If you’ve been shopping for jewelry odds are you’ve seen the term “Cubic Zirconia” come up before.
Along with moissanite, cubic zirconia (CZ) has become one of the jewelry industry’s most popular diamond alternatives. CZ jewelry is known for being affordable, beautiful, and virtually indistinguishable from diamonds.
But what is cubic zirconia, and how does it differ from a “real diamond?”
In this guide, we’ll break down the key differences to help you decide if cubic zirconia is the right choice for you!
What is Cubic Zirconia?
Maybe you’ve heard cubic zirconia described as being a simulated diamond or a diamond alternative. Maybe you’ve seen it even being called a “fake” diamond.
While the two look similar, both typically being colorless gemstones, the truth about cubic zirconia is that it isn’t “fake” anything. Rather cubic zirconia and diamonds are two unique gemstones in their own right. There are real diamonds, and there is real cubic zirconia. Neither is a fake or real version of the other.
Cubic zirconia is the crystalline form of zirconium dioxide with no relation to natural diamonds besides surface-level appearance.
This has made cubic zirconia jewelry highly popular, not only due to the similar look of the two gemstones but also the vast difference in cost. If you’re looking for an affordable diamond alternative that won’t compromise beauty cubic zirconia is likely the right choice for you.
What are the Differences?
So what are the differences between cubic zirconia and diamond? Well, to begin with, cubic zirconia is synthesized while natural diamonds are mined from the earth. While some very small amounts of cubic zirconia can be found in nature there is no CZ mining industry. The vast majority of CZ is man-made.
When it comes to brilliance, a jeweler’s term for the way a gemstone refracts light, there are some key differences.
While diamonds reflect an intense, pure white light, cubic zirconia produces a rainbow array of colors. It often comes down to personal preference for which is more appealing: the bright colors of cubic zirconia or the white light of a diamond.
A gemstone’s clarity refers to the number of flaws, trapped minerals, and imperfections a stone has. The fewer imperfections, the higher the clarity.
It’s almost inevitable that diamonds, taken from the depths of the earth, will have some imperfections or flaws. Many mined diamonds are found to be unsuitable for use in jewelry.
Additionally, many diamonds will appear slightly yellow or tarnished. The highest-grade diamonds are as close to pure white as possible. All cubic zirconia has the clear white appearance of a high-grade diamond.
Because of its synthetic nature, each CZ stone is of near-perfect clarity. If you’re looking for a clear stone that resembles a flawless diamond, cubic zirconia could be the right choice for you.
The durability and general hardness of gemstones are measured by the Mohs scale. At the very peak are diamonds, with a perfect Mohs scale rating of 10.0. Cubic Zirconia, on the other hand, has a rating of 8.5, meaning that it’s slightly softer and less durable.
Perhaps the most striking difference between cubic zirconia and diamond is the price. Typically a polished 1-carat cubic zirconia gemstone will sell for almost 1/100th of the price of a 1-carat diamond. As the carat weight increases, the price differential only grows.
This has made cubic zirconia rings especially popular, as it’s possible to purchase a beautiful and clear gemstone at a fraction of a diamond ring’s cost.
When considering cubic zirconia vs diamond, it's important to examine the ethical implications of the diamond industry. The negative environmental impact of diamond mining is undeniable, whereas the synthesis of cubic zirconium is a much more sustainable process
You may have also heard the term “blood diamond.” This refers to a diamond that’s mining, purchase and sale helped fund terrorism, war, or human rights violations. While many diamond sellers have attempted to ensure their diamonds are ethically procured, it’s often impossible to verify or know.
Cubic zirconia, on the other hand, has no “blood” market associated with it and does not require environmentally-damaging mining techniques to produce.
It’s easy to see why cubic zirconia has become increasingly popular in recent years. With the rise in fashion jewelry, many consumers have turned their attention to affordable diamond alternatives like cubic zirconia.
While not quite as hard as diamond, CZ jewelry offers a similar appearance, better clarity, and a unique kind of brilliance all for an affordable price If you’re not looking to spend an arm and a leg for a diamond ring, a cubic zirconia engagement ring could be the perfect option!