Cubic Zirconia vs Diamond


Diamonds have earned an inimitable position within cultures across the globe - not only for their striking beauty and matchless strength, but for the complex, precise and incredibly raw story behind the creation of each and every gemstone.

There is no single factor responsible for this a diamond’s high monetary and sentimental values, and all are intrinsically linked together. For instance, their durability and lasting luster makes them both visually and emblematically ideal for engagement rings - as does the uniqueness and rarity of their formation, and the natural power bringing them into being.

1 carat diamond engagement ring - halo - $1500
1 Carat Diamond Engagement Ring by James Allen - Valued at roughly $6,000

It is, of course, no secret that diamonds are hailed the world over as irreplaceable, unrivalled, and more precious than any supposed counterpart. And yet, many of us will by now have grown accustomed to seeing cubic zirconia being utilized as a diamond simulant – and to seemingly great effect - in jewelry, and as loose gemstones. To an outsider, this gemstone is thriving among those who are seeking a more affordable investment than diamond.

So, is there any real difference? Is cubic zirconia a worthwhile alternative for anyone considering investing into a diamond? Read more about the differences and similarities between diamond and cubic zirconia - and what to invest into – below.

What is Diamond?

Each and every diamond is linked so intrinsically to the tale of its origins that to write only about the specifics of their appearance and value would be to ignore an essential part of what makes than so revered across the globe.

This naturally-occurring mineral begins as raw carbon, more than a hundred miles beneath our feet. There, unimaginably intense heat and pressure shape these carbon atoms into incredibly tight bonds known as crystals - and, over the course of more than a billion years (and in some cases more than three billion years) raw diamond is formed.

These diamonds are then gradually brought closer to the surface of the earth via volcanic eruptions, where they are eventually mined and cut into the precise shapes by which we most readily recognise them. In a poetic sense, diamonds are borne of the combined efforts of nature’s most virulent, and yet its most precise and painstaking, qualities.

Diamonds are utilized for their strength and durability, but also - and perhaps most commonly - for their remarkable appearance. Their rarity makes them incredibly valuable around the world, and they remain an unrivalled symbol for luxury and opulence among jewelers and wearers alike.

What is Cubic Zirconia?

Cubic Zirconia, or CZ, is a manmade gemstone utilized for the superficial visual characteristics it shares with diamond. Since the mid-twentieth century, it has been increasingly utilized as an alternative – or, in more dubious cases, a forgery – on the diamond market, making non-professionals particularly vulnerable to investing into this low-value substance.

The lab-grown crystals that comprise cubic zirconia are formed from the compound ZrO2, or zirconium dioxide, which is brought to high temperatures and mixed with various stabilizers, such as magnesium. Once the process of creating cubic zirconium has been completed, this substance is then crafted into an appealing shape that enables it to better imitate diamond, and exhibit its flawless structure.

Due to the relative speed with which cubic zirconia is created - it does not, afterall, take billions of years – and the fact that it can be made inorganically, this gemstone is widely available for an extremely low price in jewelry stores and markets across the globe.

As a result, it is incredibly important that anyone with an interest in investing into diamonds understands the many differences that separate diamond and cubic zirconia, even if a first glance finds no significant discrepancies.

Cubic Zirconia Ring At Amazon
Cubic Zirconia Ring at Amazon

What Are The Key Differences Between Cubic Zirconia and Diamond?

By far the most obvious - and, for that reason, convenient - yardstick by which even an amateur can ascertain whether or not the gleaming stone before them is genuine diamond or cubic zirconia is, of course, by the price tag - or lack thereof.

Cubic zirconia holds no intrinsic value. Yes, jewelry made with this gemstone will still go for a price, but unless it is set within solid gold, it is unlikely to do anything but lose value as time goes on. As a result, cubic zirconia jewelry will typically sell for less than $100 – oftentimes falling incredibly shy of that amount. The gemstone will contribute little to the cost of the ring, with the setting often exceeding the value of the cubic zirconia housed within it.

A diamond's value on the other hand - is a completely different story...

Of course, this method for differentiating between diamond and cubic zirconia is only valuable when the seller is being upfront about the true value of what it is they are selling – whether jewelry, or gemstones. For the uninitiated, the right amount of charismatic ‘sales talk’ and, of course, a high cost attached to what appears to be a sparkling, well cut stone may well be enough to mitigate any concerns over fakes or imitations.

