Simulated Diamond vs. Cubic Zirconia: What’s The Difference?

So you’re looking for a wedding diamond or perhaps need diamond jewelry for a special occasion and perhaps don’t have enough money.

Well, you can either go with inexpensive, lowly graded naturally mined diamonds, or simply get a simulated diamond. Which are “real” in their own right. And very affordable.

On an untrained eye, it’s really difficult telling the difference between simulated diamonds from real ones. They have the same features – cuts, same sparkle, brilliance, and shape.

The most common laboratory-made diamond is cubic zirconia. Other examples of synthetic diamonds include zircon, Nexus, and several others.

So, how different is the cubic zirconia from the other simulated diamonds?

Telling the Difference

Telling the Difference
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Before we embark on in-depth and detailed similarities and distinctions between cubic zirconia and a real or simulated diamond, let’s look at how you can tell the difference when shopping for one.

For starters, the best way to tell a difference is consulting an expert jeweler or gemologist, most of whom have diamond testing equipment.

However, there are a few tricks you can apply without going to a jewelry connoisseur.

a) Check for Scratches

First, diamonds are harder than cubic zirconia, which means the latter will easily have scratches and wear downs.

So use your naked eyes to check for such. And if you’re still in doubt, you can take a microscope or a magnifying glass to look for the scratches.

Old cubic zirconia should have scratches on their surfaces. However, a real diamond should have more inclusions (internal defects) than cubic zirconia.

This is because cubic zirconia diamonds are lab-made and tend to be purer than a real diamond. Therefore, focus on external scratches, especially if the cubic zirconia stone is an old one.

If the cubic zirconia is new, it’s likely the stone will have no scratches and no inclusions whatsoever. Hence the need to check out its “fire” which is how light bounces from diamond.

b) How’s the “Fire” (How Light Bounces Off)

Check for lighting refraction of the diamond stone.

Turn over the stone upside down. If it’s a real diamond, the stone will give off an entire rainbow color while cubic zirconia will have exclusive orange and blue flashes.

c) How Fast Does It on Your Palms

You need to hold the diamond on your palm and see how fast it gets warm. If it does get pretty quickly warm, then it’s a real diamond.

However, it the stone gets warm slowly, then it’s probably cubic zirconia.

Real diamonds have a better thermal transfer than cubic zirconia. Which is attributed to a real diamond’s carbon element as its main composition. Cubic zirconia is made of zirconia dioxide, but more on that later.

d) Feel the Stone’s Weight

The final and best determinant of differentiating cubic zirconia from a real diamond is by feeling the stone’s weight.

Cubic zirconia is twice the weight of a real diamond.

Therefore, if you’ve got a real diamond somewhere nearby, you can use it to gauge the weight of the stone you’re looking to determine if it’s real or not.

Is a Cubic Zirconia a Real Diamond?

Is a Cubic Zirconia a Real Diamond
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It depends on what you define as a “real” diamond. Is a cubic zirconia a natural diamond? Well, that’s a NO.

Rather, cubic zirconia is a manmade diamond that imitates the features of a real diamond. Still, you cannot categorize cubic zirconia as a fake diamond. Because it has all the features of a diamond.

Cubic zirconia jewelry gained popularity in the 1960s where it was initially used as a diamond alternative. But, it has recently become standalone jewelry where folks buy it as a special gemstone of its own – just like emeralds or quartz.

Despite its similarities with a real, naturally mined diamond, cubic zirconia is also different in terms of composition, durability, fire dispersion, grading, and even value.

Simulated Diamond vs. Cubic Zirconia: What’s The Difference?

Appearance

Appearance
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As mentioned earlier, cubic zirconia and simulated diamonds are really difficult to tell them apart with naked eyes.

However, if you have both a real diamond and a cubic zirconia side to side, you’ll notice that real diamonds are whiter while CZs are more colorless.

A cubic zirconia diamond tends to have more clarity than a real diamond, and that’s because it’s lad made, meaning that it doesn’t have lots of inclusions.

