As the saying goes, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ In order to know whether CZ is appropriate as an engagement ring, you’ll want to learn a little more about it.
So, are CZ engagement rings tacky? Cubic Zirconia, or CZ, isn’t tacky as an engagement ring. It’s not a diamond, but it is a hard stone that looks very similar. It can be a beautiful, functional, and inexpensive option. CZ is the most known, and most widely used, simulated diamond in the world. It’s been a popular simulant since the 1980’s
CZ can deliver so much value, at such a small cost, so why would some people view it as ‘tacky’? We’ll explore many of the common reasons below.
Imagine, that you post something on Facebook about the fact that you’re thinking of buying a Honda Civic as a commuter car because you need something that’s good on gas. Suddenly, a comment is posted, saying that Hondas are ‘tacky.’ They point out that Ferrari’s are faster…that they have thicker and more durable paint jobs…and that you’ll get a lot more compliments from people when you drive it. Seems silly doesn’t it?
You aren’t looking to spend what a Ferrari would cost—You don’t need a Ferrari. You certainly don’t expect the Civic to have all the same features and capabilities—but you like the car anyway. It does what you need it to do. It’s a great car based on the value it delivers and what you’ll have to spend to get it.
People make similarly ridiculous comparisons between diamonds and cubic Zirconia all the time! Diamond and CZ are not the same. They aren’t made of the same elements, and they don’t have the same properties—but they also don’t have the same price tag.
Cubic Zirconia is an incredible value when you consider its cost. Quality Cubic Zirconia is beautiful and sparkly. It can draw the praise and comments that every bride loves to hear about her ring.
here are many options for attractive engagement rings, but Cubic Zirconia really stands out for those that need, or want, something ultra-affordable, without giving up too much of the diamond look, to get it. CZ could be a great fit if you only have a $50-$300 available for your ring. It could also be a great fit if you only want to spend $300 or less, meaning that a lack of resources isn’t the only reason that people commonly choose CZ.
If you had the ability to spend $3,500 on an engagement ring, for example, you have several great options available. Here are just a few:
Buy a .6 carat mined diamond.
Buy a .6 carat lab grown diamond, and have $2,100 left over.
Buy a .6 carat CZ, and have $2,800 left over.
Each of those examples assumes that you want something like a gold band to set your stone on. You could bring your costs down a lot further by considering other metal types. While I tried to keep things simple by comparing stones of the same size, you could easily give a larger man-made diamond or CZ and still save a ton of money.
That’s one of the things that draws people to lab made stones. They realize that they can only afford a very small earth grown diamond, or they could get a full carat if they go with a lab grown diamond or CZ—and still have a bunch of money left over.
What could you do with your savings if you buy a CZ and have money left over?
Splurge on your Honeymoon.
Put a down payment on a house.
Get more reliable transportation.
Pay down your debt (credit cards or student loans)
Start a college fund for a future child
Add to, or start, retirement savings
Add to, or start, a ‘rainy-day’ fund (emergency savings)
Why CZ Feels Like it Could be Tacky to Some
There are several reasons that you may be wondering if CZ could be perceived as being inelegant, shoddy, or tacky. For starters, diamonds cost so much, but Cubic Zirconia costs so little. Diamonds have become a status symbol. Hollywood ‘A-Listers’ and rappers wear huge diamonds costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to demonstrate that they’ve ‘made it’. Society in general often uses gems like diamonds to signal status. One place that diamonds might be considered ‘tacky,’ is if you used them to create a false impression that you had more money or success than you actually have.
We’ve all seen someone we know with ‘diamond’ on their finger that’s big enough to be worthy of a museum display case. Knowing something about their financial status, we instantly assume that it’s a fake diamond. Way over doing it on size might be considered tacky to some. It’s like you’re trying project financial status that you don’t actually have.
Going back to the example that we started the article with, driving a Honda Civic isn’t tacky at all. Ripping the Honda emblem off your car, and replacing it with a Ferrari emblem is tacky—and a pretty funny. People wouldn’t take your Honda Civic seriously though if it had a Ferrari emblem on it—but was clearly a Honda.
To avoid a similar issue, try not to over do it with the size of the stone on your ring. Even thought you could easily afford to by a 6 carat CZ stone, go with the .5 carat, or maybe the 1 carat. If you’re looking for something that most people will assume is diamond, then it’s best to stay at 1 carat or smaller for most people.
