Ever been fooled that a piece of cubic zirconia jewelry is made up of dazzling diamonds?
You won’t be the first – and you certainly won’t be the last.
The average jewelry buyer doesn’t have much of a clue about the difference between real diamonds and diamond imitations because, to the naked eye, they can all look the same.
Have you chosen jewelry thinking it’s made of diamond when it’s actually a lookalike? This could land you in trouble. However, the uncanny resemblance of cubic zirconia to real diamonds can also work in your favor.
You see, due to the similarities between these stones, you can buy cubic zirconia jewelry that emulates the same expensive look and feel as diamond jewelry.
Because these lookalikes are often branded “fake” and “imitation,” there tends to be a lot of misleading information out there about cubic zirconia (CZ).
Below, we’ll help dispel some of those common misconceptions about cubic zirconia jewelry sets.
What Is Cubic Zirconia Jewelry?
Before we start debunking those common myths about cubic zirconia, though, let’s find out a little bit more about CZ.
While cubic zirconia boasts many of the same qualities as a girl’s best friend, it’s an inexpensive, synthetic alternative.
You’re likely wondering what is cubic zirconia made of?
Formed in a laboratory, cubic zirconia is made from a crystalline material (zirconium oxide). While the material of CZ is flawless, hard, and colorless, like a diamond, it can also be made in alternative colors – again, just like a diamond.
CZ was first produced during the 1970s because of its high quality, low comparative cost, and diamond-like qualities.
Now, let’s find out what myths you may come across in your search for that ideal piece of sparkling jewelry.
Myth #1: Cubic Zirconia Is Exactly the Same as a Diamond
As we’ve already seen, cubic zirconia looks very much like a diamond to the naked eye – but the appearance, color, and finish are where the similarities end.
Cubic zirconia and diamonds are incredibly different!
CZ is heavier than diamond
If you take a chunk of diamond and CZ of the same size, the CZ is heavier – but not as hard. Diamond is the hardest substance on the Mohs scale at 10, while CZ is 8.5.
Diamonds have a higher refractive index (RI)
The RI basically refers to how light is reflected off the diamond or CZ. Diamonds have a higher RI at 2.42 with CZs being 2.15 – 2.18.
CZ has greater dispersion
This is the level of “fire” exhibited by the stone – i.e. how well it sparkles. Diamonds boast a 0.044 dispersion rate, which has always been revered as a good score. But CZ goes one step further with a dispersion rate of up to 0.066. Therefore, CZ tends to produce more of a “rainbow effect” when you place it in the light. The bigger the stone, the more exaggerated this dispersion is.
CZ is graded a perfect “D” on the diamond color scale
Colorless stones are the most valuable diamonds, with the grade for diamond color being rated from colorless (D) to yellow (Z). As CZ is created in a lab, manufacturers are able to influence its final color, with most being colorless and graded “D” on the diamond color scale. This means CZ has the stunning color of some of the most expensive diamonds in the world. That said, some colored diamonds (particularly blue, green, pink, and red ones) are eye-wateringly expensive, but CZ can be colored to match these, too.
CZ always has excelled clarity, diamonds do not
Clarity is another crucial factor for people buying diamonds. Ranging from flawless to included, the clarity can have a massive impact on a diamond’s price. The majority of diamonds will have some inclusions, while CZ has excellent clarity and is nearly always “flawless.”
Myth #2: Cubic Zirconia Is a Man-Made Diamond
No, it isn’t.
While cubic zirconia is manufactured to look like a diamond, it is not a man-made diamond because it isn’t made from the same material as a diamond.
Diamonds are made from pure crystallized carbon, CZ is made from zirconium oxide.
This is a simple truth.
Many people confuse cubic zirconia and diamond imitations like diamond nexus and agape diamonds. However, they differ greatly in their make-up. Diamond nexus are made from 60% carbon along with 9 other elements, which makes them chemically closer to a diamond than CZ.
Agape diamonds are a little more secretive about what their simulated diamonds are made of but it isn’t carbon.
Both are classed as man-made or lab created diamonds and provide an ethical, conflict-free alternative to natural diamonds. Like diamonds, they’re also graded using the 4 C’s and achieve top grades, having been designed to emulate flawless and colorless diamonds perfectly.
You’re probably wondering how they fare against cubic zirconia and which is better? Truth is, it depends what you’re looking for.
Man-made or cultivated diamonds (as they’re sometimes known) could be deemed a closer representation of natural diamonds. They’re more durable than CZ, with a rating of 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness, compared to CZ’s 8.5. Synthetic diamonds are also designed to have sharper facets, similar to diamonds, as opposed to CZ stones which tend to be rounder.
