Although there are several colorless gemstones that resemble diamonds, only a few of them are marketed as fake or faux diamonds.
Simulated and synthetic diamonds are frequently used as substitutes for real diamonds because of their diamond-like appearance.
This Learning Jewelry guide will cover the most commonly encountered types of fake diamonds in the fine jewelry industry.
Common Types of Faux Diamonds
The following are some popular types of fake diamonds:
While sapphires are typically known for their blue hue, white sapphires can be used as diamond substitutes due to their colorless appearance. Sapphires are derived from the mineral corundum.
Corundum is a mineral that comes in many colors, with the exception of red, which is classified as ruby. When impurities mix with corundum during formation, it produces colored varieties, with each color being referred to as a sapphire. In contrast, corundum that remains colorless is known as white sapphire.
While white sapphire jewelry is often categorized separately from colored sapphire jewelry, natural white sapphire is a rare find in most jewelry stores. Therefore, many retailers offer lab-created white sapphire jewelry, which is more affordable and a popular choice for those who want to wear diamond-like stones.
The price of white sapphire is not affected by its size or carat weight, which means that a 6.5 mm round white sapphire is equivalent to a 1-carat round sapphire. However, there are noticeable differences between a white sapphire and a diamond. The brilliance of a diamond is much more sparkly and has a white light reflection, while white sapphire has a more subtle and silver light reflection.
White sapphires are usually eye-clean and have very few natural inclusions. They have a mineral hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale, which makes them scratch-resistant but not necessarily resistant to sharp blows. Proper maintenance is required to keep white sapphires looking their best.
White sapphires are a popular diamond substitute that offer affordability and durability. While they may not have the same level of brilliance as diamonds, they can still be a convincing alternative to the untrained eye.
Both naturally mined diamonds and lab-created diamonds have a mineral hardness of 10, which makes them the most scratch-resistant mineral. In contrast, sapphires can get scratched easily, so it’s crucial to take proper care of your white sapphire.
White sapphires can become cloudy over time due to accumulated scratches and dirt. Unfortunately, this cloudiness is permanent, and the stone will need to be replaced. Therefore, regular cleaning is essential to keep your white sapphire looking its best.
If you’re looking for beautiful white sapphire rings, Brilliant Earth is an excellent place to start your search. Their collection of white sapphire jewelry is stunning and offers an affordable alternative to diamonds.
Cubic zirconia (CZ) is a type of simulated diamond that is commonly used in jewelry to imitate the look of diamonds. Unlike other diamond simulants, CZ was specifically designed to mimic the look of diamonds. It is an entirely man-made gemstone that is easy to produce, making it a low-cost option for jewelry designers.
Cubic zirconia comes in a range of colors, making it versatile enough to simulate any colored gemstone. However, it is most often used as an imitation for diamonds. Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous companies that may try to pass off CZ as genuine diamonds, so it’s important to read descriptions carefully before making a purchase.
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When compared side by side with diamonds, CZ can be distinguished by its high dispersion. Dispersion occurs when white light passes through the stone, causing each color to refract at different speeds and reflect separately. This creates a rainbow effect that is more pronounced in CZ than in diamonds.
Gemstone dispersion is measured using a tool called a refractometer, which also allows gemologists and jewelers to determine a stone’s refractive index. While diamonds have a higher refractive index, they have lower dispersion than CZ. The high dispersion in CZ causes more rainbow light, which is a telltale sign that the stone is not a genuine diamond.
In addition to its high dispersion, CZ tends to be very clear, with few natural inclusions. This is in contrast to mined diamonds, which often have inclusions that can be seen with the naked eye. However, it’s worth noting that not all diamonds have visible inclusions, so this is not a foolproof way to determine whether a diamond is genuine.
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Cubic zirconia is a popular choice for those looking to simulate the look of diamonds without the high cost. While it can be difficult to tell CZ apart from genuine diamonds with the naked eye, using a refractometer to measure dispersion and refractive index can help distinguish between the two.
White topaz is a type of topaz that lacks color due to the absence of impurities during its formation. It is often used as a diamond substitute, but mostly as accent stones rather than a center stone. White topaz is commonly found in sterling silver colored gemstone jewelry, and it’s frequently used as pave stones or side stones.
Unlike diamonds, white topaz cannot be compared in terms of optical properties. The only similarity between the two is that they are both colorless. While white topaz may be found in April birthstone jewelry, it is usually only used to keep the cost down.
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White topaz has a low hardness rating on the Moh scale, with a rating of 8 out of 10. This makes it susceptible to scratches, and it’s why you won’t see it used as a center stone very often. Companies often use white sapphires as melee diamond imitations instead of white topaz. This is because white sapphires are much more scratch-resistant than topaz, making them a better choice for use in high-quality jewelry.
White topaz can be a good option for those looking for a cost-effective diamond substitute in gemstone jewelry. However, due to its lack of scratch resistance, it’s important to handle it with care and avoid wearing it during activities that could cause damage.
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Moissanite has become the top alternative to diamonds. While some may consider it a fake diamond, it’s actually a unique gemstone that offers a more affordable option.
Natural moissanite is rare, so most moissanite on the market is lab-created. The gemstone was initially discovered by Henri Moissan, who thought he had found a diamond in a New York crater, but it turned out to be something entirely new.
Compared to other diamond substitutes, moissanite is relatively expensive, but still much cheaper than a high-quality diamond. Unlike diamonds, which are graded based on the 4Cs of Diamond Quality, moissanite is graded using a simpler system. It can be standard, premium, or super premium, with the latter being the highest quality and having a color grade of DEF. Premium moissanite typically has a near colorless grade, like GHI.
Inclusions are present in all gemstones, but moissanite is generally free from visible inclusions, even under magnification. The best moissanite engagement rings can appear clearer than an average diamond, though higher-quality diamonds like VVS or VS will still have superior clarity.