The other approach you could take, is not to care what others think of your ring. If you love the way CZ’s sparkle, and you want a big one, then by all means, get a big one! You can openly tell people it’s a Cubic Zirconia, or not. The important thing, is that you’re happy and comfortable with what you’re wearing.
Another major cause of for the impression that some people have about CZ rings being somewhat tacky, is influence from marketers and our peers. Put yourself in the mind of diamond industry marketers for a moment. If there’s a stone that cost just 1% of your product, but fills a very similar need, how do you compete. That’s an ENORMOUS cost difference to overcome in the mind of your would-be customer. One genius move, is to make potential buyers feel like the option that’s 99% less expensive is socially frowned upon and way uncool.
That sentiment is the result of just one television commercial or print ad, it’s the culmination of many decades of conditioning through many different channels.
For Surprise Proposals, Buying a CZ Ring is a Smart Move!
Let’s assume that you’ve decided that you’re going to buy a diamond engagement ring. You have the money, and you’re willing to part with it. If you’re planning to surprise your partner with ring, it would be really smart move to propose with a beautiful CZ ring, and then shop for the diamond together, after they say ‘yes’. Why? Because diamonds are expensive, most jewelers don’t want to take them back, and you may pick a very different ring style for your spouse-to-be, than they would select for themselves.
Let me illustrate with two real life examples. I surprised my girlfriend (now my wife) nearly twenty years ago, with a diamond ring that I had picked out on my own. The element of surprise made the proposal really fun for both of us I think. Fortunately, she liked the ring style I selected. Even still—I’m not sure she would have chosen the same ring if we had gone shopping together.
My wife’s brother got engaged about two weeks after we did. He also bought a diamond ring on his own, so he could surprise his girlfriend with the proposal. She loved him, and said ‘yes,’ but hated the ring. They’ve now been married for almost twenty years too. She still hates the styling of that ring.
If he had picked out out a beautiful CZ ring for $100 or less to propose with, they could have had a really nice proposal experience, and then shopped for a ‘forever ring’ together in the days that followed. Ultimately, they could have spent the same amount on a diamond ring, but found something she loved to look at in the decades that followed.
It’s even possible that they’ll love the CZ, and the idea of saving a bunch of money that can be applied elsewhere. They may decide to stick with that, buy a CZ with slightly different styling, or jump up to something that’s only a little more expensive, like Moissanite. In any case, you’ve minimized risk by starting with a CZ ring.
One thing is certain, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on an engagement ring to express your love and commitment. You also don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to prove yourself or to present a jaw dropping ring that you’ll both love!
Seems obvious doesn’t it? It should be, but before we can recognize the obvious to think and act in ways that make the most sense for us, we have to break through years of social conditioning that was brought to us through diamond industry executives and the masterful marketers that work for them.
CZ isn’t tacky for engagement if your ring is selected and gifted with love. It’s the quality of the emotion and feeling that matters—and regardless of what diamond peddlers what you to think, there’s absolutely no correlation between the quality of your love and the cost of your engagement ring.
Charging blindly into debt to buy a ring you really can’t afford isn’t romantic or chivalrous—it’s well-intentioned recklessness. Knowing that most marriages end because of tension over debt and finances, maybe protecting your relationship by avoiding debt is the least ‘tacky’ thing you could do—and it screams real love and protection much louder than a ring you borrowed money to buy ever could.
What is Better Cubic Zirconia or Swarovski Crystal?
While Swarovski crystals can be beautiful and inexpensive too, they’re ultimately made of glass, and just aren’t as durable as Cubic Zirconia. Glass has a hardness of approximately 5.5 of Mohs Scale of Hardness, while CZ has a hardness rating of 8.25 to 8.5. That difference in hardness is will impact scratch resistance and overall durability.
What is the Difference Between Zircon and Cubic Zirconia
Many people confuse the names Zircon and Cubic Zirconia. You’ll sometimes see or hear someone use the term ‘Cubic Zircon,’ which is an incorrect blending of two names. Zircon is a naturally occurring mineral. It’s also a birthstone for the month of December. Cubic Zirconia on the other hand is entirely lab created.
Which is Better, Cubic Zirconia or Moissanite?
Moissanite is a much harder and more durable stone, but it also costs quite a bit more. Because of that, it isn’t the right product for everyone, but it could be a good material to compare and consider. Moissanite is a lab created diamond simulant that’s considered by many gemologists and jewelers to be the diamond simulant that’s is most similar to diamond in terms of appearance and properties.
