Embarking on the journey of diamond jewellery shopping today has become simultaneously wonderful and overwhelming. The traditional market, comprised of solely mined diamonds, has expanded to a new wealth of diamond simulant options. While this creates more beautiful choices than ever before for engagement rings and more, it can also create confusion as you try to decipher the real difference between options. What is a lab-grown diamond?
Simulated lab-grown diamonds provide a wonderful alternative to mined diamonds, especially as they are more affordable and environmentally friendly. However, not all lab-created diamonds are the same, and there can be major differences in both quality and price across the range of options.
One of the most significant differences to understand is the one between simulated diamonds and cubic zirconia. The variations in clarity, durability, and appearance are notable and understanding them will send you down the right path to finding your perfect diamond. Have a look on what is a simulated diamond and its common types found in market.
WHAT IS A SIMULATED DIAMOND?
Simulated diamonds, also known as diamond simulants, are stones created in a lab to mimic—or simulate—the look and feel of a mined diamond. These can be made out of various materials, and in most cases, they do not have the same chemical composition as a mined diamond. Given the cost of mined diamonds, seeking to imitate the sparkle and shine of a true natural diamond has led to centuries-long efforts by people trying to copy diamonds. With this quest has arisen a variety of simulated diamonds, which are categorized as stones that are created in a lab and simulate the look of a diamond. It should be noted that diamond simulants are different from synthetic diamonds.
There are many different types of simulated diamonds, all of which vary in composition, quality, and appearance.
Below are some of the most common stones.
1. Topaz is made from aluminium and fluorine. It’s as hard as cubic zirconia, but it has prismatic crystals, which mean a lower shine.
2. Quartz sometimes called rock crystal or Herkimer diamonds. It is a very common, naturally occurring mineral. It comes in a range of colours and is often slightly cloudy.
3. Leaded glass or crystal. It is a human-made material, with beautiful clarity. But it is very easy to break, chip, or crack.
4. Beryl is a natural gemstone with a long history. It comes in many colours, including a transparent white stone. However, it usually contains natural impurities and flaws, which damage the shine and depth of the stone.
5. Scheelite occurs naturally and synthetically. However, it is not as popular as other diamond simulants – and it can contain flaws, such as clouds of tiny gas bubbles or lines.
6. Sphalerite has a wonderfully high shine, but it is very soft and fragile.
7. White zircon is chemically similar to cubic zirconia. It comes in many different colours and has a different crystal structure from diamonds or cubic zirconia.
8. Cubic zirconia is one of the finest and most popular diamond substitutes. However, it is less durable than a diamond and can discolour over time.
9. Lab created diamond simulants are a new development in jewellery. They offer the clarity, shine, and fire of mined diamonds – without the financial or ethical costs.
The last two categories of simulated diamonds – cubic zirconia and lab-created diamond simulants – are of particular importance to examine. They are often the most commonly used substitute for diamonds and have become more popular in engagement ring trends, yet have significant differences between them.
WHAT IS CUBIC ZIRCONIA?
Jewellers first started using cubic zirconia as a faux diamond substitute in 1969. Since then, it’s become one of the most popular alternatives to diamonds. Cubic zirconia is a synthetically produced gemstone. That means, instead of being mined from under the earth, it can be produced in clean laboratory conditions. Zirconia can be found naturally, but it is too rare and brittle to be used.
The gemstone is made out of crystalline zirconium dioxide. The laboratory starts with zirconium oxide – a kind of gritty, mineral powder – and heats it to 5000 degrees Fahrenheit. The laboratory mixes in other minerals during the process as well to add colour and make the gemstone more resistant.