Cubic zirconia jewelry is classified as a diamond simulant – a stone that looks similar to natural diamonds, but is made of different material.
They are manufactured gemstones that look similar to diamonds. They are colorless gemstones made up of a crystalline form of zirconium dioxide. Most CZs are clear or white. However, their natural colorlessness allows manufacturers to color them with coloring agents.
Cubic zirconia is a colorless, flawless, synthesized man-made material with exceptional brilliance. It was formerly found in nature but the majority of the stones are now man-made. It is made by melting zirconium and zirconium oxide together and heating the mixture to a temperature of 4982 ºF, creating a material with high semblance to diamonds.
CZ can be made in almost any color by using various oxides in the production process. These stones are different from lab-grown diamonds. While diamonds created in the lab have the same chemical and physical structure as their natural counterparts, cubic zirconia has a very different structure.
They are also cheaper, less durable, and softer than lab-made diamonds and are commonly referred to as simulant diamonds.
5A is the highest grade of machine-cut stones on the cubic zirconia market. These perfectly cut stones are a great alternative to natural diamonds.
4A quality comprises blemished 5A stones sorted after production. They are of a lower quality standard than 5A.
These stones are very popular due to their availability and affordability. Manufacturers often use 3A stones to produce cheap jewellery.
2A-grade stones have low quality but elicit more shine and luster than A and AB-grade.
A-grade cubic zirconia has poor symmetry and minimal shine. They are mostly used by artists and craftsmen for decoration.
AB cubic zirconia has the lowest quality on the market. These stones appear cloudy and are often used by artisans for a sparkle effect.
|Stone Type||Cubic Zirconia||Moissanite||Diamond||Lab-Diamond|
|Natural or Man-Made||Natural or Man-Made||Man-Made||Man-Made||Lab-Diamond|
|Hardness & Durability||8.5 (Mohs hardness scale)||9.25 (Mohs hardness scale)||10 (Mohs hardness scale)||10 (Mohs hardness scale)|
|Properties||Sparkling, high refractive index, low durability compared to diamonds||Brilliant, high refractive index, durable and long-lasting, wide color range||Exceptionally hard, high refractive index, unparalleled brilliance||Chemically identical to natural diamonds, durable, high value|
Cubic zirconia is typically sold by its carat equivalent to diamonds. However, its grade also influences the price. CZ has various grades, ranging from 5A (highest quality) to 3A (mi-quality) and AB (lowest quality). The 3A grade is commonly found on jewelry pieces as it is very beautiful and affordable. Although natural diamonds offer premium value and durability, it is easy to find similar high-grade cubic zirconia that costs a tenth or even less.
When buying cubic zirconia, it’s important to consider the quantity being purchased. Real diamonds are rare and not affordable in large quantities. The affordability and accessibility of cubic zirconias make them a good alternative for natural diamonds and a great choice for bulk purchases. In small or large quantities, these faux gemstones create the same effect as diamonds but cost less.
Cubic zirconia stones have an array of setting options, which include various metals.
Low-quality CZs are set in inexpensive metals and high-quality stones are set in high-value metals like gold and platinum. These setting options influence the cost of cubic zirconias and should be considered when purchasing. Also, using valuable materials for metal plating will affect the price.
Before purchasing, it is advisable to check other synthetic diamond options available to make a more informed decision. A lab-grown substitute to consider is moissanite. It is beautiful, long-lasting, and has a bright shine. However, moissanite is more expensive than cubic zirconia. Another to consider is diamond nexus, a man-made substitute for diamond. Diamond nexus is more similar in appearance and price to CZ than moissanite.
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