Both Moissanite and Cubic Zirconia (or CZ) are popular alternatives to diamonds for engagement rings, wedding rings, and promise rings. I’ll help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of both stones, so you can determine the best fit for your ring.
Which is better moissanite or cubic zirconia? Both Moissanite and Cubic Zirconia are lab-created stones.They’re both look very much like diamond, but are significantly less expensive. Moissanite is harder and more scratch resistant than Cubic Zirconia. If you can afford to, go with Moissanite for its durability. It’s a stone that will last forever.
Again, both stones have strong advantages and few weaknesses. Let’s dive into it!
Hardness is Scratch Resistance
The hardness of various gems and stones is easy to find out, important to know. It’s valuable, because hardness influences how easy or difficult it is to scratch something. Scratches aren’t pretty, but they can cause problems that go beyond the scars they create on the surface of your ring. The grooves created by scratches can collect dirt and oils that affect the way your ring processes light and obstruct sparkle. That can make your ring look more dull overtime.
The harder your ring, the less likely it is to scratch. You don’t have to work construction to be around constant threats to the look of your stone. Just doing normal things around your house or office can put your ring is a surprising amount of danger. If your stone is too soft, it could scratch as it comes in contact with the corner of desk, a sharp edge on a table or chair, a protruding staple, or any number of other items. Again, you’d be surprised.
All of those objects are small and unlikely threats if you have a stone that’s sufficiently hard, but with a soft stone, they can quickly and easily cause damage. Communicating clearly about the hardness of one stone versus another, isn’t always easy. Fortunately, there’s a hardness scale that’s commonly used across the industry, and throughout the scientific world.
In 1812, a German mineralogist named Friedrich Mohs created a scale based on a really simple concept—that you can communicate the relative hardness of things based on which items are capable of scratching other items. It wasn’t an entirely new concept. People had be experimenting with mineral scratching for hundreds of years, but Mohs documented his scale, creating a tool that’s proven useful ever since.
Friedrich took 10 minerals and arranged them in order from the softest substance to the hardest. He then assigned numbers from 1 to 10 based on their hardness. The softest material was assigned the number 1. The numbers then climbed until they ended at 10 with diamond.
Today, we use numbers between 1 and 10 to communicate about how hard various items are on the Mohs Scale. Based on the number, we instantly know the things that a given material is harder and softer than (we know the things that could scratch it, and the things that it could scratch). The things that are capable of scratching the stone in your ring represent threats to the beauty of your ring. The harder your stone is, the smaller the list of possible threats.
Based on this scale, Cubic Zirconia is rated between 8 and 8.5 (depending on the specific stone being evaluated). Moissanite is is rated 9.25 on the scale. Again, Diamond is a 10. Typically anything softer than 7 is considered too soft and vulnerable to be used as an exposed stone on a ring.
It’s important to remember that Mohs Scale isn’t proportional. In other words, you could have a 7.5, and 8, and an 8.5 on the scale. On the surface, it appears that each stone is just incrementally harder than the stone that’s just below it on the scale. In reality, the 8 could be drastically harder than the 7.5, but the 8.5 could be only a little harder than the 8. All the scale really tells us is the order of hardness, not the specific amount of hardness.
That’s important because a Sapphire rated at 9 may not actually be only a little softer than the Moissanite that’s rated a 9.25, but that’s definitely the impression the numbers give at first glance.
Toughness is Break Resistance
Hardness obviously isn’t all that matters. Materials tend to become more brittle as they become more hard. The hardest materials are typically the most prone to chipping, fracturing, or breaking. So while a Cubic Zirconia is more likely to scratch than Moissanite, it’s less likely to chip or break.
Toughness is an important consideration, but probably not as important as hardness, because in any given day, there’s a much greater chance that you’ll scratch your ring than break it.
Fortunately, since both Moissanite and Cubic Zirconia are much less expensive than diamond, if your ring gets damaged and you have to replace it at some point, You can do that without spending thousands of dollars on the new stone.
Risk of Clouding
Clouding can happen with the gem, or stone, on a ring for a variety of reasons. Some people will say that their stone has gone ‘cloudy,’ when the surface gets scratched up enough that it’s interfering with the natural look and sparkle of the stone. If the surface collects enough scratches, it could create a hazy effect.
