentiate natural from synthetic. Also, most synthetics don’t have any impurities which gray down or modify their main color, so they often have a too good to be true appearance which alerts you to be cautious. Are there natural rubies with a to-die-for color which mimics that of a premium synthetic? Sure, but not that many. When you are suspicious, off it goes for a lab report. in the case of emeralds, if you find one what is so clean that you can’t be sure that it isn’t synthetic, it is expensive enough that you darn well better have a lab report to back up your claims of natural if selling, or your claim of value if appraising. So the days of being able to ID every gemstone with simple gemological instruments are long gone, if they ever existed at all, but there are ways to survive and thrive in this kind of a market if you are careful. -royjohn, the well read, but not infallible stone geek






I find your knowledge intriguing! Amazing info to learn that we all should know at least some of!

Thank you… your modesty far exceeds your knowledge… despite not being a professional full time gemmologist, your experience is broad and vast enough to be of great use to everyone… Again, thanks for your insights that are very important… most of us aren’t as sophisticated as you are when it comes to gemmology… having professional look at an expensive potential buy before buying is good advice… With very expensive large diamonds, a GIA certificate is a must… on one want to be wants to be mislead and pay 20 to 40K for a big high quality diamond and later be disappointed…I have been out of the stone market and jewelry making for a while… I don’t know current market conditons… I do know that buying good quality precious and semiprecious stones back in the 1980’s and 1990’s all have gone up at least 10x in price… but that’s no suprise either… everything from groceries to gasoline has gone up as much or more… in terms of constant dollars, a dollar back in the 1980’s to 90’s is now only worth 10 cents in purchasing power today…investing in gold and silver bullion and coins as well as precious stones isn’t worth it, unless held by a brokerage investment bank making them liquid, despite the rise in values…storage fees still eat into the value… dealers take their cut both selling and buying, but without them, there would be no market at all…jewelry that is hand made is treasured for it’s creativity, design and craftsmanship… the artistry that goes into making the pieces has little market value in an of itself but has great value in the aesthetics which people are willing to pay for if they like what they see and want… for its beauty…many of those in this forum have posted photos of their work… I have to congrantulate all in the artistry that they have developed… Thanks to all…

PS: JUST A STORY for you amusement!!! I have used a hand held opthalmoscope to look at stones… as a once practicing physician, now retired, I still have my hand held opthallmoscope… it’s not ideal but there’s a wheel with a series of lenses that go from -40 to +40 diopters… the plus side of the scale is magnification… just as a physician can look into an eye from the back of the eyeball where the optic nerve head is located,forward to a surface view of the cornea, that simiple instrument lets you look into a stone at depth to surface, as it acts as optical tomography…flaws and inclusions within a stone can be focused on at any depth… retail store clerks would freak out when I pulled it out to examine a stone set in a ring… just an amusing story… I was good at looking into eyeballs but a small stone is much more difficult to use it to see clearly… it’s just LOL!!!


You might be able to copy and paste this reference into a browser. It didn’t have a link or I don’t know how to make it into one…

This article is very informative although very scientifc and geochemical… the gist of it is that there are two types of Afhgan emeralds, one which is of lesser chromium content respect to iron and the other is nearly indistinguishable by ordinary methods from Colombian chromium emeralds… the type 2 emeralds are of very high quality… what can distingish them from type 1 and colombian, as well as Pakistani, is the inclusions in them…the type 1’s have a three phase inclusiona with C02 being gas, brine being the liquid and a solid of salt of Potassium chloride. laser ablation mass spect and Xray fluoresence spectrometry can tell apart these emeralds, although of high chromium coloration still have less than those from Colombia, which have also more vadnadium and much less iron. Growth lines along the axis C of the crystal structure is also a clue for the high quality type 2 Panjshir Valley emeralds… thewse growth lines in Colombian emeralds are very fine and do not contain iron stains…
The point of this, is that under high maginifcation, inclusions can be analyzed optically and non destructively… XRF is also non destructive, Raman spectrsocopy can non destructively analyze water in inclusions and laser ablation mass spect, which is destructive but so minimally so, that it’s unnoticeable and does all element analysis which gives a fingerprint of a stone down to where it comes from, by it’s trace element signature…
However, unless you can afford to send a stone to a GIA or GIS analytic lab or send it to a cmmoerical or university geochemical lab, that kind of analysis can’t be done…

At one time I was interested in getting some rock samples analysed commercially for a geochemical publication… each rock sample analysis could run anywhere from 2 to $3,000… an adequate sampling of rocks would require a minimum of 12 to 15 samples… entirely cost prohibitive, unless you were a PhD student in geochemistry and had access to a university analytical lab…

Roy John did point out that this kind of high tech is overkill and he’s quite right about that… optical methods usually will suffice…with low cost equipment.

agree 100% with you… inclusions are a key factor… knowing what kind of inclusions they are is complicated and takes experience and some real expertise… I don’t have that kind of expertise in anyway that is practical… just pointing out that both natural and lab grown stones are complicated in and of themselves… being able to do what you do is not a skill that many possess… I don’t have that practical skill… just theoretical knowledge…

Thanks for the complement… I was a gemstone enthusiast and bought a lot of stuff a long time ago when prices were a tenth of what they are now and also of much higher quality…I never trusted the diamond market because it’s manipulated and there’s too much Chinese inspired fraud… the clear blue stones I bought were all well colored aquamarines… avoided blue topaz because it’s irradiated clear topaz which had no gem value as colorless. Tanzanite stones are naturally brown and heat treated to make them blue… the original source in Kenya has long been exhausted and the current supply is limited… bought some of them also, for blue stones… I like orange yellow stones which aren’t nearly as common. I did buy a 1 carat padaradscha that cost me a lot at the time… the price is now 10X as much… hessonite and grosular garnets of that color were also very attractive but cost a lot more than red garnets, red garnets are expensive now…tourmalines were an alternate to more expensive colored stones but I did buy a pair of 10 carat hot pink ones from a local gem dealer in the Pala area of California, near Julian… the Himalaya and other Southern Sierra Nevada sources of tourmalines are long exhausted… the price now reflects the rarity of California tourmalines that were of exceptional quality…I have no idea of their value as of now…most of the agates on the market now are of such poor quality as compared to what was available then, that most aren’t worth buying, good quality ones are prohibitively expensive for silica stones…The study of gemstones are only an offshot of study in mineralogy, crystallography…and if taken a step further, symmetry groups and mathematics, chemistry and physics…to which I have to return to constantly. I was a rockhound from childhood thru my younger days but now collect scientific papers on geochemistry…plain old gray and brown igneous rocks have their own story to tell and the history of the earth from it’s inception in the solar nebula to present is written in plain old drab rocks… I am still a self taught amateur but am thinking seriously about getting a degree in geology, once I am fully retired which will be very soon…what I know about gems is all old knowledge, except of their minerology which never changes…what has changed is techonological advances that allow for their precise identification, sometimes to the mines that they originated from… I have been out of the gem market for decades… so I can’t comment on its current status… what I do know some of, is mineral paragenesis and how gemstones are formed within the earth’s crust, along with precious metal and base metal deposits…which is why my comments spring from a scientific perspective. That now is more interesting to me than the stones themselves.

I am trying to reduce my personal property, including precious metals…selling off the precious metals will be easy compaired to unloading unset gemstones. I had to quit making jewerly because of health problems…I;ve written far too much already and don’t want to say anymore.