Moissanite, like white sapphire, does not experience a significant price increase as carat weight or gemstone size increases, making it a more cost-effective option. If you’re interested, check out the Grace Ring in Moissanite from Brilliant Earth.
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The numbers may appear expensive, even comparable to diamond prices. However, it’s important to note that a 1-carat natural diamond ring that is eye-clean would cost the average person around $5000.
In the past, sapphire was considered the second hardest mineral on the Mohs scale, and white sapphire was commonly used as a diamond substitute. However, moissanite now ranks at 9.5 on the mineral scale, making it the second most scratch-resistant option.
Moissanite’s brilliance is similar to cubic zirconia, displaying a rainbow of colors. However, its intense sparkle may be overwhelming for some, as it is often compared to a disco ball. Moreover, moissanite’s brilliance becomes even more pronounced in higher carat weights. Although it is a colorless stone, it can sometimes appear slightly yellow or brown in certain lighting, which cannot be changed.
- Great as gifts
- Charms are detachable
- Prone to catching on fabrics
- Can be noisy
Zircon is a versatile gemstone available in various colors, including a colorless version known as white zircon. Unfortunately, zircon’s reputation as a colored gemstone has been tarnished by cubic zirconia, making it the black sheep of diamond substitutes. However, it is important to note that zircon and cubic zirconia are entirely different in terms of physical and chemical composition.
Interestingly, zircon is the world’s first diamond imitation gemstone and was more popular in earlier times. Currently, white zircon jewelry may be challenging to find as cubic zirconia products dominate the market. Nevertheless, white zircon jewelry is available on online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy.
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Despite being overshadowed by other diamond substitutes like moissanite and cubic zirconia, zircon boasts optical properties that most closely resemble mined or synthetic diamonds. However, zircon differs in terms of brilliance due to its double refraction, which causes light to bend, slow down, and split before reflecting out in different directions. This phenomenon is also known as birefringence and can make a clear stone appear fuzzy, so it’s crucial to consider how the light hits the stone.
While white zircons are not typically used as a large center stone, they can serve as accent diamonds or be utilized as rhinestones or crystals in small pieces like children’s jewelry. October birthstone jewelry often features rose zircon instead of opal. Small zircons are relatively inexpensive, ranging from $45 to $400 per carat. However, prices can escalate when looking for larger white zircons.
White spinel, also known as colorless spinel, is not commonly sought after in the market. Historically, before the 19th and 20th century, spinel was often mistaken as corundum sapphire, a completely different stone. While spinels are used to simulate colored gemstones in birthstone jewelry, children’s jewelry, and class rings, they are not often used as a substitute for diamonds.
White spinel is typically natural and untreated, unlike many other diamond substitutes. However, it is rare to find white spinel, especially in larger sizes, and the cost can increase significantly. Colored spinels can cost over a thousand dollars, but the rarity of white spinel stems from the fact that spinels are almost always found with color.
On the Mohs hardness scale, white spinel has the same scratch resistance as cubic zirconia, which is an 8. However, cubic zirconia is more commonly used as a diamond substitute because it is cheaper and more readily available.
Rutile, while less common as a diamond substitute, is worth mentioning. Unlike many other diamond imitations, identifying it from a real diamond should be relatively easy, even if you have no experience with diamonds.
In the 1940s, when diamonds were first discovered, they were not cut very well and lacked the clarity and brilliance of modern diamonds. Synthetic rutile was therefore an early diamond simulant.
However, since the perfection of diamond cutting and optimization for maximum brilliance, diamonds have surpassed rutile in every way. Compared to diamonds, rutile stones now appear incredibly cloudy and yellowish.
Today, finding rutile as a diamond simulant is unheard of. Rather, rutile is more appreciated as an inclusion in other gemstones. Rutile in quartz, for instance, makes for fascinating jewelry and is highly sought after as a specimen or crystal tower. Unlike diamond inclusions, rutile inclusions are actually desirable.
You may be surprised to hear that garnet is being recommended here, especially if you’re accustomed to seeing this gemstone as the reddish-orange birthstone for January. However, it’s worth noting that synthetic garnets can come in a colorless form, and Grossular garnets can also be colorless.
However, only two diamond imitations from the garnet family exist, and only one of them could be considered a true garnet. Gadolinium gallium garnet (GGG) belongs to the garnet group, whereas yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) is unrelated to garnet despite its name.
Nonetheless, YAG and GGG were commonly used as diamond simulants before the advent of cubic zirconia in the 1940s. YAG was the first synthetic garnet used in the jewelry market, but its low dispersion made it a poor substitute for diamonds.
GGG, on the other hand, has higher dispersion but is softer, rating 6-6.5 on the Mohs scale like topaz. Its dispersion is comparable to that of a diamond, but its higher cost and lower availability make it less popular than cubic zirconia.
Since the emergence of cubic zirconia, many lesser-known diamond simulants, including those from the garnet family, have become practically non-existent due to their higher cost and inability to compete with the lower-priced, high-quality cubic zirconia.
Other Faux Diamond Options
If a seller is determined to deceive you, they might not even use gemstones as fake diamonds. One of the most common materials used in deceptive jewelry practices is actually glass, which can be cut and faceted to mimic gemstones. This is especially prevalent with colored glass used to simulate colored gemstones, but it can also be done with clear glass.
It’s worth noting that not all private sellers or gemstone markets in other countries are deceptive, but many people report negative experiences in these situations. If you do find yourself purchasing gemstones in another country, it’s important to know some simple tests to distinguish between real and fake diamonds. One such test is the breath test, which you can do on the spot.
Real diamonds don’t retain heat well, so breathing on the stone should cause it to fog up briefly before quickly clearing.