Lab-Grown Sapphires Explained

In this guide we’ll be exploring lab grown sapphires, from how they’re made to how much they’re worth and lots in between! Join us as we delve into how lab grown sapphires differentiate from natural ones or read our sapphire gemstone guide if you would like to learn more about the wonderful world of sapphires. 

What is a Lab Grown Sapphire?

A lab grown sapphire is a gemstone that is created in a laboratory instead of one formed naturally within the earth. These gemstones, although man-made, have the exact same chemical, visual and physical properties as mined sapphires! They also come at a lower price point due to their ability to be produced at a higher rate, meaning there’s more of them on the market. If you know you want a natural sapphire then have a look at our collection of sapphire engagement rings and sapphire wedding rings!

How Lab Grown Sapphires Are Made

There are various ways to grow sapphires in a laboratory, but we’ll be focussing on the main two methods which are Flame Fusion and Hydrothermal Process. Each of these methods results in sapphires of different qualities and physical properties, so it’s important to familiarise yourself with how each of these processes work to ensure you choose the right lab grown sapphire for you.

Flame Fusion (Verneuil Process)

Flame fusion is the most commonly used method for creating synthetic sapphires, it also happens to be the most cost effective method! These sapphires are created by heating aluminium oxide until it melts, then the melted droplets fall into a rotating pedestal where they cool to form crystal cylinders before cooling.

The advantages of Flame Fusion is that this method of creating sapphires is far more cost efficient compared to other methods due to the simpler process and inexpensive equipment that it requires.

Verneuil sapphires are distinguishable by their curved growth lines, bubbles and ribbon-like formations within the stone. These physical characteristics help jewellers identify these sapphires as lab grown.

Hydrothermal Process

The other most popular way to create sapphires in a laboratory is the Hydrothermal Process, where a laboratory will replicate the natural conditions in which sapphires are formed within the earth. This involves dissolving alumina in water at temperatures up to 650 celsius, the alumina is placed into an autoclave (a high pressure chamber). Seed crystals are dropped into the solution, and as the solution cools, the alumina attaches onto the seeds and forms sapphire crystals!

The advantage of this method is that these stones are generally of a higher calibre with less inclusions and resemble natural sapphires a lot more than Verneuil sapphires. Hydrothermal sapphires are known for their natural looking growth patterns, leaving them harder to distinguish from natural ones! This does, however, mean they are often significantly more expensive than Verneuil sapphires.

Sapphire Engagement Rings

What Are Lab Grown Sapphires Made Of?

Lab grown sapphires are made from all the same elements as natural ones! They are made of a mineral called corundum, which is composed of aluminium oxide. The beautiful colours in sapphires, including the famous blue, come from small amounts of other elements like iron, titanium, or chromium mixed in with the aluminium oxide.

Lab Grown vs Natural Sapphires

Lab grown sapphires hold the exact same chemical composition as natural ones, meaning they share the same hardness level, refractive index, physical properties and similar visual characteristics. Due to the fact that lab sapphires are created in a more controlled environment, these stones have a more uniform look with fewer inclusions and a similar growth pattern. The controlled production also makes them more inexpensive due to the speed at which they can be created.

Natural sapphires are generally more expensive due to their rarity, they also require a lot of labour to be mined as well as land and materials, all of which add to their overall cost. Due to the mining process, natural sapphires tend to raise some ethical concerns as not only are they detrimental to the environment but miners don’t always get treated in the fairest way. Lab grown sapphires are therefore thought of as a more eco friendly choice as well as being easier to ethically source and more affordable!

lab grown vs natural sapphire

Lab Grown Sapphire Value

While natural sapphires are quite expensive due to their rarity and all the materials, labour and land needed to mine them, lab grown sapphires are a far more affordable option. This is due to the fact that laboratories can create these gemstones at a much faster rate than it takes for natural sapphires to form. If you’re looking for a more budget friendly gemstone then consider a lab grown sapphire, but if you have your heart set on a mined one, take a look at our sapphire gemstone guide to learn a bit more.

Are Lab Grown Sapphires Good For an Engagement Ring?

Lab grown sapphires make a great gemstone for an engagement ring, due to their durability and hardness, they’re great for everyday wear! They score at 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness, which means they’re pretty tough. However, as with any gemstone, it's important to make sure you provide it with the proper care and TLC that it requires to keep its beloved sparkle. Take a look at our ring care guide to learn more about how you can ensure your jewellery lasts a lifetime. 

Are Lab Grown Sapphires Real?

Yes, lab grown sapphires are 100% real sapphires! The only difference is how they’re made, while natural sapphires are formed in the earth, lab grown ones are created in a laboratory. But rest assured, if you decide to opt for a lab grown sapphire you will be wearing a genuine gemstone.

Find Your Dream Lab Grown Sapphire Ring With Jessica Flinn

If you are looking for a lab grown sapphire ring then don’t hesitate to reach out to us to begin your bespoke journey. At Jessica Flinn, all of our sapphire ready to wear rings contain natural sapphires, but that doesn't mean that we aren't able to help you in your journey to finding the perfect lab grown sapphire. Our team can assist you in sourcing your perfect lab grown gemstone from one of our many reputable suppliers. Book an appointment today to start the process.