CZs are too perfect. This is more of a red flag if you’re shopping for a diamond and looking to get a real, genuine diamond.

But if clarity is the go-to feature in a diamond, and you don’t care much about how real a diamond is, then cubic zirconia should be your preferred jewelry stone.

The only time a CZ seems less perfect is after it’s been long used.

After years or even months of exposing cubic zirconia, the stone will have discoloration. That is, CZs pick up contaminants from the environment. This is why you need to keep cubic zirconia in a clean enclosure.

Cut and Facet

Since a cubic zirconia’s hardness is incomparable to a real or simulated diamond, you should expect the CZ stone to have chippings and scratches.

Still, its cut and facet are just as great as with real diamonds. The defects and scratches are only visible and noticeable if handled and stored poorly.

The most noticeable difference is that CZs have bolder, round edges while real and simulated diamonds have sharper cuts.

Dispersion (Fire)

Fire in diamonds is the flash of light it produces when exposed to a source of lighting.

Both cubic zirconia and a real diamond have different fires (or dispersion). With a real or a simulated diamond, the fire will have a rainbow spectral of colors while a CZ won’t have a similar fire dispersion.

You have to be careful with the dispersion, especially if you’re a novice.

That is, a CZ’s dispersion seems sparkly and brighter, more attractive than a real diamond. This is why most people prefer the cubic zirconia if a sparkly diamond is wanted you’re looking for.

Composition

Composition
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While both real and simulated diamonds have the composition of carbon as the main chemical element, cubic zirconia is made of zirconia dioxide.

The same carbon element in real and simulated diamonds is attributed to their hardness. Zirconia dioxide places cubic zirconia at 7.5 in the Mohs hardness scale.

Similarly, the zirconia dioxide in CZs is responsible for its heaviness, which makes the cubic zirconia twice heavier than a real or simulated diamond.

You need to understand that some simulated diamonds (such as the Nexus Diamond) have a completely different composition to cubic zirconia.

While cubic zirconia has zirconia dioxide, other simulated diamonds have carbon elements in them. Which makes simulated diamonds like the Nexus just as durable and valuable as real diamonds.

Cost and Pricing

Without a doubt, a real diamond will always be costlier than cubic zirconia.

For instance, a 1 carat CZ on an engagement ring goes for as little as $13.99 while the same 1-carat real diamond costs an average of $3600. That’s a huge difference!

The huge difference in cost is due to real diamonds being rare, and that CZs are lab-grown.

Compared to other simulated diamonds like Nexus, cubic zirconia is less costly. This is because stimulants like Nexus are really more like real diamonds.

Nexus, unlike cubic zirconia, can last many years without losing its coloration. Also, Nexus Diamonds are patented, meaning that not every lab can create such a simulant – something that’s possible with CZ diamonds.

Value

As expected, a real diamond is more valuable than a simulated or synthetic diamond. A diamond’s value is determined by its carat size, clarity, and durability – with the latter being the main factor.

The more durable the diamond, the more valuable it is.

Unfortunately, cubic zirconia is not as durable. It decolorizes over time. Which makes it difficult to resell.

Compared to other diamond simulants, cubic zirconia isn’t valuable. The likes of Nexus Diamonds are much more valuable because of their durability.

The simulants are just like real diamonds, which means having almost similar hardness and durability as the real thing.

Cubic Zirconia for a Wedding Ring

Due to value, cubic zirconia isn’t as great as a real or simulated diamond. The stone isn’t as durable as the likes of sapphire or ruby or an emerald.

However, if you’re looking for something that’s as close as a real diamond, and for cheap, then cubic zirconia is your best option.

A CZ is perfect for an engagement ring, especially if you’re planning on replacing the ring in the near future with a real, valuable and durable diamond.

Therefore, if you have a minimal budget, it’s best to go with cubic zirconia. Or an alternative diamond simulant like Nexus.

But if you’re looking for something that’s going to be an heirloom and last for generations to come, a real diamond is your best bet.

I hope the info on simulated diamond vs. cubic zirconia is helpful and has cleared things up. And good luck finding the perfect engagement or wedding ring.

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