Some of the original Cubic Zirconia would take on a cloudy appearance with time. That was a big disappointment to many of the brides that wore them as a diamond look-a-like. As soon as the stone takes on a cloudy appearance, it’s no longer going to pass as a diamond. Fortunately, manufacturers were able to find stabilizers they could add to address and stop the cause of the clouding.
Today, clouding is less a factor of time and more a factor of care. If you’re reckless with your ring, you may have it cloud up, but the clouding effect will typically be superficial clouding that you can clean off. Here are some types to avoid ring haze.
Don’t shower with your ring on: The shower can expose your ring to hard water and soap scum.
Remove your ring before doing housework: Cleaning chemicals can be hard on various stones.
Remove your ring before work or recreation outdoors.
Remove your ring before using hand sanitizer. Leave your ring off for 5-10 minutes after application.
Remove your ring before fixing your hair: hair has natural oils in it. Hair care products can expose your ring to additional chemicals and oil.
Even diamonds won’t look good forever if you don’t clean and care for them. Cubic Zirconias aren’t necessarily fragile, but the can be affected by these factors a lot more quickly and easily than Moissanite. The main reason for that difference, is that Cubic Zirconia has a slightly porous surface that oils can get into, where Moissanite and diamond have a non-porous surface.
There are amorphous diamond coatings that you can look into for Cubic Zirconia if you want added protection. Carbon based coatings referred to as ‘Diamond-Like Carbon’ (DLC) can now be applied as a thin coating over Cubic Zirconia to provide added protection from scratches and better protect the surface form oils. The protective coating is so thin and clear, that it isn’t visible as a distinguishable, or separate, coating.
A DLC coated Cubic Zirconia is obviously going to cost more than a non-coated stone. Please check the warranty if you decide to investigate this option. I personally wouldn’t pay extra for the coating unless it came with a pretty solid warranty that gave me real assurance that my ring would last longer because of it. The coating will help protect your ring, but please don’t get the impression that it’s going to make your ring indestructible. You’ll still need to replace your ring at some point, the coating is there to help it last longer.
The ridges in-between facets wear down over time on Cubic Zirconia. It’s in these areas, where flat cuts come together (like the ridge circled below), that some of the greatest impacts of wear occur. What were once pronounced and sharp edges in the Cubic Zirconia eventually become more rounded and dull.
This changes the look of the ring, but it also changes the way it handles light. As those ridges between facets become more dull and rounded, the ring isn’t able to break light through dispersion as effectively. The ability of the ring to sparkle is impacted.
Because of this tendency, Cubic Zirconia is almost always a temporary ring. Temporary could mean ten years or more, but eventually, you’ll likely need to have the stone replaced. At that point, you might have a new CZ mounted, or you may decide to upgrade to a more durable and permanent stone, if you’re in a financial position to, at that point.
Moissanite is considerably harder than Cubic Zirconia. Its ridges won’t wear down with time. Because of this resistance to wear, Moissanite is considered a ‘forever stone,’ meaning that it won’t wear out during your lifetime. As with diamond, you will be able to pass your Moissanite ring to future generations is you’d like—and it will continue to retain its original cut, color, and sparkle.
How Sparkle Differs
Sparkle is the most loved aspect of most engagement rings. It’s hard not to look at your hand as light hits a well cut ring at it explodes in bursts of white and colored sparkles that continually dance across the ring as you move it from side-to-side. Both Cubic Zirconia and Moissanite are very sparkly stones. In fact, they’re more sparkly than diamonds in many cases.
Cut is, by far, the most important component of sparkle. It’s the exact science of stone and facet proportions, facet alignment, and symmetry across every part of the stone. Quality polishing is also incredibly important. No gem, or stone, that’s cut poorly is going to sparkle well.
There are several important components of sparkle that you’ll want to understand. These are common terms that you’ll hear repeatedly as you talk with jewelers and continue to explore ring options.
When someone talks about a ring’s ‘fire,’ or says that are ring is ‘fiery,’ they’re talking about a very specific aspect of sparkle. When light enters your ring the cut of your stone helps to break the light up into the spectrum of colors that the light is made of. This process is called ‘dispersion.’ Those colorful lights are then channeled back through the top of the ring for you to see as colorful sparkles.
Gems and stones are sometimes said to be ‘brilliant’ or have ‘brilliance.’ As light enters the stone, not all of it is broken up into a spectrum of color. Some is reflected back to your eye as white light. That burst of light is contrasted against neighboring dark areas, which makes them more striking and beautiful. The white components of sparkle are referred to as brilliance. A ring is brilliant when it returns a lot of white sparkle to your eye.
