In your quest for jewelry shopping, you need to know the differences between a genuine diamond, and stones that are advertised as diamonds. More often than not, these are not diamonds at all. Some are lab-created simulated diamonds and others are actually gemstones.
With this guide, you’ll know the different types of stones that are often referred to as diamonds.
In the Post
Why Would Someone Choose a Fake Diamond?
There are a few different reasons why one might choose a fake diamond over a real one.
Most fake diamonds do not have inclusions and are crystal clear. With a genuine diamond, chances are it’s not going to be crystal clear.
Another reason to choose a fake diamond might be the sparkle that some of them provide. Fake diamond rings are flashier than a real diamond, but the brilliance from that light is not reflective the way a diamond truly is.
The biggest and most common reason why people often opt for fake rather than real, is price. There’s no denying the incredible cost of a good diamond. In this economy and rather, in this generation, people are choosing cheaper options as they have other pressing matters such as family.
Generally, most stones that are classified as fake diamonds are at an inexpensive cost. However, certain fake diamonds are more expensive as they may be set in 14k gold and have diamond accents. It really depends on the composition of the piece and which fake diamond is set on it.
Diamond Accents: Are They Worth It?
What are the Different Types of Fake Diamonds?
“Fake diamond” is a blanket term we’re using to dissect the different types of stones that are commonly both mistaken for and advertised as fake diamond. It’s not too often you’ll be duped in a reputable jewelry store and sold a fake diamond instead of real. The biggest offenders in trying to pass clear stones off as diamonds would be obscure online retailers.
If you are shopping online and you see a beautiful and flashy diamond ring for a cheap deal, you need to look at the specs on the piece. Often times, while the title of it might be “diamond”, the specifications will indicate the stone is not actually diamond. Similarly, this is also common for pieces that claim they are 14k, only to be gold-plated over a metal such as nickel.
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The reason such companies do things like that online is simply for the effect of moving higher up in search engine optimization. By including diamond in the title, it makes it easier for the site to pop up in searches of people looking for “diamond engagement rings”.
There are more people looking for diamond engagement rings than fake diamond rings. By mistitling it, someone thinking it is a genuine diamond may come along and purchase it.
So, what are the different types of fake diamonds? Well, let’s go ahead and make a comprehensive list of the stones that are most often mistaken as diamonds.
Cubic Zirconia (CZ)
What is CZ?
Cubic zirconia is the most common type of fake diamond you’ll run into. They are synthetically made and popular because of how closely they resemble real diamonds. Zirconia is made by melting powdered zirconium with zirconium dioxide. Zirconium dioxide occurs naturally.
The two get heated up to extreme temperatures to form the crystalline version we call cubic zirconia.
CZ can come in a variety of colors, just like regular diamonds. While you can find CZ in a bunch of different shapes, the most popular cuts include the round, princess, trillion, and heart. They can be set in gold, silver, or gold- or silver-plated metal.
CZ vs diamonds
At first glance, a CZ can be mistaken for a diamond. Their properties are similar, but they are vastly different. Cubic Zirconia is hard, flawless, and sparkles, just like a diamond. But are any of those qualities the same as a diamond?
The answer is no. While CZ may be seemingly hard to someone outside of the jewelry realm, it only reaches an 8-8.25 rating on the Mohs scale. The Mohs scale represents the hardness of stone. A true diamond’s Mohs rating is at a 10.
Diamonds are curretly the hardest natural material we humans know. And because of this hardness, the diamond is extremely durable when it comes to everyday wear. Cubic zirconia will chip, crack, or break much easier.
You might be surprised to know that there are different clarity grades for CZ. Their clarity scale ranges from A-AAAAA.
Cubic zirconia levels are measured by the 4Cs (cut, clarity, color, and carat) as well. But when it comes to clarity, you will not see the carbon inclusions that you do with a diamond.
Diamonds have natural inclusions, and the clarity scale goes from VVS1-I3. Inclusions are bits of carbon that have naturally occurred in the diamond. The less visible inclusions, the better the clarity.
