A Guide To Simulated Diamonds
Once looked down upon as a "fake" diamond, today the simulated stone Cubic Zirconia is appreciated for its own characteristics and beauty. For the untrained eye (like mine) I offer this post for a better understanding of the synthetic gem cubic zirconia and share some of the answers to the questions I once had about this sparkly gem that can visually easily pass for a real diamond.
Let's start with what Cubic zirconia is, loose cubic zirconia (also referred to as CZ stones) are gems that are created in a lab. Found in nature Cubic zirconia is still extremely rare. The chemical properties of natural cubic zirconia are slightly different than the properties of the synthetic gems that are produced in the lab. Made from a powder that is heated to a very high temperature then cooled in a controlled environment the simulated cubic zirconia stones come from the flawless crystals formed by this process.
One of the ways in which Cubic Zirconia is different from diamonds besides being man-made is that diamonds rate 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness (the highest rating), you'll find cubic zirconia generally carries a rating of 8.5 on the hardness scale even though CZ stones are denser and thus heavier than diamond. Where quality is concerned you'll find that the synthetic gems leap ahead of the pack and where most diamonds have what are called inclusions (flaws), the best cubic zirconia stones are flawless. Also, the lab created gems are perfectly colorless whereas colorless diamonds are very rare. With the man-made gems, color can be added during the manufacturing process if desired.
Where quality is concerned similar to diamonds, loose cubic zirconia stones are rated according to their own unique qualities. Cubic zirconia AAAAA is the best quality simulated stones, on the other hand, CZ AAA stones are next, followed by the A-grade cubic zirconia. All CZ stones are flawless, usually colorless and their synthetic material though not as hard as diamond is still very hard.
Cubic zirconia stones are cut so that they have the same features and proportions as diamonds. The most traditional cut of both diamonds and CZ stones is the round brilliant, with 58 facets and the ability to reflect light. Stones with a marquis cut have a point on each end and are typically twice as long as they are wide. A pear-shaped cut resembles a teardrop combines the faceted brilliant cut of a round stone with the elongated look of a marquis stone. Similarly, the oval cut has the sparkle of a round brilliant but is oval instead than round. The emerald cut, also known as the octagon cut, has stepping stone facets that reflect light more subtly. A square cut is sometimes called a princess cut and has pointed corners.
Jewelry makers purchase loose cubic zirconia at wholesale prices and use a variety of materials to transform the synthetic gems into beautiful accessories. That is one of the reasons you will find CZ stones used in engagement rings, wedding rings, earrings, bracelets, pendants, necklaces, solitaire rings, and even ankle bracelets. Colored cubic zirconia is also used in a variety of fashion jewelry, including earrings and as side stones in rings. Settings are often made from 14-karat gold, 18-karat gold, sterling silver, or platinum.
One thing to keep in mind is that diamonds and cubic zirconia for all of their different properties still appear the same to the untrained eye because of their highly reflective outer appearance. The biggest difference between the two is, of course, the price, diamond is very expensive because of its naturally occurring substance status, whereas the manufactured CZ stone, with its intense likeness to diamond, is a less expensive diamond jewelry substitute.