Simulated Diamond vs. Real Diamond: What’s the Difference?

Did you know that the diamond industry is so vast that sometimes the lines can blur between simulated diamond and read diamond rings? If you ever get confused deciding whether to opt for an imitation or the real thing, you’re not alone!

Usually, all this confusion stems from the fact that all over the jewelry industry – and all over the internet, for that matter – people use the two terms interchangeably. That shouldn’t happen!

In this article, we’ll break down the difference between simulated diamond and real diamond. Once you know how to tell them apart, it would be hard to get ripped off in the fine jewelry industry. So, let’s dive right in and see how a real diamond compares to an alternative stone.

What Is a Simulated Diamond?

According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), simulated diamonds – also known as diamond simulants – are stones that resemble real diamonds but have different chemical composition, crystal structure and optical properties. These simulants can be referred to as imitations or substitutes in some quotas.

Simulated diamonds can be natural or man-made. However, they’re not intended to duplicate the qualities of natural gemstones. Simply put, simulated diamonds are fake diamonds.

Popular examples include cubic zirconia (CZ), synthetic garnet (YAG), moissanite, and other natural clear gemstones like white zircon, clear quartz or white sapphire. Here’s a video showing one of the most perfect simulated diamonds, cubic zirconia.

Because diamond simulants don’t share the same physical, chemical or optical characteristics as earth-mined diamonds, they generally sell at much lower prices.

Such wallet-friendly simulants may come in handy if you travel a lot, either for work or leisure. The good news is, you can upgrade with a cultured or mined diamond whenever you wish to.

What Is a Real Diamond?

What Is a Real Diamond
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From a gem professional’s point of view, a real diamond (also known as mined or natural diamond) is one that comes from the earth. This gem is typically composed of a single element: carbon. You’ll want to know that real diamonds don’t undergo any processes that would modify their structure or quality.

Natural diamonds form deep in the earth’s mantle under conditions of high temperature and pressure. Once carbon atoms bond in the earth’s craton, they’re brought to the surface by volcanic eruptions. Kimberlite and lamproite are two popular types of magma that carry diamond rough with them.

Synthetic diamonds (also known as lab-grown diamonds, cultured diamonds, or cultivated diamonds) are also considered real diamonds. But while they masquerade as natural diamonds, they’re not grown by Mother Nature.

Instead, they’re created in laboratories under controlled conditions that mirror the same natural processes leading to the formation of diamonds beneath the earth’s crust.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has ruled out the use of the term ‘synthetic’ when referring to naturally occurring diamonds. It tends to mislead buyers into believing they’re getting the real diamond, rather than a poor substitute.

For the most part, reputable jewelers steer clear of the term ‘real’ altogether, instead labeling synthetic diamonds with their appropriate names: man-made diamonds, lab-grown diamonds, or lab-created diamonds.

Simulated Diamond vs. Real Diamond: Clarity Grade

Simulated Diamond vs. Real Diamond Clarity Grade
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Diamond clarity refers to the number of internal defects there are in a stone. No matter how flawless a real diamond may be, it must have some imperfections. Some of those imperfections may not be visible to the naked eye, so you may need to use a microscope or loupe to capture the defects.

Simulated diamonds look too clean and appear to have no imperfections. The reason for their higher clarity is because these simulants are made in a lab, in a process geared toward minimizing the number of flaws in a stone. Another easier way to decipher a diamond simulant is through the price.

Usually, diamond simulants created artificially are much cheaper than real diamonds. Even though synthetic diamonds are also clean, their prices aren’t a far cry from those of real diamonds. So, if a stone is very clean and much cheaper than real diamonds, then it should be simulated.

Simulated Diamond vs. Real Diamond: Brilliance

Simulated Diamond vs. Real Diamond Brilliance
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Who isn’t charmed by the exceptional brilliance of diamonds? Real diamonds have sparkle, but many simulated diamonds have it in excess.

For example, if you put the cubic zirconia or moissanite next to a real diamond, you’ll notice that their sparkle is greater than that of real diamond.

Simulated diamonds sparkle in all colors of the rainbow because light travels throughout them to achieve this signature sparkle.

When light hits the moissanite, for example, it creates a ‘disco-ball’ effect that leads to colorful flashes of light.

Generally speaking, if a stone has abundant brilliance and colorful sparkle, then it is almost certainly a simulated diamond.

If unsure, check whether the stone is also flawless and big, and the price is relatively cheap. Those are giveaway signs of a simulated diamond.

