No one wants to see a ring, as special as their wedding ring, get all scratched up if they can avoid it, so, of course, it’s a good idea to research whether a particular stone is durable enough to handle everyday wear…but be sure to take the information in context.
Can Cubic Zirconia scratch? Cubic Zirconia can get scratched. It’s considered to be a relatively hard stone, but anything that’s harder than it is, has the potential to scar its surface. Cubic Zirconia falls between 8 and 8.5 on Mohs Scale of Hardness. That’s hard enough to be quite scratch resistant, but not scratch proof.
Scratch resistance is a major talk point of diamond peddlers. It’s valid, but once your stone has a reasonable level of scratch resistance, it probably shouldn’t be your dominant focus. We share 4 reasons for that perspective below, along with some great information on the durability of Cubic Zirconia stones.
1. It’s All About Trade-offs
In a perfect world, you would, of course, want the stone that you choose for your engagement ring or wedding ring to be ideal in all key areas. It would be the most beautiful, the strongest, the hardest, and the least expensive. It’s a special ring that commemorates the most important commitment of your life.
In reality, ring shopping is a process of strategic compromise. It’s about deciding the things that are most important to you, and then getting as much as you can in those areas, without conceding anything too detrimental in other important areas. Here is a quick list of some of those key areas to consider.
- Size (in carats or mm)
- Hardness (scratch resistance)
- Toughness (fracture resistance)
- Amount of cleaning required (some need more frequency to avoid looking dull)
- Amount of Sparkle (and type of sparkle)
There are a lot of options available, but in reality, no stone is likely to meet all your hopes and wishes perfectly. If you nail the cost, cut, color, size and sparkle, you’ll probably have to make sacrifices in the remaining areas. If you want to nail the cut, color, hardness, amount of cleaning required, and amount of sparkle, you’ll probably have to make concessions on size and cost.
2. Cubic Zirconia is Extremely Durable, Given the Price
Diamond snobs love to talk about how Cubic Zirconia (often referred to as CZ) isn’t as hard as diamond, as if that’s news to the rest of us, or a fatal flaw…it isn’t. In reality, Cubic Zirconia is considered hard stone. I’d love to see a list of the things that you come in contact with in your everyday life that are hard enough to scratch a CZ. It would be pretty short list.
Of course, it’s far more likely that you’ll collect scratches over time on your CZ than on a diamond, but when the Cubic Zirconia costs 98% less than a diamond of the same size, I find myself willing to accept the risk.
The fact is, that diamonds also get scratched. They aren’t scratch proof…just very resistant. Scratching doesn’t only have to do with the hardness of materials. It also has to do with force and pressure. If you lightly drag a diamond along a brick wall it may not scratch, but if you press the diamond firmly into the brick as you drag it along the wall, it’s far more likely to come out scarred.
If I have a ring that’s going to eventually get lost, stolen, broken, or scratched, I’d much rather have that be a Cubic Zirconia than an expensive diamond that’s harder to replace because of its high price tag.
No one walks with their knuckles dragging on the sidewalk. You would likely be careful and protective of your ring, regardless of what it’s made of. In reality, with some basic care and awareness, you’ll avoid a great deal of potential damage.
Not all CZ is equal when it comes to important aspects of quality and durability. If you’d like to see some examples of beautiful CZ rings that buyers have provided glowing reviews for, click here.
3. Replacing Your CZ Stone is Inexpensive.
If your Cubic Zirconia does end up collecting scratches over time, and you have to get it replaced in 15 years, that probably won’t be a big deal, financially. You may spend another $150 – $200 for a new stone and the replacement service, but then you have new-looking ring again, and you’ve still only spent a small fraction of what a comparable diamond ring would have set you back.
4. No One Got Harmed in Bringing Your CZ to the Market.
The icing on the cake, is sure knowledge, that no one got butchered in the name of bringing my diamond to market. No slave labor was involved. I’m not unknowingly funding terrorist organizations when I buy a lab created stone.
Before we delve into the more information on what CZ is made of, just how hard it is, etc, I wanted to frame the discussion and put it in perspective. Yes, CZ can scratch…it’s possible, but the material is very scratch resistant. No, it isn’t as hard or even remotely as expensive as diamond. When it’s all said and done, that feels like a really fair tradeoff to me.
Where Cubic Zirconia Comes From
Cubic Zirconia is a man-made stone that has been mass produced for Jewelry since the 1970’s. In those early days, stone quality wasn’t great. They didn’t look as similar to diamond and they now do. Those early stones would also cloud up pretty severely over time.
A milky looking stone didn’t work well for women wanting a diamond alternative, so manufacturers had to go to work on finding a way to better stabilize the stone. They eventually found additives that did the trick and helped stones to remain much clearer.
Today, it’s generally only the ultra-cheap stones that get cloudy on their own. Those manufacturers cut corners on materials and process in order to save costs and create profit margin. The result is a stone that may look fairly nice initially, but won’t stand the test of time. Even quality stones can start to look cloudy if they’re damaged or dirty. We’ll talk more about that a little later.
To find inexpensive Cubic Zirconia where corners weren’t cut, check out our most trusted suppliers.
