I acknowledge that I could be overlooking some important point.
How is it misleading?
Noel, there are two points to make.
First, cultured pearls are a natural oyster (farmed, but still the
natural animal) into which a foreigh object is placed. That operation
is, of course, not natural, nor is the bead that is implanted a
duplicate of the natural process. But the subsequent growth process
of the nacre IS entirely natural. A lab grown diamond is totally
human controlled. nothing natural about it. The growth environment
and process most likely do not duplicate the natural environment,
only the end result. And the end results are different. The
synthetic diamond is, as you say, a fully real diamond, except it
comes from a lab. It may differ minutely in chemistry, or in the
nature of inclusions, but it’s pretty darn close in most important
aspects. The cultured pearl, by contrast, is much less a "real"
pearl. Only the outermost skin, the nacre, is like the natural
original. Most of the bulk of the pearl is not the same. So saying
they’re both cultured isn’t really as valid as it seems.
But the real objection I have to your “feeling”, is simple. The term
synthetic is a quite precisely defined gemological term, well
accepted by the gemological community. Same thing with “simulated”.
“cultured”, by contrast, is not so precisely defined. Much of the
field of gemological nomenclature is aimed at eliminating the
misleading and imprecise use of old style terms. We can’t call
diamonds “blue white” or “perfect” in most cases, simply because
those terms were in the past so overused as to make them useless.
“Cultured” runs a similar risk. Simply because it does not have such
a precise gemological meaning, it has much less value to the field,
and offers less protection from misrepresentation. I read, for
example, in some advertisement (which may not be true, but this is
what it said) of a simulated diamond that consisted of cubic zirconia
over which had been deposited a thin layer of vapor depostion thin
film diamond (not sure the technology used, but the thin surface of
diamond over the CZ was the claim. You had to read this very
carefully in semi-hidden links on the page to actually get to the
info that the core was CZ, but there it was. The promotors claimed
that the diamond surface film gave the stones much greater hardness
and durability (which may have been correct, depending on the
thickness of that layer), as well as modifying the usual optics of
the CZ core, so the stone much more closely duplicated the optics of
diamond itself. This too may be true to some degree, or totally (I
don’t know which). But frankly, compared to cultured pearls, this
stone seems to me very similar to a cultured pearl. Shall we call
this cultured too? That advertisement site did not. The correctly
called it “simulated”, when push came to shove, but most of their
promo was lots of relatively flashy but not precise terms that would
make a potential lay person buyer think this was as good as diamond,
almost, but without such a high price.
And similar reasoning is why the growers of synthetic diamonds would
very much like to call their stones cultured. Most likely, I’m
guessing they’ll be allowed to in the end, since some other synthetic
stones are also marketed this way without legal interference, the
last I checked. (I could be wrong there. Am I?)
The term synthetic is objectionable to some folks not so much
because it sounds like “simulated” but simply because the word itself
seems to have acquired some cultural meanings of cheapness. Man made
instead of natural often seems to get this treatment, even when the
man made may be very costly to produce and superior to the natural
Nevertheless, the word synthetic is the precisely defined, and
gemologically correct term. Using it should confuse fewer people than
would other less precise terms, including “cultured”.
that’s my take on it.