Physical Science

Unit 3: Energy on the Move

WebQuest Projects



Soon it will be your mother’s birthday, and you have decided to buy her a birthstone ring. You know your mother’s birthstone is an emerald because she was born in May. When you visit a jewelry store, you discover a vast assortment of emerald rings. Some of the emeralds are set in gold, some in silver. Many of the emeralds have a deep and clear green color, while others have more interesting cuts that make the stone sparkle. You also notice that some of the rings are in your price range, whereas others are so expensive you do not even ask to have them taken out of the case. When you ask a salesperson why there is such a difference in emerald prices, she replies that the less expensive emeralds were created in the laboratory. How can you create an emerald in a laboratory? Why are natural emeralds and other gemstones so expensive? Why do some of the emeralds have a deeper green color? In this WebQuest you’ll find out the answers to these questions as you do some research into the nature of the minerals called gemstones.



Your job in this WebQuest is to decide whether a gemstone created in a laboratory is the same as a gemstone that occurs naturally. You will have to find out how natural gemstones form and what their chemical, physical, and optical properties are. You will find out how natural gemstones are treated to correct their flaws or bring out their colors. You will find out the different processes used to create gemstones in a laboratory. Then you will have to compare the prices and properties of created gemstones to those of naturally occurring gemstones and decide if created gemstones are the same as their natural counterparts.

Once you’ve done your research, you will make a decision about what kind of ring to buy your mother. You will have to prepare a statement in which you give your reasons for your choice. You must be able to justify the amount of money you plan to spend on the birthstone ring. Your goal is to choose a beautiful emerald ring that will retain its value for a long time to come.


  • Describe the geologic processes that result in the formation of natural gemstones.

  • Summarize how and why natural gemstones are subjected to chemical or physical treatments.

  • Compare the chemical compositions of created gemstones with those of natural gemstones.



Look at the web sites given here to find the information that will enable you to make an informed decision about which type of emerald ring to purchase for your mother’s birthday.

What are natural gemstones and how do they form?

What are the chemical, physical, and optical properties of natural gemstones?

How are natural gemstones treated to reveal color or eliminate flaws?

How are gemstones created in the laboratory?

  • Created Gemstones
    This is the web site for the Chatham Company. Carroll Chatham discovered how to create emeralds in a laboratory setting in 1938.Explore this site to find out when different gemstones were created in laboratories.
  • Russian Colored Stone Company: Created Gems
    ICA Gemstone Library. Choose a stone from the drop-down box to view an array of colored stone photographs.
  • Geolite Gems and Jewelry
    Visit this site to see how emeralds are grown by the hydrothermal method.

What are the chemical, physical, and optical properties of created gemstones?

  • Created Gemstones
    At this Chatham Company website, click on comparison to see how the chemical composition of created gemstones compare to those of natural gemstones.
  • PehnecGems: Created Gemstones
    PhenecGems. Click on the sidebar links to find information about Created and Synthetic Gems, and Cubic Zirconia.

How do the prices of natural and created gemstones compare?

  • Emerald
    This site gives prices for natural and lab-created emeralds, topaz, amethysts, sapphires, and rubies.
  • Pehnec Gems: Gemstones
    Go to PhenecGems to price natural and created gemstones.
  • Chatham’s Consumer Price List
    At this site you can find the prices of created emeralds, opals, rubies, sapphires, and diamonds.
  • Amulet: Emerald
    This site provides information about emeralds and where they found.



2 class periods; a total of 60 minutes for research, 20 minutes to prepare a written statement.



Now that you have completed your research on the Internet, decide what you think about the differences between natural gemstones and gemstones created in a laboratory. If a created gemstone has the exact same chemical and physical properties as a natural gemstone, can it be considered the same as a natural gemstone? If not, why not? Is a natural gemstone really "natural" if it has received treatment to enhance its color or correct tiny fractures? What is the difference in price between natural and created gemstones? Should a jewelry store tell customers when they are looking at created rather than natural gemstones? Now that you know more about gemstones, write a paragraph in which you state your preference for buying your mother a ring with a natural or a created gemstone. Justify your preference by discussing price, quality of the gemstone, and what the value of the gemstone will be in the future. Be sure to support your preference with factual information from your Internet research.



In the process of completing this WebQuest, you’ve become informed about the availability of natural gemstones and how they are treated, how gemstones are created in the laboratory, and the differences between these types of gemstones. You have developed critical thinking skills as you have explored the different factors involved in this decision-making process. You have read information to answer key questions and formed an educated opinion. Finally, you have written a statement about your choice for a present for your mother. Would you purchase a gemstone for yourself? What kind of gemstone would you buy? Is this a different choice than the one you made for your mother’s birthstone ring?




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