There are, however, a number of differences that cannot be masked or downplayed by a high ticket price. While some may require closer inspection, there is no need for any potential investor to hold a highly specialized knowledge in order to differentiate between the two.

Comparing Cubic Zirocnia and Diamonds in Light, Fire, and Brilliance

When we think of diamonds, we think of that unrivalled white glimmer that shoots in all directions as it catches the light; the way it transforms the glow of a dimly lit room into a spark that catches the eyes of anyone close by.

This phenomenon is known by diamantaires, jewelers and collectors as ‘brilliance’, and it is produced by the unique ways in which diamonds hold and cast light - something that imitations and fakes cannot pull off.

In addition to brilliance, diamond also gives off a certain amount of ‘fire’ - in other words, colored light reflected within the stone. The balance between fire and brilliance will depend on each diamond’s cut – and, of course, the cutter’s skill at determining the right shape and proportions for each stone - but due to the unique composition of this mineral, the results will inevitably dazzle all who look upon it.

Cubic zirconia, on the other hand, disperses greater quantities of light than diamond, while maintaining a lower refractive index, which means that it reflects a much more subdued rainbow of colored light with no brilliance. Some producers have attempted to utilise thin coatings such as diamond-like carbon, which imitate the refractive qualities of diamond, improve their resilience, and generally make the gemstone harder to distinguish from their authentic counterparts.

Still, in the majority of cases, cubic zirconia is easy to identify.

Diamonds vs CZ - Strength and Durability

We are all aware of the strength diamond holds. The exceptional process of atomic bonding that occurs during the creation of diamond means that its durability is unrivalled by other substances and, in a more practical sense, that it can be worn for many decades without sustaining damage, or losing any of that beauty first uncovered by the diamantaire.

There exists a system for quantitatively measuring the hardness of any given substance, known as the Mohs scale. Diamond has achieved the highest score of ten, with corundum and topaz falling in at nine and eight, respectively. All the more impressive is the fact that diamond is approximately four times as hard as corundum - offering some insight into quite how resilient this mineral really is.

Cubic zirconia, on the other hand, falls somewhere between 8 and 8.5 on the Mohs scale. This means that, over time, the cut edges of a cubic zirconia will inevitably smooth with wear, the facets will scratch, and the stone will turn cloudy.

Perfection, Clarity and Authenticity

Nature is bound by patterns, but also by a certain amount of spontaneity and inimitability. Just as no two snowflakes are the same, each and every diamond is subject to the unique conditions in which it was created, which means that slight imperfections, inclusions, and blemishes are far more common than flawlessness. This is why some diamonds sell for extraordinary amounts of money; they represent rarity in physical form to those who know how to recognise it.

Cubic zirconia is not subject to the intense conditions posed by nature - nor to millennia spent many miles beneath the earth’s surface - but to the controlled and barren conditions of the labs in which is it created. The results are consistently perfect, though they are not authentic in the same way that diamonds are, which of course, that’s not to say that in order to afford a diamond you must choose one with obvious imperfections. ‘Eye clean’ is a term used to refer to diamonds that feature unique discrepancies that remain invisible to the naked eye, ensuring that you needn’t purchase a cheap imitation in order to find good clarity in your diamond.


Cubic zirconia is denser than diamond - between 1.6 and 1.7 times greater - which means that there will be some discrepancy in size between a cubic zirconia and a diamond of the same weight, with the diamond being slightly larger.

Weighing these stones is an incredibly efficient way of differentiating between the two, provided there is a control diamond to use as a yardstick.


Colored diamonds are highly coveted around the world. A wide spectrum of colors, from delicate pinks and blues to vivid oranges, greens and purples, these colors are achieved

Wearers and collectors find their own unique sense of symbolism and purpose in these unique hues – particularly in light of the rarity of their existence, with certain colours being far less common than others, and the possibility of mining a gem quality colored stone incredibly slim. For that reason, their appeal stems not only from their arresting appearance, but from their individuality and the sheer improbability of their occurrence in nature.

Cubic zirconia can also be colored to achieve various shades and hues, with the primary difference being that this is also achieved within a controlled laboratory via a process known as ‘doping’ in order to achieve a variety of colors.

