If you’ve been searching for the perfect jewelry for a gift, you’ve probably come across the name “cubic zirconia” once or twice. Cubic zirconia, along with moissanite, is a popular alternative to diamond jewelry because of its affordability and diamond-like appearance.
Read on for a summary of cubic zirconia vs diamond, and learn more about the diamond alternative, its cost, appearance, and durability.
What is Cubic Zirconia?
Cubic zirconia is an artificial, colorless gemstone formed by the cubic crystalline form of zirconium dioxide. Cubic zirconia does, however, appear naturally within the mineral baddeleyite, although it is quite rare. All cubic zirconia (CZ) in jewelry is lab-created, like synthetic diamonds. The difference is that CZ diamonds have very different mineral structures, while synthetic diamonds have the same carbon-based structure as true diamonds.
Cubic zirconia diamonds are often described as “fake” or “simulated” diamonds. The truth is that CZ diamonds are not fake diamonds, but simply another alternative, as they are a gemstone in their own right. They have a very similar appearance to diamonds, making them an extremely popular alternative that is very affordable, without compromising on beauty.
Cubic Zirconia vs Diamond: How to Tell The Difference
To tell the difference between CZ diamonds and true diamonds, you can look at their physical, visual, and chemical properties. Knowing the differences will help you make the right choices when purchasing or making jewelry.
The clarity of a gemstone is the number of flaws, imperfections, and trapped minerals found within. Because diamonds are mined from the earth, it’s inevitable that they’ll have imperfections, and many diamonds that are found aren’t suitable for jewelry. Mined diamonds can also look slightly yellow or tarnished, with the highest grade diamonds being entirely clear. A flawless diamond is extremely rare and thus very expensive.
Because CZ diamonds are made in a lab, they’re free from the natural imperfections found in true diamonds. This means they have nearly perfect clarity, like that of a flawless diamond. This can make them appear fake because of their almost too-perfect nature, but if you’re looking for clarity, cubic zirconia may be the right choice for you.
Diamonds are seldomly completely white but should be chosen to appear white in relation to the way it is set. Even the highest quality diamond can have a slightly yellow color, and it’s natural for them to have microscopic inclusions of other minerals.
CZ diamond, on the other hand, is made to be completely colorless. Despite this, they often reflect orange-tinted light, which is an easy way to tell that it’s not a genuine diamond.
The easiest way to tell the two gemstones apart is by inspecting them under natural light. Diamonds have a natural brilliance, giving off a pure white light, while CZ diamond gives off noticeably rainbow-colored light because of its excessive light dispersion. The excess light dispersion is an easy differentiator between the two, but the question of which is better comes down to preference. Do you prefer the intense white light of a diamond or the bright colors of cubic zirconia?
Diamond is the hardest naturally occurring mineral on earth, scoring a 10 on the Mohs hardness scale. Their extreme durability and resilience make them ideal for engagement and wedding rings and for daily wear. They require very little maintenance to retain their beauty and sparkle.
Cubic zirconia, however, ranks at only 8.5 on the Mohs scale, meaning it offers some durability but nothing compared to a real diamond. CZ diamonds can be worn in daily jewelry, but will by no means outlive a diamond and will most certainly become scratched and cloudy over time.
Interestingly, cubic zirconia is slightly denser than diamond. A jeweller will easily be able to distinguish the two by using a scale to weigh them. CZ diamonds will appear slightly smaller compared to a diamond of the same carat.
The main reason CZ diamond is so popular is the fact that it is far cheaper than genuine diamonds. On average, a 1-carat CZ diamond will cost approximately 1/100th of the price of a 1-carat diamond. This ratio only increases as you increase the carat size. A potential issue, however, is that CZ has little to no resale value, while diamonds can usually be sold for at least 50% of their original cost.
Is Cubic Zirconia Real?
Cubic zirconia is not the same as a diamond, because it’s an entirely different gemstone. It is, however, very real for what it is – a man-made, colorless, crystalline form of zirconium dioxide.
Does Cubic Zirconia Lose Its Sparkle?
Cubic zirconia does eventually lose its sparkle and become cloudy because of scratching, dirt, soap and mineral residue, and exposure to oxygen. Depending on the cause of the cloudiness, it may or may not be possible to restore a cloudy CZ diamond to its original state.
Is Cubic Zirconia Ethical?
Ethically, cubic zirconia is a far better option for both environmental and societal reasons. Firstly, the drastic environmental impact of diamond mining is undeniable, while the production of CZ diamonds is a much more sustainable process.
Secondly, diamonds are associated with the funding of terrorism, wars, and human rights violations. Diamonds that are sold to fund these horrid endeavours are known as “blood diamonds”. While most jewellers attempt to make sure their diamonds are ethically sourced, it’s very difficult to know for sure.
CZ diamonds, on the other hand, have no blood market associated with them, so they are generally a more ethical alternative.
Does Cubic Zirconia Shine Like a Diamond?
No, cubic zirconia does not shine with the same brilliance as a diamond. Diamonds shine with pure white light, while CZ diamonds give off rainbow colors. They are also more prone to becoming dull and scratched over time, and are thus not the best option for daily wear.
Is Cubic Zirconia Prettier Than Diamond?
The argument of cubic zirconia vs diamond in terms of prettiness comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer the colorful light reflected by CZ diamonds, while others prize the intense bright white light given off by diamonds. At the end of the day, neither one is necessarily prettier than the other, although a diamond’s prettiness will last far longer.
Even If It Sparkles…It Isn’t Always a Diamond!
If you are looking for a more affordable alternative to diamond, with a flawless appearance and pleasant color, then cubic zirconia would be a perfect choice for you.
The only thing to consider is the durability and resale value of such a piece, although even a diamond should not be seen as an investment.