Common Diamond Substitutes
Diamonds are one of the most beautiful, and most expensive, jewels available today. They are also extremely popular. Diamonds are an important symbol of engagement in many parts of the world, and they also appear in everything form simple earrings to the tiaras and crowns worn by royalty!
Because they are so popular and expensive, diamonds have been a favorite area for imitation over the years. Rhinestones, Cubic Zirconia and Zircon are all attempts to replicate the beauty of diamonds at a lower cost. None of these are particulary good imitations -- they lack the luster and brilliance of the real thing
Technology's latest attempt to replicate the diamond is a jewel called Moissanite. Moissanite rivals diamonds, ruby, emeralds, and other fine gemstones in their brilliance, fire, luster, and incredible hardness. Moissanite gemstones are such a close match to diamonds that even skilled jewelers cannot tell the two apart.
One of the first steps to "real" Diamond Education is to understand how to recognize stones that are "not" Diamonds yet appear similar. There are some that are easy to detect, and a few using newer technology that can be more difficult to determine. Education is the key to protecting yourself from purchasing a misrepresented Diamond or gemstone.
Here are some other common simulated diamonds.
- Rhinestones: The most basic of Diamond duplicates. Made from glass "Silica - Silicon dioxide" (or plastic) with a golden foil reflective coating on the backs (these are easily identified by the "golden foil" coating, covering the back of each stone) they are very inexpensive and they sparkle!, Great for adorning clothing and costumes by the hundreds.
- CZ's or Cubic Zirconia (ZrO2): The most widely used diamond substitute with many shapes and colors to choose from. They are very pretty, have no imperfections and are easy to spot because their appearance is "too perfect". A Cubic Zirconium is not as hard as a diamond (7.5 to 8.5 on the Mohs scale vs. 10 for a diamond) and will show wear on the facet edges with routine wear. CZ is about 75% heavier than diamond.
- Zircon or Zirconium Silicate (ZrSiO4): Zircon is NOT the same material as the artificial gem material Cubic Zirconia (or CZ). Zircon has been used as a diamond simulant both for innocent and nefarious reasons. Zircon resembles diamond in luster and fire and colorless zircons have occasionally been mistaken for diamonds by experienced jewelers. It is found in browns and greens but can be heat treated to beautiful blue and golden colors. Colorless material is produced in this way as well. As a mineral specimen, zircon is uncommon in most rock shops because attractive specimens are rare. Besides blue, zircon can be colorless, red, green, yellow, orange, green or brown. Green zircons often have a natural radioactive component and should not be worn every day. Zircon of any color is desirable because it's usually found in relatively clean crystals and in large sizes. Zircons well over 5 carats are common. Zircon is not as hard as diamonds and measures only a 7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale.
- White Sapphires (Aluminum Oxide): White Sapphires are an excellent diamond substitute as it is brilliant and very hard (9.0 on the Mohs scale). Many larger white sapphires are illegally diffused with a blue coating and sold as blue sapphire. Large white sapphires are rare. White sapphire is always heat treated to produce, intensify or lighten color and/or improve color uniformity and appearance.