When people think of buying a valuable gemstone product, like engagement rings, diamond is nearly an obvious consideration. However, several gemstones can be great diamond alternatives, and they include Cubic Zirconia, White Sapphire and Moissanite.
In this article, we are going to look at each of these precious stones, their similarities as well as differences. Let’s start with the description of each.
In the Post
At a Glance
Cubic Zirconia (CZ) is a diamond-like artificial stone that is processed from a blend of pure and powdered zirconium oxide powders, magnesium and calcium in a laboratory. The mixture is melted and heated up to a temperature of up to 2750°C, or 4,982°F.
In some cases, Cubic Zirconia makers introduce certain additive to the mixture to make the material. All in all, they always ensure that they control each of the Cubic Zirconia’s ingredients. The result is a near-flawless, artificial and beautiful gemstone that mimics diamond.
Natural diamond is a naturally occurring stone derived from Earth’s mantle and comprising purely of carbon. The atoms of this valuable stone is a crystal structure (carbon unit) as a rigid lattice. The arrangement reduces the chances of the contamination of the stone.
Diamond can also be synthetic. Man-made diamonds are produced from high-purity carbon which is subjected to extremely high pressures and temperatures. Alternatively, a synthetic diamond can be made from hydrocarbon gas through a process called chemical vapor deposition. Imitation diamond can also be made from Cubic Zirconia or silicon carbide.
White sapphire (also called Leucosapphire), is another great alternative to a diamond because it mimics it (diamond) in terms of appearance. Besides, it is very long-lasting. However, the two gemstones have significant differences in terms of:
Moissanite is derived from a meteor crater and comprises of silicone carbide. However, the majority of this material is made in the laboratory. It shares some similarities with sapphire white in that both have a diamond-like look, are durable and popular materials for modern rings.
Comparison of Cubic Zirconia vs Diamond vs White Sapphire vs Moissanite
Hardness and density
Although CZ is hard, it’s hardness is not the same as that of diamond. On Mohs scale (hardness scale for mineral classification), Zirconia stands at 8.5 while diamond is rated 10. The higher the rating on the scale, the harder the material.
It’s therefore safe to say that, the lifespan of CZ is shorter than that of diamond. It is easier to scratch than diamond and so, starts to look worn faster. Therefore, every-day wear Cubic Zirconia jewelry pieces need more special care than their diamond counterparts.
When it comes to density, CZ has a density ranging from 5.5 to 5.9 gm/cm3
With a hardness rating of 10 on Mohs scale, diamond is harder than CZ, and less likely to be contaminated, thanks to the crystal structure of its carbon atoms.
As such, diamond has a higher resistance to scratches and wears and lasts longer than CZ. In fact, it is the hardest natural material. That’s why pure diamond tends to retain its original value for a very long time (up to billions of years)
Besides, diamond has a density of 3.51 gm/cm3; thus, about 1.7 times less dense than CZ. That’s why a diamond jewelry piece appears larger than a CZ piece with an equivalent weight.
White sapphires are among the hardest substances in the world. In fact, they come second after diamond. As diamonds score a 10 points on Mohs scale, white sapphires’ is 9 points.
As such, a white sapphire product is almost three times more vulnerable to scratches on its surface than a diamond one. Therefore, the care requirement of white sapphire is higher than diamond’s.
However, sapphire white is less vulnerable to chipping as compared to diamond, thanks to the latter’s crystalline structure. Nevertheless, the chipping of a diamond is rare too, as compared to other gemstones.
When it comes to density, white Sapphire’s is 3.98 g/cm 3 and is higher than that of diamond (3.51 g/cm 3). Therefore, a piece of white sapphire will be smaller in size than that of diamond with equivalent weight.
Moissanite is the second hardest material in earth after diamond. It features a crystalline structure that is held tightly into place by a covalent bond, similarly to diamond.
So, it is harder and lasts longer than a white sapphire. Moissanite is so strong that it can endure pressures that as high as 52.1 gigapascals. That makes it a great diamond replacement in high-pressure experiments.
When comparing Moissanite with cubic zirconia, the latter is softer and so, scratches more easily than Moissanite. The hardness of moissanite on the Mohs scale is 9.2, which is a bit higher than that of CZ which ranges from 8 to 8.5 on the same scale.
When CZ and diamond are placed together and you view them from a distance, you can hardly differentiate one from another. Why? Because just like Diamond, CZ has high color grad. Also, the gemstone can be made in various colors to simulate the wide range of colors that diamond has. Shape might not help you to distinguish CZ from diamond.
This is because (CZ) can be cut and shaped to look almost exactly as diamond. However, if you have a closer look at CZ, you’ll notice that is purely colorless, without any shades or yellow hints. It looks like a diamond which is too perfect to be true.
Also, when the light penetrates the artificial stone, it shines with all rainbow colors and its brilliance is more colorful as compared to the diamond’s. In fact, the flashes of color that CZ produce are more than those of diamond.
The color flashes (fire) and radiance of CZ is attributed to its high dispersion rating (0.058 – 0.0600) and refractive index (2.15- 2.18), as compared to diamond’s refractive index of 2.42 and 0.044 dispersion rating.
Nevertheless, the dispersion rating and refractive index might vary slightly from one CZ stone to another, depending on the purity of the ingredients involved in the processing of the stone. The manner in which CZ is cut also influences the gemstone’s flash and fire.
When viewed under shortwave ultraviolet light, CZ usually flames a yellow, greenish-yellow or beige glow. If the light is replaced with a longwave one, sometimes the gemstone produces a whitish glow. A complex earth absorption spectrum might manifest from a CZ viewed under longwave ultraviolet light.