As you move a diamond under lighting of various kinds, intense sparkles fire off in a pattern across the ring. The burst of light are contrasted against black and grey colors that also move across the gem. The intensity of the sparkle, combined with the contrast of the darker tones is what makes diamonds, and many simulant stones so interesting and beautiful.
Scintillation is the combined effect of both the flashes of white light (brilliance) and colored light (fire). Motion of the stone is required for the scintillation effect to occur.
Now that you understand these terms a little better, let’s look at some specific information on Cubic Zirconia and Moissanite that affects it’s sparkle.
Comparing Elements of Sparkle
Type of Stone
As you can see, Moissanite is far more brilliant than a Cubic Zirconia, and even more brilliant than diamond. Both stones are more fiery than diamond, but Moissanite has far more fire than Cubic Zirconia too. What does all this mean? If sparkle is important to you, and you want a ring that’s going to absolutely dance before your eyes, you want a Moissanite.
Color and Clarity Options
Cubic Zirconia is almost always perfect. It’s actually one of the ways that jewelers can tell the stone isn’t a real diamond when they examine it. Diamonds have natural flaws. They sometimes have some degree of yellow or brown hue to them.
They also have inclusions which are small imperfections that you can see inside the stone when you view it under magnification. Cubic Zirconia stones don’t have inclusions, and they’re colorless. Completely colorless diamonds are fairly rare, and they’re more expensive than diamonds that have some tint to them.
Moissanite sometimes comes out colorless, but more commonly, has some degree of yellow hue—just like diamonds. There are processes for taking Moissanite that’s slightly yellowed and making it more colorless. Sometimes slightly yellowed Moissanite is also put through a process to change it to another fancy color, like blue, green, or pink (among others).
Both Moissanite and Cubic Zirconia can come in nearly any color that you might be interested in. Colored stones are popular today. Pink diamonds, for example, sell at a premium. You can get pink Moissanite that’s beautiful, and equally long lasting, but MUCH less expensive.
Cubic Zirconia is a more needy stone than Moissanite when it comes to cleaning. Because of its slightly porous surface and it’s impacted by everyday dirt and oils much faster than Moissanite. Because Moissanite has so much more fire and brilliance, it also has the ability to sparkle even if it’s dirty, but the less fire and brilliance a stone naturally has, the faster that buildup can make it look dull and lifeless.
Since dirt and oils can collect in the scratches and scars on a ring’s surface, softer rings will need to be cleaned far more regularly. Some rings need to be cleaned multiple times each week. Even if you have a harder stone, like Moissanite, regular cleaning is a really good idea. You probably won’t know just how dirty your ring was until you clean it. Sometimes you think it looks fine, but then you clean it—and are blown away by the additional sparkle that you didn’t even realize you had been missing.
Cleaning can take several forms. If time or money are tight, you can simply soak your ring in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes to begin loosening dirt and grime up. You’ll then use a mild dish soap and a soft toothbrush to gently and thoroughly scrub your ring. Grime collects between the ring and the mounting, so you’ll want to carefully work around each prong in the setting as well as you can to get it really clean. Finally, rinse the ring and dry it completely. Dab it dry first, and then blow dry it with a hairdryer on a cool air setting.
Another option is an Ultrasonic cleaner. You can have a jeweler clean your ring for you in their cleaning machine, or you can purchase an Ultrasonic cleaner of your own to use at home for roughly $40.
The Cost Difference
Cubic Zirconia cost about one-third as much as Moissanite. You can get a quality one-carat CZ stone for $100 to $150. Moissanite will run roughly $300 to $500 for a similar one-carat stone. If you can afford it, go for a Moissanite stone for your ring. It’s going to give you the best sparkle, will require less maintenance to look great, and won’t wear out.
If money is really tight, get the Cubic Zirconia for now. It’s a beautiful ring, and you’ll probably be in a better financial position to upgrade to a forever stone several years down the road.
What Type of Moissanite Problems are People Seeing?
Moissanite is a really durable and low maintenance stone. The only common complaints that are often repeated involve the stone sometimes looking a little different under different lighting. It’s something that’s most commonly observed in Moissanite rings that are larger than 1 carat.
