Synthetic Corundum - Synthetic Ruby & Sapphire gemstones
There are very many processes which can be used to make synthetic corundum; these imitations are used to substitute naturally occurring gemstones such as ruby and sapphire. Due to the difference in the complexities of the different synthetic processes, the prices of synthetic corundum can vary widely. The first synthetic rubies were made by Marc Antoine Gaudin, in 1837, and he fused alumina and minute amounts of chromium, which acted as a pigment, at extremely high temperatures. The first synthetic sapphires were made by Ebelmen, in 1847, by fusing alumina and small amounts if boric acid. The first crystal corundum, which could yield fine small specimens was made by Frenix and Feil, in 1877. Later on, another method developed by Frimy and Auguste Verneuil, which involved the use of Al2O3 and BaF2, was used to manufacture artificial rubies. Commercial production of rubies was done by Verneuil, in 1903, using a method known as the Flame Fusion Process. Flawless single-crystal rubies, sapphires and other corundums can now be made in larger sizes that can never be found in nature, thanks to the Verneuil process. The flux-growth and Hydrothermal Synthesis processes can be used to grow synthetic corundum. The synthesis of corundum in large quantities is now possible, thanks to the simplicity of the processes involved, this has led to the availability of large flawless crystals which have served to bring the prices of these gemstones down on the international market.
Synthetic corundum also has industrial uses, and it is used in the making of tubes, bearings, rods and other mechanical parts required for machinery. They are also used for their hardness and clear characteristics to make items that are used for optical purposes. Watch crystals and optical parts, which are resistant to scratches are made using synthetic corundum. The windows of satellite instruments are also made using this material because it remains transparent when subjected to ultraviolet and infrared radiation; laser components are also made out of this material.
Synthetic ruby – This was the first synthetic corundum ever to be produced and its synthesis is attributed to Auguste Verneuil. He announced his revolutionary flame fusion process in 1902, and the beautiful gemstone could now be produced and sold cheaply.
Synthetic sapphire – The original pieces of art deco and art nouveau jewelry are the earliest examples of synthetic sapphire. The flame-fusion method is the one that is commonly used to make synthetic sapphire but the flux grown crystals have also been in production since the 1960s. It is difficult to tell the difference between the Hydrothermal, Pulled or Flux-grown sapphires from their natural counterparts. Since the early 1900s, it was possible to artificially manufacture synthetic sapphire that could change colors to imitate an alexandrite crystal. It is also possible to add inclusions in both the sapphire and the ruby to imitate star effects found in the natural stones.
Synthetic Corundum has a competitor, who is able to imitate a wide variety of gemstones, and the production process is not so delicate. Producing synthetic corundum requires careful checking of the processes or else the resultant crystal would not be so great. The other competitor is synthetic spinel, which is easier to produce, and also imitates the natural stones so much, that they have to be tested using a variety of sophisticated methods. They are also much clearer and free from inclusions than synthetic corundum.
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