As diamond creation progresses, it is getting increasingly difficult to distinguish between a synthetic (or simulated) diamond and a genuine one. Hence, if you are interested in learning more about the differences between lab-grown diamonds and cubic zirconia, you should first know what they are.
Comparing lab-made diamonds to cubic zirconia is difficult for untrained eyes. Despite their similar looks, the two stones have some significant distinctions. If you are looking for a diamond or piece of jewelry but do not want to buy a mined diamond, knowing the difference between lab-grown and cubic zirconia is crucial, especially when it comes to setting your expectations and planning your budget.
As the name suggests, a lab-grown is one that has been grown in a laboratory. Its chemical composition is identical to that of a natural diamond since they are both pure carbon. Chemical vapor deposition is the most popular method for manufacturing a lab-grown diamond and involves placing a small, thin slice of an already existing diamond (which can be natural or lab-grown) in a vacuum. Carbon molecules assimilate to the diamond “seed” in the vacuum, which mimics the tremendous pressure and heat required to make a naturally occurring diamond. It takes a few weeks to a few months for a lab-grown diamond to reach its full size.
The crystalline form of zirconium dioxide is cubic zirconia (CZ). Though a form of CZ can be found in nature in other stones, it is scarce. CZs, the bulk of which are synthetic, are colorless and appear as diamonds to the inexperienced eye, although they do not have the same chemical makeup—diamonds are carbon, while CZs are zirconium dioxide, as previously stated. They are sometimes referred to as “synthetic” or “simulated” diamonds when referred to in overlapping spheres.
Differences Between Lab-Grown Diamonds and Cubic Zirconia
Lab-grown diamonds can cost up to 50% less than mined ones of the same grade because they:
- are not limited in quantity
- are not subject to the same supply chains, and
- require less labor and energy to be produced
Cubic zirconia stones are even less expensive because they do not require replicating pre-volcanic conditions that can only be found deep beneath the Earth’s crust. As a result, they frequently sell for a fraction of the price of diamonds of comparable size and cut; the price disparity only grows as the stones increase in size. According to an industry expert, a one- or two-carat CZ ring rarely costs more than $100.
Lab-grown diamonds are developed in the same way as natural ones are but in a considerably shorter timeframe. Resultantly, the possibility of inclusions—or minor flaws that might obscure their transparency—still exists. The clarity grade of a lab-made diamond is affected by these inclusions, which can range from Flawless (F1) to Included (I2) (I3). Besides, since they are both diamonds, lab-grown and natural stones are graded on the same scale.
On the other hand, given that cubic zirconia stones are machine-made, the concept of natural imperfection does not hold any ground. Thus, they will be devoid of any inclusions.
Lab-grown diamonds, like those naturally mined, are made entirely of carbon. They are the hardest substance on the planet, with a Mohs hardness rating of ten, making them highly durable. You can bang one about or wear it through strenuous activities; there is little chance it will break unless due to a preexisting inclusion at the surface.
CZs are also quite hard, ranging from an 8 to an 8.5 on the Mohs scale. However, they can usually endure the normal wear and tear of everyday living, although you might see some scratches if you knock your hand around too much.
Cubic zirconia is not rated on the same scale as a diamond since it is not composed of the same material composition. Instead, CZs are graded on an overall quality scale ranging from A (1A) to AAAAA (5A), with the latter being the best. These ratings are most commonly used when buying CZs in bulk and are unlikely to be displayed in a typical consumer transaction.
The sweet spot for quality and affordability is AAA, which you will most typically find on the market from reliable sellers.
Since lab-grown diamonds and cubic zirconia have different chemical compositions, they have varying physical attributes, including hardness and durability.
With a Mohs hardness rating of 10, diamonds, including lab-grown ones, are the hardest gemstones. Cubic zirconia has a hardness of 8.25–8.50, making it less durable, stretchable, and breakable than cultured diamonds. Therefore, it is softer than lab-made diamonds.
Lab-grown diamonds, like natural ones, have sharp facet edges, whereas cubic zirconia has rounded edges that become more rounded over time, giving the stone a hazy appearance.
Furthermore, cubic zirconia has a density of around 1.7 times that of diamonds. Thus, if you compare a CZ to a lab-grown diamond of the same size, the former will be substantially heavier.
Heat and Electric Conductivity
Diamond testers detect the difference between lab-made diamonds and cubic zirconia by measuring the electrical characteristics of the materials.
This tool can also determine whether you have a diamond or something else entirely. Since cubic zirconia has different characteristics than diamonds, it can tell if a stone is from the former category—cubic zirconia.
The level of dispersion of cubic zirconia and lab-made diamonds is another significant difference between the two. When a diamond breaks down light into a rainbow of colors, this is referred to as “fire.”
Cubic zirconia has a larger dispersion, which means that when exposed to light, it produces more colorful flashes than lab-grown diamonds.
Completely colorless (grade D) diamonds are scarce—and extremely expensive—whether mined or created in a lab. Most couples like diamonds that are near-colorless or rated G through J; any yellow hue that the diamond acquires in this range would be undetectable to the untrained eye.
CZs, on the other hand, is colorless and transparent and will not have any color unless purposefully.
Lab-grown diamonds are a more economical option for couples looking for an engagement ring, wedding ring, or an eternity band. They are not only slightly less expensive than natural diamonds despite maintaining the same quality, but they are also a more environmentally friendly option. Diamond mining can be highly harmful to the environment, but since lab-made diamonds produce significantly fewer emissions, your partner will have peace of mind for years to come.
However, if you want to declare your love for your beloved but do not have the financial means to do so, a cubic zirconia ring is an excellent substitute for a diamond ring. You can go the extra mile as your situation improves; you cannot go wrong.