On cloudy days and under certain other lighting conditions the ring can have a yellow or green hue for a little while from a particular angle. Again, smaller rings don’t see that as commonly.
Some others say that Moissanite is too sparkly. They feel like it sparkles more than diamond and they wish they could turn the fire and brilliance down a bit. This is strictly personal preference. It seems that the sparkle is one of the aspects that most people like most about Moissanite.
Moissanite vs Swarovski, Which is Best for Engagement Rings?
Without a question, a Moissanite stone would be a better fit for an engagement ring. A Swarovski crystal is made from glass that’s been mixed with generous amounts of lead. That kind of glass crystal might work well for a necklace you wear very occasionally, but it wouldn’t hold up well on a ring that you wear daily and hope to keep for decades.
Glass is typically rated at 5.5 on Mohs Scale of Hardness. Anything less than a 7 is typically too soft for an engagement ring. The one positive, is that Swarovski crystals are inexpensive, but you get what you pay for in this case.
While Cubic Zirconia aren’t the only choice for a frugal but beautiful engagement ring, they are a solid option that should seriously be considered.
Why buy Cubic Zirconia Engagement Rings? Cubic Zirconia can be wonderful for engagement rings. The stones look very similar to diamonds, but are up to 98% cheaper for comparable stones. They also come in a wide range of shapes and fancy colors. Because the stone is 100% lab-created, they’re more ethically and environmentally responsible too.
An engagement ring is a big deal. It celebrates a really special moment in time, and wonderful things on the horizon too. Cubic Zirconia may be the right option. Here’s why …
1. Surprises are Fun—But Can Go So Wrong!
Surprise proposals often involve a dangerous guessing game, where a groom-to-be picks a ring out for his bride-to-be. Sometimes it’s a very different style than she would have picked for herself. She loves him—but HATES the look of the ring he chose. She doesn’t want more expensive—just different.
This form of ring roulette is played by men all the time. Sometimes it works out, other times (probably more often than not), a woman has to live everyday with an expensive ring that he really hates the look of.
My Brother in Law had this very thing happen. They got married just a couple of months before my wife and I did. He surprised his wife with a ring he had picked and was proud of. She hated it from the start, and still hates it today. It’s just not a style that she really vibes with. One day she’s like to get a replacement.
A quality Cubic Zirconia could give you the best of both worlds. You would have a beautiful, and inexpensive, ring to propose with. If she doesn’t love the look of the ring you chose, you could later take her to pick out a ring that she’ll really love for the long-term after she has accepted your proposal. This approach allows you to ‘have your cake, and eat it too.’ You get to surprise her, and she still gets to participate in picking the ring she’ll wear for decades to come.
2. Marriages with a More Frugal Start Last Longer
This flies in the face of what marketing messages have lead us to believe, but researchers at Emory University conducted a survey that found an adverse correlation between the amount of money spent on an engagement ring and marriage duration.
They found that couples spending more than $20,000 were 350% more likely to divorce than those that fell in the $5,000 to $10,000 range. Couples spending $2,000 to $4,000 on their engagement ring were 130% more likely to end in divorce than those that spent $500 to $2,000.
These researchers also observed the same inverse relationship when it came to the total amount of money spent on the overall wedding. The more couples spent, the higher the rate of divorce. Those spending $1,000 or less on their wedding ceremony and festivities were the least likely to get divorced as years passed. That’s a pretty frugal wedding, but it’s doable.
The study doesn’t mean that every couple the bought a big ring or had a big wedding is destined to divorce, or that every couple that bought an inexpensive ring and had a small wedding will have a relationship that lasts, but there seems to be something important in the study that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Money stress is the leading cause of divorce in the United States. Maybe blowing money on the big ring and the big wedding is a preview of tendencies that continue as the marriage starts. Not only might a new couple coming off a big expensive wedding have wedding debt, but they might go big with other things in their life too (the house, the car, vacations, etc) until financial stress boils over, leading to money fights and eventual divorce.
It could be that those couples who keep things simple, and as inexpensive as possible, carry those tendencies into their marriages and avoid a great deal of financial stress and fighting as a result. Financial stress seems to be a key factor sabotaging many of the marriages that start out on the wrong financial footing.
The Emory study found that women who spent $2,000 to $4,000 for their rings were 200% to 300% more likely to report feeling stressed about mounting wedding debt than brides that spent $500 to 2,000 on their rings. Both men and women that reported spending less than $1,000 on their wedding had 82% to 93% lower odds of being stressed about wedding debt than those who spent $5,000 to $10,000.
