When it comes to stones, crystals, and diamonds, there are a lot of variants available on the market. Mined real diamonds, man-made real diamonds, synthetic stones, semi-precious stones, and cubic zirconia, among many others.
While the market for real man-made diamonds is fast expanding owing to the choices of conscious consumers who do not want to support the blood diamond industry, there’s another variant that’s trying to compete with it: cubic zirconia. A much inferior variant, CZ,, is not a diamond. It just looks like a diamond. Originally developed in Russia, a number of countries are now producing it.
A lot of consumers do not know exactly what CZ is and mistake it for lab-grown real diamonds. They are not the same. Let’s tell you all about CZ and how it’s different from man-made real diamonds.
Cubic zirconia is a material similar to a diamond in brilliance and clarity. It is a synthesized, man-made material that is colorless, hard, and without any flaws. Cubic refers to the crystal symmetry, and zirconia is the chemical composition of zirconium oxide. It looks like a diamond and is much cheaper compared to man-made diamonds. CZ can be made in different colors to imitate the different colors of a diamond. A number of people started producing CZ in 1976 owing to its diamond-like qualities, low cost, and durability. It is widely used today as a diamond simulant.
Cubic zirconia was invented in Russia in the 1970s as a diamond alternative for use in laser technology. Later, the jewelry industry started using CZ because of its sparkle and brilliance, which are similar to diamonds. Now, CZ is used in almost all kinds of jewelry: necklaces, rings, engagement rings, earrings, and more.
No, CZ is not a diamond, nor does it have the chemical properties of a diamond. It is almost as a hard as diamond on the Mohs scale of hardness. It is an 8.5, and a diamond is a 10. CZ may look like a diamond and sparkle like a diamond, but it is not a diamond. It is a man-made material. Its amazing sparkle has made it a favorite option for jewelry. Moreover, it can be cut in the same shapes as a diamond to replicate a diamond.
CZ and man-made diamonds vastly differ from each other in their chemical properties, color, price, and process of making. Here are the differences:
CZ does not have the chemical properties of a diamond. It is almost as hard as a diamond on the Mohs scale of hardness—an 8.5 compared to a 10 of diamonds. That is why the durability of man-made diamonds is much greater than that of CZ. CZ is easier to scratch, unlike man-made diamonds.
Whereas man-made real diamonds are created from diamond seeds and use temperatures and pressures for their creation, CZ is created from zirconium and zirconium oxide to produce a new material that looks like diamonds.
The density of CZ is 1.7 times denser than a diamond’s density.
Diamond has a refractive index of 2.42, whereas CZ has an index of 2.15-2.18.
CZ crystals are made in labs through a process that melts powdered zirconium and zirconium oxide together. This mixture is heated up to 4982ºF to obtain flawless CZ.
Man-made diamonds are created in labs by using two processes: high pressure, high temperature (HPHT), and chemical vapor deposition (CVD). In these processes, selected diamond seeds are placed on a metal disk inside a growing chamber. The seeds go through various processes over 10 to 12 weeks. A combination of gases, pressure, and temperature creates an environment that allows carbon atoms to break down and rain upon the seeds. Atom-by-atom, the seeds transform into rough diamonds.
Cubic zirconia is clear and flawless and is equivalent to a “D” on a diamond’s grading scale. It also comes in other colors, such as green, orange, and pink, to imitate man-made real diamonds. The colors are created by using different oxides in the diamond creation process. Most man-made diamonds have a brown or yellow tinge to them, and only the rarest are colorless.
CZ is much softer compared to real, man-made diamonds. When cut and polished, CZ has much more rounded edges and facets compared to man-made real diamonds. The real diamonds grown in labs have facets with sharp edges.
Real man-made diamonds are more expensive than CZ. That is because CZ is a synthetic crystal, whereas man-made diamonds are real diamonds. CZ, too, can be of exceptionally high quality, which will increase its price. The price of CZ is determined by its carat weight.
Consumers who want to buy quality jewelry must go for man-made diamonds and avoid buying jewelry that is made of CZ. The market, sellers, and advertisements might try to convince you to purchase CZ, but now that you know it is not even a diamond, why would you want to spend money on buying something artificial and fake?
Market surveys have indicated that the market for man-made real diamonds is estimated to garner USD 27.6 billion by 2023, up from USD 16.2 billion in 2016. In comparison, the market for CZ has been uncertain and diminishing. However, with the number of variants, it is for the conscious consumer to decide what they want to possess and, in return, support.
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