Lab-created emeralds and real emeralds are created from the same minerals and share the same chemical makeup. The difference between the two is that lab-created emeralds are artificially created in a lab, while real emeralds grow when natural forces of the earth apply heat and pressure to the same combination of minerals to form the precious stones.
Real emeralds are often more “milky” and opaque than synthetic emeralds. While lab-created emeralds share the physical characteristics of natural emeralds, their colour is more vibrant and cost a fraction of the price of a natural emerald.
Making Lab-created Emeralds
Experimentation with making man-made emeralds started in the 1930s. It wasn't until the 1940s that the process was perfected and sufficient quantities of emeralds were able to be created of limited size and quality for sale.
In the 1960s, a new method of synthesing emeralds was developed called
hydrothermal flux and is the method which is used in today.
The process involves placing a beryl seed in a sealed and pressurized container which is filled with extremely pure water. Nutrients containing crushed emerald and other materials such as vanadium and chromium are placed into the hydrothermal environment and an electrical charge is passed through to ionize the environment. The unit is slowly heated and as the heat and pressure build in the
sealed environment, molecules of the nutrients are stripped away and are attracted to reform on the larger and more solid emerald seed. These crystals grow at a rate of approximately 0.15mm per day, so a large crystal takes many weeks to form.
It is very important to store gemstones such as emeralds and diamonds in separate jewellery boxes. If they are stored together they can scratch the gold or silver of the jewellery holding the gemstone. Real emeralds can also chip if they contain inclusions. Lab-created emeralds tend to be more durable as they do not have these imperfections.