Financial stress leads to irritability, long working hours, cutting back and scrimping that can add friction to marriage and lead to arguments. One important reason to purchase a Cubic Zirconia ring instead of a diamond, is that it helps to keep your costs down. It helps you avoid debt and money stress. It gives you a more solid financial foundation.
3. Disproportionate Value
A high quality Cubic Zirconia can cost up to 98% less than a diamond that’s comparable in color, cut, clarity, and carat weight (the 4 C’s of diamond value). The Cubic Zirconia offers disproportionate value because it isn’t 98% less durable or less attractive than diamond.
The Cubic Zirconia will look incredibly similar. It’s high rate of refraction and dispersion mean that it isn’t a dull or lifeless stone by any means. It has lots of sparkle brought by its high rate of refraction and dispersion. If a CZ can bring you 90% of the utility and intangible value that a diamond would provide at 2% of the cost, that’s disproportionate value that makes it hard to justify the extra 98% that the diamond would cost us in order to gain only 10% of additional utility value.
4. It’s Better to Lose a Little Than a Lot When you Buy
The diamond industry tries to make you feel that the big expensive diamond engagement ring can be justified because it’s an “investment.” In reality, buying a diamond ring at retail isn’t an investment in any way, shape, or form. It’s a money loser.
Have you ever heard someone advise you to never buy a new car, because their value plummets as soon as you drive it off the lot? Buying a used car allows you to avoid that instant loss of value. Diamonds work the same way. If you went back to a jeweler you purchased a diamond from earlier in the day and tried to sell it back to him, he probably wouldn’t take it.
He can get inexpensive diamonds with payment terms from his suppliers, why would they want to buy yours for cash. You would need to discount your ring by 30% to 70% in order to off-load to the jeweler or another party most likely.
Knowing that, it makes a lot of sense to keep my costs (the amount at risk) down as low as possible. If I have to resell a $10,000 diamond ring, I’m going to take a financial beating! If I can’t use my $100 Cubic Zirconia though, I won’t lose any sleep even if I can’t resell it at all.
5. They Could Say, “No”
This one is no fun to talk about, but it’s a reality. Occasionally, when someone pops the big question, the answer is back is ‘no.’ Sometimes the other party is just nervous and needs some time. Sometimes signals got crossed and misinterpreted. Regardless of the reason, it’s obviously a painful experience. What makes that heart pain even worse, is the realization that you now have a diamond ring that you sent thousands of dollars on, but can’t return or resell without taking a major loss.
A Cubic Zirconia could be viewed as insurance against the unexpected. If they say, ‘yes,’ they get a beautiful ring that didn’t run you into serious debt. If they say, ‘no,’ you don’t have to deal with a major financial loss at the same time you’re dealing with the shifting relationship.
6. They Might Not Make it to the Altar
This one isn’t much fun to dwell on either, but sometimes one of you calls the wedding off (for a variety of reasons). When that happens, it isn’t much fun to start negotiating who keeps the expensive ring. The other party may feel entitled to it, and you realize that you would have to take them to court to get it back. It’s a hard position to be in when you’re dealing with an expensive ring and a sudden change of plans.
This difficult situation becomes much less complicated if the ring in question is topped by a Cubic Zirconia. Walking away without the ring won’t cause serious financial harm if you need to.
7. Diamonds get lost, stolen, and broken
Have you ever felt sick to your stomach when you lose something that has a lot of sentimental value? The only thing that makes that nauseousness worse, is when that item also has significant financial value.
Rings do get lost. Sometimes your rings doesn’t fit well and slips off your finger unnoticed. Retracing your steps doesn’t help. You can’t find the ring.
Rings get stolen. I went into debt to buy a diamond wedding ring for my wife nearly twenty years ago. I didn’t know that I had other options at the time. Some years later, my wife was cleaning the kitchen the morning before a crew was going to arrive to replace our windows. She took off her ring and set it in the window sill above the sink.
Later in the day, she realized she had forgotten to put it back on and went to get it. The ring was gone. My wife called the window company and explained her concern. The person she spoke with didn’t seem to believe her story and wasn’t particularly kind about it, but he said he’d look into it. He confronted his workers and was able to come up with the ring. It was a close call with a rare happy ending.
