Nowadays Cubic Zirconia is the most popular diamond alternative due to its affordability and similarity to diamonds. It has been used as a substitute for diamonds since the 1970s. There is no gemstone closer in likeness to diamonds. At a fraction of the cost, it has been widely and stylishly used in jewellery and fashion in general.
What is Cubic Zirconia
Cubic Zirconia is zirconium dioxide in its crystallised form. It is usually manufactured to appear transparent, as this is the nearest equivalent to diamonds.
Zirconium Oxide has been knows since the 1800 as baddeleyite. It was a rare naturally occurring mineral, and the first attempt to manufacture it artificially originated in France in the 1960. However, it was in 1973 that a perfect form of Cubic Zirconia was created in the former Soviet Union using a production method known as Skull Crucible. The initial aim was to develop a substance to be used as part of laser technology, but the end product was a marvellous-looking crystal very similar in appearance to diamonds. Commercial Cubic Zirconia has been present since then.
Nowadays, CZ is created as a substance with crystalline structure in the same production method.
Cubic Zirconia crystals are very similar to diamonds both in appearance and practical use. Like the natural diamond, CZ is an isometrically structured crystal. Both materials have a high refractive index and high dispersions, which makes them both alike in terms of the way they affect the light when it passes through them. With regards to hardness, CZ is a little bit softer than diamonds. In terms of colour, CZ, like real diamonds, can be produced in different colour tints.
Difference from real diamonds
The most striking difference between Cubic Zirconia and diamonds is that the former is synthetic, and has a perfect flawless shape. The latter usually have some natural flaw and cost a lot to produce. This disparity in production costs is reflected in their enormous difference in price. In terms of characteristics, CZ weighs 1.7 times more than diamonds of equal size, and it is practically zirconium oxide, while diamonds are mostly carbon. Due to them being chemically different, CZ is generally cut with differently shaped facets than diamonds, and also they react to heat in a different manner, i.e. CZ is a thermal insulator, whereas diamonds act as conductors of heat.
Related to the cost is the reputation. Namely, given the cost of their production and their scarcity, diamonds are more appealing and almost considered as a social status these days.
Nevertheless, due to its price and the inability to tell the difference with naked eye, Cubic Zirconia is gaining in popularity, and the last several years have seen their demand grow significantly as a result of the increase of consumers’ environmental consciousness.