Man Over Nature 101.
The use of gem imitations goes back as far back as man’s greed for wealth. In the early days it was better or poorer quality diamonds rubies and emeralds which in actual fact was anything red was a ruby, anything white was a diamond etc. Even the Cheapside Horde in London (c1640) has an example of a treated rock crystal to imitate ruby.
In the late 19th Century man’s arrogant triumph over nature attitude saw the production of the first deliberate synthetic imitation gems in the from of the garnet topped doublets and shortly after that the first what we term in Gemmology as a synthetic gem, sapphire grown by the Venuile process. This was the first time that man replicated nature in the laboratory with the gem having the same physical and chemical properties of its natural counterpart. The doublet used a natural top slice of garnet glued to a glass backing to give vivid blues, reds and greens.
These gems were not seen as something to dupe the consumer but to show off how cleaver science had become. Synthetic sapphires and rubies were used extensively in Edwardian and Art Deco jewellery. Though the use of synthetic gems is today is used in cheaper pieces there is one exception to the rule-the more affordable opal doublet and triplet. The original garnet topped doublets were produced to imitate sapphires, rubies and emeralds whilst the opal doublet was and is composite opal not trying to imitate any other gemstone just opal. Though not as valuable as its solid counterpart, the opal doublet and triplet is recognised as an acceptable member of the gem family. Even in the Gemmological Blue book of CIBJO the opal doublet and triplet has its own classification.
- Ronnie Bauer