Wondering what the difference is between lab-grown diamonds and cubic zirconia?
Congratulations! You have come to the right place. Here, you will get a detailed comparison between these stones and also learn about:
- The comparison between synthetic diamond and cubic zirconia
- The difference in optical properties between lab diamonds and cubic zirconia
- comparison between lab-created diamonds and CZ
- And a lot more!
When looking at the two for the first time, you may not quickly tell the difference between lab-created or real diamonds and cubic zirconia. One major difference you will be able to tell is the price.
There are several differences between these two stones including light reflection and dispersion, crystal structure, chemical composition, and appearance.
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Cubic Zirconia vs Lab Diamonds
Both lab diamonds and cubic zirconia are artificially made but only diamonds are considered real. However, the two stones undergo distinctively different processes to end up looking the way you see them in the stores.
Cubic zirconia is also known as a diamond stimulant, cultured diamond, or manmade diamond. In short, it is a diamond alternative but the proper and more recognized name is simulated diamonds. Manmade diamonds and cultured pearls are commonly used to refer to lab-created diamonds.
Cubic zirconia is a natural product made of zirconium dioxide that is melted in a mixture of magnesium and calcium. This mixture is then cooled for some time thereby creating crystals. These crystals are then faceted and polished just like what happens to lab diamonds. Cubic zirconia that forms like this is however very rare and that is why most of it is manufactured in the laboratory.
There is no one standard way of synthesizing cubic zirconia. Different stores and jewelers find ways that work for them as individual entities.
Lab Created Diamonds
Other names for lab-created diamonds are synthesized diamonds, lab diamonds, and lab-grown diamonds.
Labs created diamonds are produced using either of the two different methods available. One of the methods is a high-pressure high temperature (HPHT) where a minute piece of a real diamond (often called a diamond seed) is used. This “seed” is put under very high amounts of heat and pressure. The seed is then placed in pure carbon and gradually grown into a real diamond over the next few weeks.
The other method used to create diamonds is chemical vapor deposition (CVD). In this method, the diamond seed is gotten from the HPHT process then placed in a gas chamber. This chamber is filled with either carbon or methane gas. The seed then converts to plasma which breaks down molecules that were bonded together. This process leaves behind only carbon atoms. The carbon usually forms around the diamond seed and crystallizes while forming a diamond.
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Lab Grown Diamonds vs Cubic Zirconia: Optical Properties
The appearance of cubic zirconia is very different from that of diamonds whether lab or real. Most people in the industry can tell the difference just by looking at them the first time.
How these two stones perform when in light is very different. If you are buying jewelry you should see the difference in light performance when pointed to you.
Cubic zirconia often displays rainbow light that is obvious when placed next to lab diamonds. Lab and natural diamonds always have subtle brilliance contrary to CZ whose rainbow light is dramatic.
Watch the video below showing cubic zirconia and lab diamonds alongside each other.
Inclusions are part of the lab and natural diamonds are considered as identity marks for diamonds. Inclusions usually get stuck in the diamond while it forms in the earth. For lab diamonds, the inclusions are metallic.
When measuring the clarity of diamonds, gemologists always check for the types of inclusions the stone contains. When clarity grade is high, it means the inclusions are few making the diamond price go up. CZ always appears flawless because it has zero inclusions and blemishes. This diamond stimulant does not go through any grading system either, although you will come across some CZ jewelry that is described in terms of carat weight and not mm size.
Cubic Zirconia vs Lab Created Diamonds: Price
Everybody likes to save some money when shopping, right? The same applies to buying jewelry. You probably want affordable jewelry. However, keep in mind that cheap does not guarantee your quality products.
Cubic zirconia stones are known to be the cheapest gemstones. Their prices can be as low as $5 and go up to just a few hundred. It is very rare to find cubic zirconia jewelry whose price is $1000 unless it has been set in one of the valuable stones in stores.
Cubic zirconia is very cheap because it is not durable. Unlike other products where you can find affordable and high-quality items, in jewelry, you will only get what you paid for.
CZ is also easy to make and laboratories can continue manufacturing as long as there is demand. The same does not apply to lab diamonds. Synthetic diamonds can only be processed if gemologists can find seeds from the naturally existing diamonds. This does not however mean that lab diamonds will cease to be made, but don’t be surprised if it eventually happens.
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The factors that determine the pricing of lab diamonds are not the same as those that affect CZ price. Cubic zirconia is not graded using defined quality guidelines as diamonds do; they do not have tiers or classes either. Prices of diamonds go up when you want a high diamond class like VVS1, E colored, or ideal cut.
The quality of CZ depends on who manufactured it. Diamonds’ quality depends on chance and the ones that happen to be quality are highly-priced. Low-quality diamonds can be bought for thousands of dollars.
If you find cubic zirconia with a high price, probably it is set in a precious metal that is contributing to the added zeros. Most CZ is set in sterling silver.
