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Types of synthetic ruby and sapphire


Not all synthetics are created equal. Some can be made in less than a day at a cost of a few cents per carat. Others take up to a year to grow and may sell for several hundred dollars per carat. The three main types of synthetic corundum are described below:
Flame fusion (Verneuil) – This is the most common and the least expensive type of synthetic corundum. It’s made by melting powdered chemical with a gas flame and then allowing the molten chemicals to cool and crystallized at normal pressure. Due to the way it forms, frame fusion corundum tends to have curved growth bands or lines. Some flame-fusion stones sell for less than $1 a carat. Others sell for more depending on their quality and especially on the cost of having their cut. High quality cutting can add a great deal to the cost.
Melt pulled – This type tends to be flawless and is mostly used in industry for lasers, watch crystals, and optical instruments. It’s produced by lowering a corundum crystal to the surface of the molten chemicals. They solidify around the crystal as it is gradually pulled back up. Melt-pulled corundum can grow in a few hours, but cost more produce than the flame fusion type. A limited amount of it is used in jewelry, some of which is sold under the trade name “Inamori.”
Flux growth – This is the most expensive type of synthetic corundum and the one which can be most easily mistakes for the natural stone. Its inclusions can look very similar to those in natural corundum.
Flux-growth ruby and sapphire is made by dissolving AL2O3 plus a coloring agent in a molten mixture. Then, as the mixture gradually cools or evaporates, crystal form. It may take from six weeks to over a year for flux-growth crystals to reach their desired size. Due to the longer time and amount of energy needed to grow them, these stones sell for a lot more than flame-fusion corundum – up to several hundred dollars per carat.
Compare to flame-fusion corundum, the production of the flux-growth type is relatively small. Most of the flux-growth corundum on the market has been produced for jewelry under the trade “Chatham,” “Ramaura,” “Kashan,” “Knischka,” and “Lechleitner.”
Some people may understandably ask, “Why pay a fortune for a natural ruby or sapphire, when you can get a synthetic one for so much less?” This is almost like asking, “Why buy an original Rembrandt or Picasso painting when you can get a reproduction of it for much less.” One of the main reasons is that it can be a pleasure to own a product of the original creator.

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