Simulated Diamond vs. Real Diamond: Durability

Simulated Diamond vs. Real Diamond Durability
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Any simulant can’t compete with real diamond when it comes to durability. Real diamond is the hardest gemstone, rated at 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness. While it can get chipped if smashed really hard, a real diamond isn’t easy to scratch.

Simulated diamonds, in contrast, aren’t as hard as actual diamonds. Many of them are rated at 7.5-8.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness.

The hardest simulated diamond is moissanite, whose Mohs hardness grade is 9.25.  This is closely followed by white sapphire, which stands at around 9 on the scale. Cubic zirconia comes third with a score of 8.5.

Of course, those numbers aren’t low, but compared with real diamonds, it takes the least effort to scratch a simulated stone.

So, if you come across a stone that’s full of scratches, and whose edges are smooth rather than sharp, it could be a simulant. Real diamonds don’t scratch or wear in such a manner.

Simulated Diamond vs. Real Diamond: Color Grade

Simulated Diamond vs. Real Diamond Color Grade
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Color grade refers to the amount of yellow or brown tints that a white diamond has. And it’s one of the common 4C’s of grading diamond’s quality. Real diamonds can come in a variety of colors, so do lab-grown diamonds.

However, most natural diamonds come with a yellowish hue. Real colorless diamonds are very rare to find, and therefore expensive.

You’ll find that some simulated diamonds are reasonably white, or more precisely, colorless. For example, cubic zirconia and white sapphire are colorless –without yellowish hues—but they can’t compare with real colorless diamonds in this regard.

Other simulant diamonds like moissanite have some yellow hues. While their colors appear to be subtle, they can still be stronger than what you’d see in the highest color-grade diamonds.

In a nutshell, a stone could be a stimulant if it is white or colorless, without a hint of yellow. Still, it’d help to know that some jewelers sell high-quality moissanite with better color grades.

Simulated Diamond vs. Real Diamond: Heat Dissipation

Simulated Diamond vs. Real Diamond Heat Dissipation
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You can distinguish between a simulated diamond and a real one by breathing on it. A real diamond is an excellent conductor of heat, which means it dissipates heat very quickly.

Of course, the results will vary depending upon the atmospheric conditions you’re in, but a real diamond will never stay foggy.

Now, here’s what you need to do: wipe the diamond with a soft cloth to remove any dirt and oil, and hold it with a pair of tweezers or between your two fingers.

Then, place the stone in front of your mouth and gently breathe on it. The diamond will fog due to the heat and moisture in your breathe.

If the stone remains foggy after a few seconds, you could be having a diamond stimulant. If the diamond is real, the fog will disappear almost immediately. Be sure to do this breath test to determine whether the diamond is real or simulated.

Simulated vs. Real Diamond: Setting & Mount

Simulated vs. Real Diamond Setting & Mount
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You can check out the type of setting and mount used on a diamond ring. Remember, this test is only applicable for diamonds that are set in a piece of jewelry, usually a ring.

Because of a diamond’s high value, a real one will often be set in high-quality materials, including yellow platinum, white gold, yellow gold, side-stone setting and halo setting rings.

To see if the stone’s setting is matches the description, check for markings inside the ring’s center. Such markings as 10K, 14K, and 18K are all indicators of the quality of gold used.

The notes PT and Plat refer to platinum. Numbers including 585, 770, 900, and 950 may indicate quality for either platinum or gold.

By the same token, if you find a C.Z stamp or engraving, note that the gem is a cubic zirconia, and not a natural diamond.

Simulated Diamond vs. Real Diamond: Which is Better?

Simulated Diamond vs. Real Diamond Which is Better
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Whether to go for simulated or real diamonds will boil down to your personal choice. As a reiteration, simulated diamonds are designed to imitate real diamonds but are made of very different materials.

If you’re a budget-conscious fashionista, go for a simulated diamond. After all, it sports a similar look to the real thing, and even offers a unique sparkle and style that may just suit your lifestyle and comfort.

But if you love diamonds to the moon and back, and wouldn’t want to end up with a case of buyer’s remorse, stick with a real diamond. Because real diamonds are built to stand the test of time, you’ll save money in the long run.

What’s more, the rising value of real diamonds and high resale value means you can repurpose your sentimental pieces for all your future jewelry designs!

Still caught between a rock and a hard place deciding between a simulated diamond and a real diamond? Feel free to reach out to us or let us know in the comments section.

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