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Synthetic Stones - Has Science Gone Too Far?
Posted by Dakota Stones

The interest in man-made gemstones can be stemmed all the way back to alchemy, which originates in Greco-Roman Egypt. The object of pursuit for hundreds of years was searching for a way to transmute other chemicals into gold, or even the Philosopher’s Stone. Modern science has found many ways to manufacture stones for nearly the last two hundred years, with perhaps the most notable creation of the first lab-grown diamond in 1879. Since then, lab-grown diamonds have steadily entered the market for consumers to purchase, and the same can be said for many other synthetic stones. Though lab-grown diamonds can be distinguished from natural diamonds with a practiced eye, they are still considered very valuable, and are often used in industrial-grade power tools. 

Each synthetic stone has its advantages and disadvantages. With synthetic stones, you can rest assured that the materials are fairly and ethically sourced. Some stone vendors chose not to disclose the origin of the stones they sell, or they may not even know themselves. This could mean that the stones were mined under poor working conditions, or worse. If you are unsure or curious about your vendor, calling or emailing them may help you to clear that up. Dakota Stones always discloses the country of origin, and only provide stones and beads that are fair-trade to our customers. 

Another advantage with synthetic stones is the longevity of their creation. Synthetic stones provide us a unique way to shrink our carbon footprint, which is why they might appeal to an environmentally conscious consumer. All of the Earth’s resources are finite to a degree, and some are rarer than others. This is the case with opal, an exceedingly rare and very pricey gem stone, which has been the object of much synthetic exploration these past few decades. The first attempts at synthetic opals were made with plastics, and many are now made with colored glass. Glass is a delicate and pretty alternative to crystal beads, such as the case with Cherry Quartz. The “quartz” has come to be a nickname for any synthetic bead with clear glass included in the design, so don’t be fooled!  A common opal-mimic is Opalite, which has risen in popularity for its iridescent properties and low price. Colored glass beads are usually created with the same basic process: clear glass is melted in a large furnace heated to thousands of degrees, then pigments are added and mixed into the molten glass. 


Some synthetic stones are not intended to mimic at all, like Goldstone and Hematite. Both bead types are extremely unique, and this is because they were made with a specific design choices in mind. Goldstone is a highly reflective, densely glittering stone that catches the light from any angle. Hematite is a lightweight alternative to metal beads that can have hundreds of colors and finishes to them. The base of the stone is natural, but some strands are coated with synthetic finishes that gives them an iridescent shine and unnatural colors. This process is similar to dyes and heat treatments to enhance a natural stone, though we sell synthetic coated beads and their natural coatings as well. 

A major disadvantage to synthetic stones is their appearance. It is nearly impossible to obtain a synthetic stone that looks identical to its natural counterpart, and some of the best consumers can spot the difference at a glance. For lab-grown, clear diamonds, one major hallmark is their cold, blue tone-- while naturally mined diamonds tend to have a warmer, almost yellow tint. There are also normal imperfections that can be found in even some of the best stones-- the absence of those can be another hallmark of a synthetic stone. Plastic-based synthetic stones have to be formed in their final desired shapes, as attempting to sand down plastics with heavy machinery can cause potentially carcinogenic material to fly into the air. Not every designer or customer can be swayed by the lower price point, either. 


There is also a lack of interest in some areas of synthetic stones. The existence of natural stones does not necessarily guarantee you can find a synthetic alternative. Like anything, there is also an abundance of low-quality synthetic stones that will not stand the test of time like a natural stone could. 

At the end of the day, the majority of synthetic stones do not even see the beading market. The demand for industrial grade gemstones, especially rubies and diamonds, have always been higher than the interest from the jewelry market. If you prefer to avoid synthetic stones, they will always have a purpose for technicians. If you are curious about our high-quality synthetic stones, check them out on our website!

                                                    - Dakota Stones
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Jill Nielsen Date 12/24/2019
Let me play the devil's advocate here. Seems to me making synthetic gemstones hardly reduces our carbon footprint and it may be as bad or worse for the environment. It takes copious quantities of fuel to make glass for instance and if I am correct the furnace is kept fired up for long periods of time. How does that reduce our carbon footprint? And then after the beads are made do they not get placed in an annealing oven which is also fired up by one type of petroleum product or another?
 
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