The best quality of CZ that you can find costs less than $1000 and is set in 14K gold. Take a look at this CZ from Birkat Elvon., It is a 2-carat emerald-cut with baguettes on the sides costing only $670.
Lab diamonds are usually set in more valuable metals like platinum and gold, making them much more expensive than cubic zirconia.
A 2 carat synthetic diamond with VS1 clarity and H color grade cost more than $12,000. A 2-carat emerald lab-created diamond with good grades costs thousands more than what you would consider the best quality of cubic zirconia.
Cubic Zirconia vs Lab Diamonds: Value
As you have already learned, cubic zirconia is very much cheaper than lab diamonds. In reality, CZ has no value as a stone. Even if you find the highest quality CZ, there is no room for trading in.
Most jewelers do not offer protection in form of a warranty for any CZ that they sell. Zales for example does not protect CZ in any way unless it is part of a customized jewelry setting.
Lab-created diamonds are considered real diamonds too but do not account for the same value as natural diamonds. From most online jewelry retailers you are likely to get a trade-in or upgrade policy for mined diamonds. It is important to read the fine print carefully as most sellers deliberately leave out lab diamonds from such policies.
This is mostly done because the value of lab diamonds is not constant. In the beginning, the price of lab diamonds was 20% lower than real diamonds but today they are more than 50% cheaper. If a jewelry store offers an upgrade policy for lab diamonds, the most likely thing is that they will make a great loss.
Lab Created Diamonds vs Cubic Zirconia: Other Factors
There are several other reasons why some customers prefer lab diamonds to cubic zirconia or the other way round. Here are some of the reasons.
How long a mineral can stay tells how durable that mineral is. All minerals lie somewhere on the Moh scale. The hardness of a mineral refers to how tough and resistant the mineral is to everyday damage. Gemstone’s hardness is very different from tenacity. While a diamond stone may not easily be chipped or scratched, it can easily shatter when smashed.
Natural diamonds measure an impressive 10 on the mineral hardness scale. Lab diamonds measure the same too.
Cubic Zirconia comes third on the Moh scale with 8.5 after corundrum. This means that it is easier to scratch CZ than it is a diamond. When CZ is scratched, its appearance is tampered with making it look dull and foggy. This is the reason why CZ is not a good alternative to a diamond engagement ring.
Cubic zirconia is made in the lab and thus there are high chances of playing around with color. CZ from the lab can be any color, no need to worry about light pigmentation or color zoning.
Lab diamonds can also be made in a variety of colors, but only limited to the colors in which natural diamonds are formed. Synthetic diamonds are known to have hyperpigmentation, more than natural colored diamonds. Diamonds created with fancy colored from the lab are cheaper than fancy colored natural diamonds. Colored cubic zirconia is even cheaper.
Conclusion: Lab Created Diamonds vs Cubic Zirconia
Pricing is not the only reason why some people may opt for a cubic zirconia engagement ring as you have learned. There are many more factors that come into play. Some people have reasons why they think lab diamonds are better stones than CZ.
In brief, cubic zirconia is eye clean, has zero natural inclusions, and is cheaper than lab diamonds, you will save much more. The price of CZ does not change depending on its appearance. It has a flashy sparkle which looks very admirable. Some people particularly like the color dramatics but it does not make a difference.
Cubic zirconia however has disadvantages that lab diamonds do not have. CZ cannot be passed from one generation to the next; they do not last long and is highly prone to scratches. The scratches leave the gem looking foggy and ugly within a few years.
I would recommend that you do not invest in either of these two stones: both of them are not so valuable. This is because lab diamond prices are dynamic and CZ is easily made in the lab. These two stones hold no monetary value in the future.
Only you have the power to decide which stone is best for your budget and occasion. I would however recommend that you buy lab-created diamonds as the center stone for an engagement ring and not a cubic zirconia.
As learned there are many reasons why lab diamonds supersede cubic zirconia. It is difficult to come across high-quality cubic zirconia jewelry since not many people look for them. Kay and Zales are some of the online jewelers that stock cubic zirconia in 10K gold. These two and other jewelry retailers do not have warranties for CZ. Furthermore, it can be a daunting task looking for a local jeweler to repair.
The truth is you will be repairing more of the gold set in the stone than the stone itself. With lab diamonds, you can pick any metal of your choice including platinum and you will not require regular maintenance trips. An online store like James Allen gives you a lifetime warranty for synthetic diamonds for free.
A larger population of jewelry lovers holds sentimental values to their rings; they want to hold onto them for as long as possible. For this reason, you should buy lab diamonds since they last longer than CZ. The demand for cubic zirconia is not high; there are chances that the design you admire ceased to be in stock.
If you have saved up a little more and are looking for something beautiful and still affordable, a lab diamond engagement ring is the deal for you. If the script reads differently and you are limited by budget, cubic zirconia is not a bad option. The choice is yours.