Have you ever heard someone talk about “cheap fake diamonds”? Or “knockoff diamonds”? If so, then there is a good chance they were referring to cubic zirconia. The name sounds like it’s something from outer space, but it is actually a long-running alternative to diamonds in the jewelry world.
This post will answer the following questions about this diamond substitute: what is cubic zirconia, what is it made of, how it compares with diamonds, and how to take care of it?
What is Cubic Zirconia and What is it Made of?
Cubic Zirconia is a synthetic, diamond-like gemstone often used as a substitute for real diamonds in jewelry items. First created in a lab in the late 70s, cubic zirconia quickly became a popular low-cost alternative to diamonds.
Unlike natural diamonds, which are formed deep within the earth over millions of years, cubic zirconia is man-made using advanced industrial processes. This means it can be produced in large quantities, making it much more affordable and accessible for everyday folks.
What is Cubic Zirconia Made of?
It is made from zirconium dioxide, a material that is similar to natural zircon. Natural zircon is very unstable, so yttrium oxide is added to create a more stable cubic zirconia. This mineral is more durable and resistant to discoloration and deterioration than zircon.
Is Cubic Zirconia a Mineral?
For a material to be considered a mineral, it must be naturally occurring. While cubic zirconia is made from naturally-occurring minerals, it is made in a laboratory by scientists. So, technically speaking, cubic zirconia is not a mineral.
What’s So Good About Cubic Zirconia?
One of the biggest advantages of cubic zirconia is its clarity and brilliance. Unlike many natural gemstones, which can contain blemishes that detract from their beauty, cubic zirconia is pretty much visually flawless because they are made in a lab.
One reason it is often compared with diamonds is due to its high refractive index, which is a fancy way of saying it reflects light in a way that makes it sparkly and bright. Cubic zirconia’s fire or light dispersion gives off rainbow colors as well, making it naturally stunning and requiring minimal enhancement during jewelry image editing. This makes it an ideal choice for use in jewelry, where it can be cut and shaped into various designs to complement a wide range of styles.
We have established that it is aesthetically pleasing like a diamond, but is cubic zirconia good? Is it worth it as an investment?
One of the selling points of cubic zirconia is its durability. It is much more durable than many natural gemstones, so it is likely to last a long time. On top of that, cubic zirconia is resistant to chipping, breaking, and scratching, and does not easily dull or become discolored. This makes it a great choice for everyday wear, as it can stand up to the challenges of wear and tear in daily life for a piece of jewelry. It does not require any special cleaning or maintenance like some natural gemstones, which is another bonus.
Cubic zirconia is also highly versatile. Diamonds are usually only available in a limited range of colors and grades. On the other hand, cubic zirconia can be created in a variety of colors, such as white, yellow, blue, green, pink, and even purple.
With all these good things about cubic zirconia, it remains an affordable stone. Given its reputation as a cost-efficient alternative to diamonds, how much is cubic zirconia, really? Its price varies depending on the quality and size of the stone, but on average, a 1-carat cubic zirconia costs somewhere between $10 to $20.
There Must be a Downside to Cubic Zirconia
Despite its many advantages, cubic zirconia is not without its drawbacks. For one, it is not as valuable as a real diamond, which means it is not an ideal choice for those who are looking for an investment piece.
While cubic zirconia is almost identical to diamonds, it is not as durable as a real diamond. It has a porous nature, which means that it absorbs the oil from the skin, causing it to dull or discolor over time in a way that diamonds will not. Likewise, exposure to high heat or certain chemicals may also cause discoloration.
The other issue with cubic zirconia is its status in society. Unfortunately, due to the prominence of diamonds, many view cubic zirconia as a lower-class item for people who can’t afford real diamonds. It is fair to argue that this is a misguided, outdated way of thinking, and yet cubic zirconia still gets – perhaps unfairly – judged as being an inferior option for jewelry.
How Does Cubic Zirconia Compare with Diamond?
Being dubbed a diamond alternative, cubic zirconia’s most prized characteristic is that it is nearly identical with diamonds. But can the naked eye really tell the difference between a real diamond and cubic zirconia?
As a naturally occurring mineral, diamonds tend to have flaws or inclusions. Expensive diamonds with high clarity have minor inclusions that cannot be easily seen by the naked eye. However, cubic zirconia is almost always flawless since it’s made in a lab.
The stone’s clarity affects the way they reflect light, but so does its configuration. Diamonds give off a strong white light reflection while cubic zirconia gives off a rainbow effect in its fire. The depth of their sparkle or brightness is close, but diamonds sparkle brighter than cubic zirconia by a fraction.
Unless you know how to tell if a diamond is real, these subtle differences can be hard to spot. Without a trained eye and, sometimes, equipment, it can be difficult to spot a fake diamond; which is why cubic zirconia is a great catch.
Where cubic zirconia falls short of diamonds is in its strength. Diamond is the hardest stone on earth—they are known to cut glass, and this is why we know diamonds to last forever. Its hardness is also one of the reasons it can maintain its shine.
Cubic zirconia is also fairly hard. Where diamond scores a 10 out of 10 on the Mohs scale, cubic zirconia scores 8 to 8.5—not too shabby for a lab-grown gem. So, while cubic zirconia cannot last as long as diamond, it can withstand regular wear for up to 10 years.
How to Clean Cubic Zirconia
Since cubic zirconia is not as hard as diamond, it tends to get dirty faster. To keep it at its best longer, you need to clean and maintain your jewelry.
Take care of cubic zirconia the way you would a valuable piece of jewelry. You can get it wet, but it’s best to keep it minimal.
To clean the stone itself, you use a soft toothbrush and mild soap. Scrub gently, then rinse and pat dry with a cloth.
Let Jewelry Retouchers Show the True Beauty of Cubic Zirconia
Cubic zirconia is a synthetic gemstone that offers many benefits for those who are looking for an affordable and attractive alternative to diamonds. Whether you are looking for a piece of jewelry for everyday wear or a special occasion, cubic zirconia can provide you with the look and sparkle you’re after.
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