Cubic Zirconia is comprised of very clear crystals that are made from Zirconium Oxide and an stabilizing agent like yttrium or calcium oxide. The resulting stones is highly refractive, meaning that it creates a great deal of sparkle. It also has high dispersion, meaning that much of the sparkle is broken up in the spectrum of light, causing it to be reflected back as colorful flashes that dance across the surface of the ring.
Mohs Scale of Hardness
The Crystals manufactured as Cubic Zirconia are relatively hard, but can be scratched. Understanding just how hard CZ is, and all the things that are capable of scratching it, is much easier and a lot more clear using a common scientific tool, called Mohs Scale of Hardness.
Friedrich Mohs built the scale in the early 1800’s by gathering 10 elements and then arranging them in order of hardness from the softest material to the hardest. He could easily determine where they belonged in the line up based on which elements were capable of scratching other elements. Talc, the softest element, couldn’t scratch any of the other other samples. Diamond, the hardest could scratch all of them.
Friedrich then assigned a number to each of his ten original elements based on their place in that original lineup, which again, was based on their relative hardness.
Any solid material, in theory, could be placed somewhere on Mohs scale based on what it’s capable of scratching…and what’s capable of scratching it. Based on where it falls in that line up, it would be given a number. That number would immediately communicate the relative hardness of a given material. If you’re familiar with Mohs Scale, you would instantly know something important about the relative hardness of any unfamiliar item by simply learning it’s rating on the scale. You immediately know the things that are harder than the item you just learned of, and the materials that are softer.
Cubic Zirconia is rated between 8 and 8.5, depending on the specific stone being evaluated. For simplification, we’ll just use 8.5 from here on out when discussing CZ. One important bit of info that you need to know, is that Mohs Scale doesn’t have consistent spacing between numbers…it isn’t proportional.
This means that there isn’t a consistent and balanced increase in hardness between a 9, a 9.5, and 10 on the scale. For example, A diamond (rated at 10) is 4 times harder than a Sapphire (which is rated at 9) and six times harder than Topaz (which is rated at 8). A Sapphire probably isn’t twice as hard a Cubic Zirconia though. Again, the numbers on the scale aren’t evenly spaced. In reality, the scale simply communicates, which materials are capable of scratching other materials.
It’s exciting to see the rapid pace of innovation with diamond alternatives in recent years. One new development related to Cubic Zirconia, is the introduction of carbon based coatings.
Enamel protects your teeth from cavities. If your natural enamel isn’t thick or strong enough, the dentist can apply a clear coating that works as a super hard protective shell.
Carbon coatings work similarly. They provide a diamond like scratch resistance for your ring, while still helping you save significant money.
Hardness vs Toughness
As you evaluate rings, it’s valuable to understand the relationship between hardness and toughness. Most stones are strong in one area and weak in the other. Again, die-hard diamond fans will argue that diamonds are super hard and can’t be scratched. Diamonds actually can be scratched, but their extreme hardness also makes them somewhat brittle. They can chip, crack, or break much more easily than stones like Cubic Zirconia.
Cubic Zirconia is probably a better all around stone in the sense that it’s hard and fairly scratch resistant, while also being less prone to breaks and fractures of various kinds because it’s softer than diamond.
Top Maintenance Tips
In order to avoid issues with scratches, it’s a good idea to remove your ring before doing housework, yard work, or heading to the gym. Those physical activities can put your ring in jeopardy if you’re not extremely careful.
Wash your ring every week or two with warm soapy water and a very soft toothbrush. It’s probably best to just use mild dish soap for that. Rinse and dry thoroughly when done.
You can also use an Ultrasonic cleaner with CZ if you want a ‘set it and forget it’ approach to keeping your rings super clean and sparkly. These machines really do take most of the time and effort out of cleaning your ring. This is the same type of cleaning mechanism that many jewelers use every day. Instead of paying a jeweler to do it for you, you can clean the ring yourself at home if you have your own Ultrasonic cleaner. The cost of home units is now REALLY affordable. Amazon offers This great Ultrasonic Cleaner for home use. They have a really great price on it. These machines are so convenient and do a fantastic job.
Are Cubic Zirconia better than Diamonds?
The answer is different for each bride. It depends on the features and benefits that are most important to the individual, and of course, on their budget. Generally speaking, I feel that Cubic Zirconia are a much better value than diamond.
They cost less than 2% of what a comparable diamond would run, but they give me a very comparable beauty and function. Durability won’t be nearly as strong, but again, I can replace my stone down the road if needed and still save a massive sum.
Is Moissanite more Durable than Cubic Zirconia?
Moissanite is an impressive stone for engagement rings and wedding bands. It’s more expensive than CZ, but far less expensive than mined diamonds, or even lab-created diamonds. In terms of hardness, Moissanite is rated a 9.25, so it’s incredibly scratch resistant.
Moissanite is also fiery and brilliant. It’s a beautiful stone, and worth considering.
Does Cubic Zirconia Float?
Diamonds typically sink in water. Many simulated diamonds will float, or sink more slowly than diamond. Cubic Zirconia is about 1.7 times more dense than diamond, so it’s also a sinking stone.