Cubic Zirconia / Zirconium (CZ) is an inexpensive diamond alternative with many of the same qualities as a diamond. This crystalline material (or CZ) is synthetic, which means it is created in a laboratory. Due to increased demand, commercial production of CZ began in the 1970s.
This is the most common and widely used imitation gemstone. It can be made in a variety of different colors and is a convincing replacement for some gemstones. Cubic Zirconia is in no way related to Zircon. While the name is similar they are completely different minerals. A bit like Apples and Oranges.
Since cubic zirconia mimics a diamond but is not the same material, it is referred to as faux, fake, imitation, and stimulant. Cubic zirconia is beautiful in its own right and only becomes a problem purchase when it is misrepresented as a diamond or other gemstone.
HOW IS CUBIC ZIRCONIA MADE?
Cubic zirconia is made by melting zirconium oxide powder with stabilizers like magnesium and calcium at 4,982ºF. After being removed from hours of heat, crystals form and stabilize. The crystals are then cut and polished. Each lab has its own specific methods for making cubic zirconia.
Cubic zirconia can mimic various Diamond Shapes, such as Cushion Cut and Oval Cut diamonds. Colored versions of cubic zirconia are also available.
CUBIC ZIRCONIA VS. DIAMOND: VALUE
Cubic zirconia is significantly cheaper than diamonds. For example, a 1 Carat Round Cubic Zirconia engagement ring sells for $13.99, while a similar 1 Carat Diamond engagement ring that’s well-cut goes for $3,630. As another example, a 1.5 Carat Princess Cut cubic zirconia ring can retail for $37, whereas a 1.4 Carat Princess Cut diamond ring (with excellent Clarity, Cut and Color) costs $9,815. As Carat weight increases, the price gap only becomes larger. For instance, a 3 Carat cubic zirconia ring may sell for $190, while a 3 Carat Diamond ring with acceptable Cut, Clarity and Color is selling for $25,185 with James Allen.
CUBIC ZIRCONIA VS. DIAMOND
Despite looking similar to the naked eye, diamonds and cubic zirconia stones could not be more different. Here are some of the ways they differ:
- A chunk of cubic zirconia is heavier than a diamond of the same size, but not as hard. CZ is rated at 8.5 on the Mohs scale, versus diamond (the hardest substance) at 10 and corundum (sapphire and ruby) at 9.
- When you shop for CZ jewelry, the store will probably list a karat weight but may call it a ‘diamond equivalent,’ to help you understand how the (heavier) CZ would compare to a diamond of the same visual size.
- Amazon has a large selection of fine jewelry made with cubic zirconia.
- Cubic zirconia can be transformed into the same popular cuts and shapes that are used for diamonds and colored gemstones.
- A white CZ is truly colorless, with none of the inclusions found in an untreated diamond — think of it as a little too perfect.
- Cubic zirconia produces more flashes of color (fire) than a diamond.
- Some of today’s CZ is coated with a product that makes the stones more durable and lessons their fire — the stones look more like true diamonds, although a jeweler will know they are not.
- Colorful versions of CZ are available, too, and have become popular in sync with the trend towards fancy color diamonds.
IS CUBIC ZIRCONIA THE SAME AS ZIRCON?
Zircon and cubic zirconia are not the same:
- Zircon (6 – 6.5 on the Mohs scale) is a gemstone, zirconium silicate, and is not related to cubic zirconia. Heat treated brown zircon was often made colorless with heat and used as a diamond substitute before CZ became available.
- Zircon found in most jewelry has probably been treated with heat to improve or change its color, and some of the stones may revert to their original colors after they are exposed to light.
- Heat treatments make zircon less durable.
- You may see the term cubic zirconium, but that substance does not exist.
3 COUNTRIES THAT PRODUCE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF CZ STONES
As the global industrial hub and the world’s most populous country, China’s rising affluence in the world is no secret. Over the past few years, China has been playing a pivotal role in producing huge number of cubic zirconia stones in the world.
India is the world’s largest cutting and polishing center for diamonds. And quite naturally this country has immense expertise in producing high-quality CZ stones. The Gems and Jewellery sector plays a significant role in the Indian economy, contributing around 6-7 per cent of the country’s GDP.
Although the top two slots have been taken up by two Asian giants, Russia also produce a huge number of CZ stone. Russian lab-made gemstone makers are now signing contracts with companies in South-east Asia to re-invigorate synthetic gemstone production.