These conditions mean that colored cubic zirconium gemstones do not carry the same inimitable allure posed by colored diamonds, although they hold value for the mass-production of jewelry.


Is Cubic Zirconia a Mineral?

The official definition of a mineral stipulates that it is naturally occurring, rather than, say, manufactured in a laboratory setting.

Cubic zirconia entails a slightly more complex answer, in that it is possible for this substance to occur naturally, without interference from us. It is, however, incredibly rare, and far less lucrative than lab-grown cubic zirconia as a diamond simulant, and in cases of mass production.

So, in short, some cubic zirconia is a mineral, but you are far less likely to encounter this than you are a synthesized version of that naturally-occurring substance.

Is Cubic Zirconia Fake?

When it comes to cubic zirconia vs diamond, there really is no competition, and when cubic zirconia is put forth as a strong substitute – or posed as genuine diamond – it is, of course, fake in that regard.

Cubic zirconia simply cannot compete with any of diamond’s intrinsic qualities, from its visual appeal and complexity to its strength and brilliance, cubic zirconia will never be considered a significant rival to diamond, unless it is being used to disrupt and mislead the diamond market.

Is Cubic Zirconia Valuable?

Not in a way that is at all comparable with diamond – and, for that reason, not in a way that would pose any appeal to an investor or, indeed, anyone looking to gain a long term asset.

A ring featuring a genuine diamond, for instance, can be worn through many lifetimes without showing signs of wear or damage. What’s more, the fierce organicity of their creation gives further value to each gemstone, and makes them part of a story spanning eons which simply cannot be recreated or imitated within a laboratory. This is why they remain so suited to use in engagement rings and other momentous items of jewelry – and why their value grows with age.

Cubic zirconia holds neither a comparable individuality, nor complex history. It is a substance that serves a purpose in the creation of affordable jewelry produced on a mass scale, rather than in true and unique craftsmanship.

In short, cubic zirconium holds value inasmuch as any other widely produced substance that boasts no worthwhile resale value on the market today. It is not valuable in the same way diamond is.

Can You Wear Cubic Zirconia Every Day?

Unlike diamond, cubic zirconia cannot be worn daily without quickly exhibiting signs of wear and tear. It is prone to turning cloudy, and showing scratches and ‘worn’ edges that do not capture the clean precision of a well-cut diamond.

Can the Average Person Tell the Difference Between Cubic Zirconia and Diamond?

This really depends on the size, cut and style of the cubic zirconia, and the perceptiveness of the average person – and, of course, how closely they are looking.

There are, however, plenty of visual cues that do not require specialised knowledge – or even a microscope, loupe, or magnifying glass – to decode, particularly if the cubic zirconia is on the larger side. Their flawlessness often belies them, and gives off an artificial look that even the average layperson can pick up on.

What’s more, the cubic zirconia’s vulnerability to damage, wear and tear, and frequent use means that, after just a relatively short time, its inferiority to diamond will be glaringly apparent. The strength of diamond is well known the world over, which means that, with age, even the most convincing cubic zirconia will reveal itself to onlookers, for whom even the smallest scratch will be seen as a tell-tale sign.

Cubic Zirconia Vs Diamond

There are many factors at play that prevent cubic zirconia from achieving the same sentimental or monetary significance that diamond has long since held around the world. From the facts of its creation to its ability to last beyond a few years’ wear, cubic zirconia has found its place within the jewelry market – and it is far removed from that of diamond.

For anyone looking to make an investment, diamond is a clear winner. Whether you are looking for a stone that will remain within the family for generations, and serve a long line of wearers, or for a stone that is likely to find a good price on the resale market in a few years’ time, diamond represents your only reliable option.

For that reason, you should not only avoid those who attempt to sell cubic zirconia as viable simulants for diamond, but also understand how to spot the telltale signs of a forgery in order to avoid falling afoul of fraudsters. It is easy to be drawn in by a high price point and to take that as a sign of authenticity, but the only way to feel sure that your investment is going into the right place is to purchase your diamonds from a reputable seller, whose diamonds have been GIA certified.

Diamond has maintained such an irreplaceable significance in our lives, and for so many decades, due to the myriad factors that make it unique among other, visually comparable minerals and substances. We cannot hope to replace the exceptional story behind its journey to earth, just as we cannot ever imitate the unique ways in which it catches the light, or the attention of onlookers, or the heart of its wearer.