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Lanthanides possess similar chemical properties rendering their separation from one another a challenge of fundamental chemical and global importance given their incorporation into many advanced technologies. New separation strategies combining green chemistry with low cost and high efficiency remain highly desirable. We demonstrate that the subtle bonding differences among trivalent lanthanides can be amplified during the crystallization of borates, providing chemical recognition of specific lanthanides that originates from Ln(3+) coordination alterations, borate polymerization diversity and soft ligand coordination selectivity. Six distinct phases are obtained under identical reaction conditions across lanthanide series, further leading to an efficient and cost-effective separation strategy via selective crystallization. As proof of concept, Nd/Sm and Nd/Dy are used as binary models to demonstrate solid/aqueous and solid/solid separation processes. Controlling the reaction kinetics gives rise to enhanced separation efficiency of Nd/Sm system and a one-step quantitative separation of Nd/Dy with the aid of selective density-based flotation.