However, these properties and their extensive similarities to diamonds don’t necessarily mean they’re a better choice for everyone.
If you’d rather have a stone with greater fire and sparkle, you can’t beat cubic zirconia jewelry.
There’s also a matter of price. If you’re on a budget or simply don’t want to spend a fortune on a diamond imitation then again, cubic zirconia is the way to go. Man-made diamond specialists market their jewelry as only being a fraction of the price of natural diamond jewelry. But do you know what? CZ jewelry prices are only a faction of the price of man-made diamond jewelry!
Having said all this, it’s not really a competition between cubic zirconia and man-made diamonds. Essentially, they’re very different and should be judged as separate entities.
Myth #3: All Cubic Zirconia Jewelry is the Same
While all CZ is made in the same way, this doesn’t mean it’s all of the same quality. Rather, CZ can be evaluated in the exact same way you’d grade other gemstones, including diamonds.
So if you want high-end cubic zirconia you’d find it by looking at:
The Quality: This does vary with some CZ being less desirable than others. One way to see how they differ is to look at the clarity of the stone. If it’s been made well, it will have excellent, flawless clarity and will, therefore, be the best-looking cubic zirconia.
The Graded System: To determine the quality of CZ, a five-tiered grading system is often used. This ranges from the lowest grade (A) to the highest grade (AAAAA). However, most jewelry stores won’t use these grading systems – you may only find this if you’re purchasing cubic zirconia stones from a wholesaler.
The Seller: Reputable stores will only sell the highest quality cubic zirconia rings, necklaces, earrings, and so on. Always do your research beforehand and carefully study their descriptions and reviews.
Myth #4: Cubic Zirconia Rings Aren’t Suitable as Engagement Rings
This couldn’t be further from the truth!
In fact, according to the Professor of Physics at UC Berkley, smart people buy CZ engagement rings. He explains that one of the primary reasons people buy diamond engagement rings is because of their cost.
Essentially, people feel pressured into spending as much money as possible on engagement rings.
But why do this when you can buy an affordable ring that boasts the same look as a diamond and perhaps appears even more beautiful?
Surely, it’s the sentimental value of the ring and what it symbolizes that’s most important?
Also, it wouldn’t be fair to say that these rings are just fake engagement rings that look real.
Because they’re not fake.
CZ jewelry rings are unique, beautiful pieces of jewelry in their own right.
I’ll let you into a little secret, I actually own a cubic zirconia engagement ring and do you know what? No one can tell it’s not a diamond! I often get people commenting on how big and beautiful my diamond engagement ring is and how my other half must have spent a fortune. Truth is, I would have been fuming if he’d spent a fortune on a big diamond when we had kids to think about and a house to renovate!
When we talked about getting engaged, I set about Googling ‘what is cubic zirconia’ and compared it to other alternatives, like the man-made agape diamonds and diamond nexus I mentioned earlier. For me, CZ was the clear winner because it was close enough to the look of a diamond but was much cheaper than a man-made diamond alternative.
Unsurprisingly, there were no arguments from my (now) husband and I even showed him a few of the designs I liked. He chose the perfect CZ ring to propose with and I couldn’t love it more.
When it comes to cubic zirconia vs. diamond engagement rings, you’ve really got to weigh up what’s important to you. Forget tradition. Forget what everyone else thinks. Choosing CZ jewelry doesn’t mean you’re not worthy of a diamond – it means you’re savvy and know what’s really important in life!
Myth #5: Cubic Zirconia is the Same as Zircon
Those who are looking to buy cubic zirconia rings online may assume that zircon is the same – but it’s not.
- Zircon is a gemstone (ranging from 6-6.5 on the Mohs scale) and is called zirconium silicate. Therefore, it is not the same as cubic zirconia, nor is it related. To make zircon colorless, it is often heat treated – a process that was more popular before CZ jewelry became widely available.
- If you find zircon in jewelry, it’s highly likely it has been heat-treated but when they’re exposed to light, some of these stones can return to their original color (brown).
- Zircon is less durable when it has been treated with heat.
Also, if you see the term “cubic zirconium” – this doesn’t exist.
Final Thoughts: Cubic Zirconia Jewelry is Ethically Sourced
As we’ve seen, cubic zirconia jewelry that looks real does so because it is real.
CZ is a stone in its own right, albeit man-made.
While it may differ in its qualities to diamond, there are some qualities you can be confident in that you cannot be with diamonds – CZ is sustainable, ethical, and conflict-free. For diamonds, these are incredibly gray areas.
Do you wear cubic zirconia jewelry? Do you wear it because it looks like the real thing or simply because you love its unique style?
We’d love to hear your comments below.