It can be difficult to make the distinction between diamond and cubic zirconia. Whether they’re used in an engagement ring or tennis bracelet, you might opt for one over the other because of the cost, cut, color, or quality of the gem. Aside from having completely different material makeups and crystal structures, they also each have multiple unique and specific visual characteristics. While the stone’s exact features depend on a variety of factors such as its physical integrity and quality, there are a few key ways to tell the two apart.
Light Dispersion and Refraction
Depending on the design of your ring and your own personal style, you might want a stone with a higher degree of fire or brilliance. This is determined by how light passes through the stone, and there is a sharp difference between cubic zirconia and diamond. Cubic zirconia is often more sparkly and fiery, whereas diamond is more brilliant. Also, cubic zirconia produces much more colored light than diamond. This can make the stone look even more stunning than a comparable diamond, but it also helps to give away its authenticity. This difference is even more obvious in larger stones. The flashy, glittering look of cubic zirconia is eye catching, but it can appear to be quite different from authentic diamonds.
Quality and Degree of Flawlessness
If you’re trying to save money on a diamond, opting to include a few extra imperfections can drastically lower the price without changing the appearance of the stone – at least to the naked eye. Plus, it is very rare for a natural diamond to be perfect so it isn’t a major deficit. But cubic zirconia, which is artificially made, is exclusively created to be flawless. This is one benefit of going with a lab-created stone. This is especially true if you want something with a higher carat weight. If you want to determine whether a stone is diamond or cubic zirconia, judging the quality is one way your jeweler can check.
Having a flawless or perfect stone can either advertise the impeccable quality of a top-notch diamond – or reveal that your stone is not a diamond. If you want to fool people, the smaller the better. But the sparkly, disco ball-like appearance of cubic zirconia is difficult to compare to a clear, brilliant diamond that is free from imperfections.
Material Characteristics and Hardness
When jewelry shopping, you might be intrigued or deterred depending on the amount of upkeep a piece will require over time. Hardness is an important factor to consider when you’re predicting how much maintenance, cleaning, and wear and tear you can expect to need. Diamonds are considerably harder than cubic zirconia, which makes them more resistant to scratching, clouding, and overall signs of use. Consequently, a diamond piece would likely require far less attention and care than a comparable cubic zirconia piece.
Although cubic zirconia is more susceptible to damage, it is more dense and heavy than a diamond. This doesn’t always lead to a dramatic difference in size, but it can be noticeable depending on the shape and carat weight of the stone.
Difference in Cost
One of the main reasons why people would prefer cubic zirconia over diamonds is the dramatic difference in price. What would cost you less than $100 in cubic zirconia could cost you more than $9,000 if you swapped the stone for a diamond. For this reason, it’s a popular option for people who want a large, head-turning stone without spending thousands of dollars.
When it comes to fancy colored diamonds, the margin is even wider. There isn’t a major difference in price for fancy colored or white cubic zirconia, but a fancy colored diamond could easily be double the price of a similar, white diamond. If you’re looking for a colorful stone, cost might be even more of a crucial factor for you.
Cubic Zirconia and Lab-Created Diamonds
Cubic zirconia is often compared to synthetic diamonds, but there are some major differences to take into consideration before purchasing one or the other. Synthetic diamonds are created with the same properties as natural diamonds, so they share the same spectrum of durability, hardness, and fire. Even though you have a bit more control when you choose a synthetic diamond over a natural one, man-made diamonds are still more brilliant but less fiery than cubic zirconia.
If you’re comparing quality and appearance, synthetic and natural diamonds are almost interchangeable. So, they are also completely separate from cubic zirconia stones. Though they are both artificially created, cubic zirconia has nearly as many differences with lab-made diamonds as it does with diamonds that were found in nature.
Durability and Maintenance
Upkeep is an important part of owning any piece of jewelry, and all stones are not created equally. When it comes to longevity and overall strength over time, diamonds perform much better than cubic zirconia. True diamonds are incredibly hard and strong, making them resistant to a lot of the wear and tear that other materials are susceptible to. While you might want to polish or clean your stone after it’s seen some use, cubic zirconia is a much softer material that is easier to scratch and scuff. This also causes the stones much more sensitive to dirt, oils, or even lotions than diamonds. To maintain the stone’s shine and appearance, you could expect zirconia to require much more care and attention than a similar diamond.
Which One is Better?
Diamond and cubic zirconia share a few key characteristics, but they vary greatly in terms of quality, longevity, and price. For a long-lasting piece that can withstand generations of use without much maintenance, diamonds are the clear winner. If you’re looking for an inexpensive stone that’s still shiny, beautiful, and timeless, cubic zirconia might be the better choice. The amount of care, money, or time you want to put into your jewelry can be a good way to determine what you really need.
Before choosing your stone, really consider your expectations and what you plan to get from your necklace, ring, or bracelet. From far away, the differences are minor; but, ultimately including a diamond versus a cubic zirconia stone can completely transform your piece.