Diamond is rarely not as perfect as CZ because it has inclusions (mainly yellow tinge or brown hints) throughout it. If you see a diamond without such imperfections, most likely, you are dealing with Cubic Zirconia. However, although rare, you can still find a flawlessly-looking diamond (truly colorless), but it is extremely expensive.
When you turn a diamond stone upside down, you’ll notice a reflection of all rainbow colors reflecting from its bottom. On the other hand, if it were a CZ stone, you’ll see more pronounced orange and blue flashes.
With a refractive index ranging from 2.417 to 2.419, which is higher than that of Cubic Zirconia, diamond has a higher brilliance than Cubic Zirconia. When it comes to dispersion, diamond’s is lower (0.044) than Cubic Zirconia ((0.058 to 0.0600). Therefore, diamond doesn’t sparkle and reflect light as much as CZ does.
White sapphire is completely colorless. Normally, sapphires derive their color from the trace elements surrounding them while forming within the earth. However, white sapphires don’t get in physical contact with trace elements at all. That’s why they are fully colorless.
The interiors of white sapphires usually appear somehow cloudy or milky. Although there are diamonds that look like that as well, especially those with robust fluorescence, high-quality diamond is more sparkly with great radiance and fire.
Besides, A diamond has scintillation- the rainbow colors. white sapphire doesn’t have any scintillation at all. Also, when you look at white sapphire and then diamond, you’ll easily notice that the former is significantly duller than the latter.
So, if you are looking for a diamond alternative that’s rich in brilliance, fire and scintillation, you might not like white sapphire.
Pure moissanite is colorless or almost colorless and with eye-clean clarity. It looks almost the same as high-quality diamond, with almost the same sparkle.
Unless you are extremely keen and have a past experience with both, it will be very difficult for you to distinguish diamond from Moissanite when viewing them side by side.
However, moissanite appears clearer as compared to sapphire white. This is because the latter is more vulnerable to scratches and is more likely to attract dirt. Therefore, moissanite will not require much regular cleaning as white sapphire to maintain its clarity and general appearance.
Also, the sparkle in moissanite is more pronounced than that of white sapphire. This is because the brilliance refraction index of moissanite (2.65-2.69) is higher than sapphire’s which is 1.77. Besides, the fire of moissanite is 0.104, higher than that of sapphire white, which is 0.018.
The fire of moissanite is too much that it tends to form something that look like rainbow or disco ball flash. In most cases, the clarity rating of Moissanite is VS and above.
When compared to CZ which looks like flawless, pure and perfect diamond, a moissanite stone has
slight greenish or yellowish hues and some structure imperfections. That’s because of the complicated production process that moissanite goes through.
Value and Cost
If you want to pamper yourself with a beautiful piece of diamond jewelry but your budget is too low for a diamond purchase, CZ could be a nice option. CZ is less expensive than a diamond.
For instance, the price of a ring made of 1.5 carats of princess-cut Cubic Zirconia could retail at around $35, while a diamond ring made of 1.4 carats of princess-cut real diamond might cost you roughly $10,000.
Therefore, although it wears out and loses its radiance faster than diamond, it gives you a short-term pleasure of having a beautiful piece that mimics diamond.
Considering that a diamond can be natural, synthetic or imitation, professionals determine its price by assessing its authenticity through optical techniques. Alternatively, they can use thermal conductivity measurements to determine the cut, clarity, carat weight, and color of a diamond stone.
Diamonds feature different cuts: Excellent (AGS 0), very good (AGS 1), good (AG 2), fair (AGS 3-4) and poor (AGS 5-7). A perfectly cut diamond stone (AGS 0) has the highest brightness level, fire (rainbow color) can retail roughly from $ 300,000 to $2 million while treated (imitated/artificial) diamond of the same quantity could be half the price.
Some people who don’t have enough money to buy diamond pieces of jewelry go for those made from white sapphires. This is because, in addition to being durable, the sapphires are less expensive as compared to diamond.
For instance, if diamond weighing 1.50 carats is retailing at around $14900, white sapphire could be selling at about $1110. That’s quite a significant price difference.
If you are looking for cheaper diamond alternatives, you can also consider sapphire or moissanite, as both are more cost-effective. Generally, the price of a moissanite stone is roughly 10% of a diamond stone of the same weight.
However, if you want to use the least amount of money, considering diamond, sapphire white and moissanite, white sapphire will save you the most bucks, especially when its 1.50 carats or less. This is because the larger the gemstone, the higher the price per carat, due to the rarity of the material.
when we are talking of moissanite carats, it is important to note that they are different from diamond’s and CZ’s. The carats of moissanites are based on the size of the stone (in millimeters) while diamond’s and cubic zirconia’s are based on the weight of the gem.
Consequently, one diamond/CZ carat equals 6.5 mm moissanite. All in all, the price of moissanite is way much lower than that of diamond; almost 7 times lower.
The pricing of moissanite is also dependent on the color of the subject gemstone. The clear moissanites are more expensive as compared to the contaminated and discolored ones. Also, the price depends in whether a moissanite is enhanced or not.
When choosing cubic zirconia, sapphire white vs moissanite as diamond alternatives, moisanite is highly placed to be the best choice because its properties are the most similar to those of diamond.
Besides, moissanite is the easiest to maintain of the three diamond alternatives and maintains its value for a very long time.
However, if you want a more flawless and clearer option, cubic zirconia could be the real deal.