Cubic Zirconia vs Diamond: What’s The Difference?

VRAI | February 4, 2022

VRAI | February 4, 2022

Cubic zirconia and lab-grown diamonds are not the same, and this guide is here to point out their many differences.

Conscientious consumers have many mined-diamond alternatives to choose from today. Confusing cubic zirconia and other diamond simulants such as moissanite with lab-grown diamonds has happened to those looking for sustainable, ethical, or affordable alternatives for their engagement ring. It’s important to remain vigilant while doing research online.

Read on to discover the difference between cubic zirconia vs. lab-grown diamonds and discover why VRAI sustainably created diamonds stand apart.

What is Cubic Zirconia?

Cubic zirconia is a lab-made gemstone often used as a cheaper alternative to diamonds. It is made from zirconium dioxide, not carbon. It is slightly harder than most gemstones — it rates an 8 on the Mohs scale which measures a gemstone’s durability. But it is not as hard or as durable as a diamond, which rates as a 10 on the same scale.

Although cubic zirconia can sometimes be found in nature (in its mineral form, baddeleyite), it is extremely rare. Therefore, all cubic zirconia on the market is man made.

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Does Cubic Zirconia Test As Diamond?

No, cubic zirconia does not test as a diamond because it has nothing to do with diamonds at all. It has an entirely different chemical composition..

Although a cubic zirconia can be priced based on its carat weight, and can be cut and faceted in the same way as a diamond, color and clarity do not apply. And because they are less durable than diamonds, they do not last as long when used in jewelry and engagement rings.

Cubic Zirconia vs. Lab-Grown Diamonds

Lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds. They share the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as mined diamonds. Just like mined diamonds, they are made from carbon and form under high temperature and immense pressure.

Cubic zirconia is made from zirconium dioxide. To an untrained eye, cubic zirconia might look similar to a diamond — so much so that consumers have chosen cubic zirconia jewelry and engagement rings for its lower price tag.

But the chemical composition and the value of cubic zirconia is inferior to lab-grown diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds, made of the same material and graded on the same scale as mined diamonds. Cubic zirconia always has been and always will be synthetic.

Recently, consumers who have chosen cubic zirconia jewelry often feel good that their gemstone didn’t require mining. But unless its makers are using renewable energy to power their plants and laboratories, they are creating significant carbon emissions and likely relying on non-renewable coal. So cubic zirconia is not a sustainable diamond alternative.

VRAI created diamonds, although man-made, are sustainably grown in our zero-emission, hydropowered foundry. We are proud to be a truly sustainable alternative to mined diamonds.

Cubic Zirconia vs. Diamond “Sparkle”

A diamond’s “sparkle” is unmistakable. The term jewelers and gemologists use to describe it, however, is brilliance, not sparkle.

A diamond’s brilliance comes from its ability to bend, or refract, light. Light enters a diamond and is then reflected off its interior surfaces, called facets. This light interacting with the diamond’s multiple surfaces is its “sparkle,” or brilliance.

This display of white light inside a diamond is something that cubic zirconia cannot replicate. When a diamond moves, white light appears to be bouncing around inside from one facet to the other. Cubic zirconia does not refract light in the same manner and will have little to no brilliance at all.

Cubic Zirconia vs. Diamond “Fire”

Not only do diamonds have brilliance, they also have “fire.” This means that a diamond can sparkle like a rainbow — rather, they can reflect back a variety of colored light off of their surface.A diamond’s fire should only appear on its outer surfaces, however. When a diamond moves, colored light might reflect off the edges or corners of a diamond, but not within,

If colored light is reflected inside, it is likely synthetic. Cubic zirconia is known for reflecting back lots of rainbow-colored light. Although some love this colorful display, the “disco-ball effect” that happens when either is exposed to natural light is one of the easiest ways to immediately identify it as a “fake.”

Cubic Zirconia vs. Diamond Price

Cubic zirconia is astonishingly inexpensive. One carat of diamond is roughly equal in price to seventy-five carats of cubic zirconia. This is why some consumers have chosen cubic zirconia — because of its low price tag. But its low quality and effect on the environment are deterrents to many.

Lab-grown VRAI created diamonds are also less expensive than mined diamonds, but this is not due to a difference in quality. This is because VRAI is a vertically integrated company — VRAI created diamonds come from our zero-emission foundry.

No mining companies, cartels, or other middlemen are paid in between the diamond’s creation and the moment it is set in an engagement ring or piece of fine jewelry. This means that VRAI created diamonds are available at a more accessible price to consumers, but are crafted to last forever, without human or environmental toll.

Moissanite vs Diamond vs Cubic Zirconia

The most common diamond simulant besides cubic zirconia is moissanite. Moissanite is also popular due to its affordability — it is much less expensive than mined or lab-grown diamonds. But part of this is because, like cubic zirconia, moissanite is not diamond at all.

It’s silicon carbide that is also mass-produced in laboratories The end result is a gemstone similar in appearance to diamonds that can be used for jewelry making. Like cubic zirconia, moissanite and any other gem claiming to be a synthetic diamond, cannot be considered entirely ethical or environmentally-friendly. The short-term solutions they offer are often outweighed by the long-term effects of their carbon emissions.

How Is Cubic Zirconia Graded?

Cubic zirconia is not graded in the same way as diamonds. Instead, it is graded by the “A” scale, where AAAAA or 5A is the highest grade and 1A is the lowest. 1A is used for small embellishments on jewelry, where higher scale cubic zirconia is used as a diamond simulant in engagement rings.

Institutes such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) will not issue a grading report on cubic zirconia.

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