Even though CZ is a blemish-free fake diamond, they wear over time and become cloudy. When taken care of well, they can have a shelf life of two years. But CZs require extra care. If worn every day, they will cloud faster. Cubic zirconia is damaged by the oils in your skin and can contribute to cloudiness of the stone.
With a diamond, the oils in your skin do not contribute to the appearance of your stone. It may fade the rhodium on the gold, but the diamond remains untouched. The only thing that will dull a diamond’s natural sparkle is dirt and the damage is reversible. Once the damage has been done to CZ, the stone will need to be replaced.
What is zircon?
Zircon is often mistaken for cubic zirconia, but they are not the same. They both have zirconium as an element in their structure.
Zircon is a gemstone for sure, but most know it as a diamond simulant. In fact, zircon is the closest of the imitation diamonds that actually resembles a diamond. It is actually one of the most common minerals used in the world.
Due to some radioactive impurities, zircon has developed into a variety of colors. These different colors are often mistaken as other gemstones. The colorless zircon, also known as the Matura diamond.
Zircon vs diamond
The main reason zircon is the closest diamond simulant to the real thing would be the brilliance of both stones. While it’s been said that diamond has a sparkle unparalleled to other stones, the fire from a zircon is even more sparkly.
The reason for this is because of what’s called double-refraction. When a stone double-refracts, it is showing double images from the pavilion of the stone. With a diamond, it is single-refracting, and the images and markings do not mirror.
Zircon does not have the durability like diamond does, nor does it have the durability of cubic zirconia. It only reaches a rating of 7.5 on the Mohs scale, while diamond remains at the top with a 10.
The softness of zircon does not make it an ideal stone to wear for jewelry that can come into a lot of physical contacts, such as on rings. But for other pieces of jewelry, the rating will do just fine.
If the zircon has been heat-treated, they are more susceptible to nicks and chips within the stone. The only way for a diamond to be manipulated or melted is to be heated up at an extreme heat temperature, generally found in home fires.
While diamond is extremely resilient to various chemicals and treatments, it doesn’t fade or lose its brilliance due to the environment around it. But a gemstone has a different reaction to its environment.
Zircon has been known to lose its luster and discolor after being constantly exposed to sunlight. Blue zircon, the most popular kind of zircon, can turn brown in a matter of seconds when exposed to UV radiation.
What is moissanite?
Moissanite is a gemstone that was discovered by Henri Moissan in the 1800s. It is synthetically produced, as natural moissanite is extremely rare.
Moissanite has an interesting history. When Moissan discovered the particles of moissanite in a crater from a meteorite, he had thought it was diamonds, but it was later discovered to be silicon carbide.
Moissanite is one of the classier fake diamonds. There are a lot of people that choose moissanite for engagement jewelry. It can be set in gold or silver. Of the three diamond simulants we’ve gone over, moissanite is the highest quality.
Moissanite vs Diamond
Moissanite takes the cake when it comes to the hardness of all the diamond simulants. Its rating on the Mohs scale is just under the genuine diamond’s rating with a 9.5 in hardness. This makes it a much more durable stone than both zircon and cubic zirconia. The hardness makes it ideal for those who do not want a diamond, but still have a durable stone in an engagement ring.
Moissanite is cut differently than a genuine diamond, so the light brilliance is much different. The gemstone gives off a superior sparkle to a diamond’s natural brilliance.
When the light runs through the stone, it can be known to project a vivid light show on walls and other surfaces. While some enjoy this kind of attention, there are many who find it a bit much.
Related: Types of Diamond Cuts: Your Comprehensive Guide 2020
With a diamond, the light reflected through the stone is split up in three different ways. Brilliance is just the white light in the stone. Dispersion is when the colors are refracted in the stone.
Scintillation comes from the top of the diamond and is reflected through the table of it. With their powers combined, they create the coveted sparkle of a true diamond.
If you like the idea of a colorless stone, but don’t want to keep it modest, moissanite may not be right for you. Most purchasers of moissanite are buying the stone because they don’t want to pay the cost of a diamond, but want a less expensive alternative.
The problem with Moissanite and keeping its identity as a diamond simulant is that the bigger they are, the more color is found throughout the stone. Moissanite stones have been known to have yellow or grayish tinge in its light, but it becomes noticeable in bigger stones.
Other types of simulants
Some of the other simulants you might find imitating diamonds with rising popularity include white sapphire, spinel, rutile, and even glass.
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How to Tell the Difference: Fake Diamonds vs Real Diamonds
While you shouldn’t have to worry about being sold a diamond simulant in a physical retail store, it’s important to know how to tell a fake diamond from a real one.
Other than the differences we’ve given you in each of the categories above, there are physical ways to tell a simulant from the real thing.
A loupe is a magnifying glass used to inspect jewelry. Most oftentimes, it is used to check the clarity and inclusions on a genuine diamond.
Using a loupe on a stone will give you a pretty good indication on whether or not it is a real diamond. As you’ve learned above, most of the simulants are made to look flawless. If there are no flaws, chances are, it’s not a real diamond.
Most jewelry stores have a policy on testing diamonds as they move in and out of their cases. They use what’s known as a diamond tester.
It is shaped similar to a pen, but much larger. The tip of diamond tester is placed on the table of the stone and reads almost instantly if it is a diamond.
Related: Diamond Testers: Do You Need Them and Should You Trust Them?
Many models can tell you if it is CZ or moissanite as well. But if you don’t trust a jewelry store, it’s a good idea to purchase one of your own to give you peace of mind.
The Fog Test
A physical test you can do on a stone to see if it’s a real diamond is the fog test. It’s really quite simple. All you need to do is to breathe on the stone, as if you were trying to fog up a window. If the stone stays foggy for a few seconds, then it is fake.
That kind of condensation will not stick to a genuine diamond, as diamonds are very good heat conductors.
The Water Test
If you have a loose stone, the water test will help you determine if your diamond is real. Fill a glass with water and drop your stone in.
Diamonds have a higher density than their simulants. When you drop it into the water, it should sink quickly if it’s truly a diamond. Fake diamonds, on the contrary, will either float at the top or remain suspended, but submerged in the water.
However, water test is not that reliable. This is because common diamond fakes such as CZ and moissanite would sink down to the buttom too, although plastic, quartz or glass might be identified.
This video also shows some other methods to tell if your diamond is a real one.
Buying the Right One
When it comes to fake diamonds, there are many different types out on the market. Each of them have their own strengths. But when compared to the perfection of a diamond, none can match up to every advantage of a genuine diamond.
- What cubic zirconia lacks in resistance, they make up of it in clarity.
- What zircon lacks in hardness, it makes up for in brilliance.
- Lastly, what moissanite lacks in color, it also makes up in durability.
But when compared to a real diamond, none of these imposters can measure up. With a genuine diamond, you don’t have to sacrifice durability, color, clarity, or brilliance.
Yes, diamonds are more expensive than any of the fake diamonds mentioned above. But none of them will last as long as diamond will. None of these will project the same kind of brilliance or durability.
So, if you’re confused about buying the right one, just remind yourself: They don’t use the slogan “Diamonds are forever” for nothing!
Thank you for all your information. I didn’t see if the fog test on Moissinite can be used for Diamond authentication.
Hey Bert. Unfortunately, fog test should not be used for distinguishing diamonds from moissanites, which enjoy comparable thermal conductivity.
A moissanite is not a fake diamond, it’s a germ stone of it own it occur naturally on a meteorite due to it extreme rareness it’s lap made but it doesn’t mean it’s fake. It’s a diamond alternative not a fake diamond.
Hi Therese. It’s great to have you here! What you said is true, but I’d like to put it this way: when I wanna get a diamond, and they give me an alternative without telling me the truth. Sure, moissanite is a real stone, but in such a scam, I paid far more for what I didn’t really want. So I call it fake.