Rings also get damaged or broken sometimes. Diamonds are really scratch resistant because they’re extremely hard. That hardness also brings brittleness. Diamonds are far more susceptible to being chipped, cracked, or broken than most of the softer stones. Getting dropped, accidentally closed in a door, or a number of other unfortunate circumstances can break your ring and severely hurt your finances.
Again, if you have a Cubic Zirconia, a lost, damaged, or stolen ring is sad and frustrating, but not financially devastating too.
8. People Can’t Tell Anyway
Cubic Zirconia look very similar to diamonds. Friends, family, and co-workers probably won’t be able to tell a CZ from a diamond, as long as you don’t go way overboard with size. Since Cubic Zirconia as so inexpensive, there’s a temptation for some to get a huge 8 carat ring because they love the way it looks.
Recognizing that an 8 carat diamond would likely be far outside your financial grasp, they’ll often assume your ‘diamond’ is fake. If you keep your stone size reasonable (similar to the size you could afford in diamond), most people will assume your CZ is diamond.
9. To Push Back Against Marketer Brainwashing
Marketers influence our thoughts and opinions on things. That’s what they’re paid to do, and it’s effective because you don’t even realize it happening. If you associate diamonds with engagement rings and marriage, that’s because of cultural shift brought about by marketers. It isn’t something you were born with.
In fact, Diamonds haven’t always been part of the marriage tradition. Prior to the 1940’s other gems like Opals and Sapphires were the norm. It was specific ad campaigns to shift public opinion for their own profit that brought us to our current traditions.
De Beers, the largest diamond producer in the world, then and now, set a goal “to create a situation where almost every person pledging marriage feels compelled to acquire a diamond engagement ring.” De Beers was coached in memos regarding marketing strategy that, “Sentiment is essential to your advertising, as it is to your product…for the emotional connotation of the diamond is the one competitive advantage which no other product can claim or dispute.”
In the years since they launched their marketing efforts, De Beers has been so successful at sinking messages deep into society, that we fear judgement if we don’t buy the right kind of ring…or a big enough ring. That judgement isn’t just from the one we present the ring to. What will her parents think? What will her friends and co-workers say?
If a diamond isn’t presented that’s sufficiently impressive, the conditioned implication, is that he doesn’t love his bride-to-be very much, or that he just isn’t very successful or promising as a prospective husband.
In reality, does going into debt for a ring you can’t afford, and don’t really need, make someone more promising? It actually shows poor judgement, but again, I bought into the same conditioning and went into debt to buy a diamond for my bride when I got married, because that’s what I thought you had to do.
In the years since, I’ve learned about alternatives to diamonds like Cubic Zirconia and Moissanite. They’re beautiful and so much less expensive. I’ve wished that I could go back and do things differently. I could have given my wife a nicer looking Cubic Zirconia without taking on debt. That wouldn’t have changed the way I felt about her at all, or the impact of our vows.
In addition to building demand for their products, the diamond industry has spent huge sums influencing your opinion of diamond alternatives. They want you to see them cheap and inferior, even when they’re very similar or absolutely identical.
Want proof? Look at the history of Synthetic Diamonds. Synthetic Diamonds are man-made and completely Carbon based, just like mined diamonds. They’re chemically, physically, and optically identical to diamonds mined from the earth. That’s bad news for the traditional diamond industry. They’ve spent massive amounts of money and energy smearing man-made diamonds.
In 2018 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) came out with new guidelines indicating that manufacturers and retailers no longer have to use the term “Synthetic” to describe lab-created diamonds. The word “Synthetic” suggests that something is fake or an imitation, but man-made diamonds are, in fact, diamonds. They even noted that it would be false or misleading advertising for a retailer to use the word synthetic to describe a competitor’s lab-grown diamonds. They suggested use of the word “Cultured,” as a component of accurately representing man-made diamonds going forward.
Losing such significant ground on this issue was certainly devastating to the diamond industry. Shortly following that announcement, De Beers shocked the industry by switching positions on the issue. They announced that they would start manufacturing lab-created diamonds as well.
Similar efforts to influence cultural opinion regarding use of stones like Cubic Zirconia and Moissanite continue today. They’re essentially positioned as acceptable stage jewelry, but nothing more.
10. Because the Money is Better Used Elsewhere
Diamonds used to be viewed as a luxury item for the most affluent. Brides didn’t expect them…or even want them. Demand hadn’t yet been manufactured through cultural manipulation. One of their main goals, was to form associations with, and emotional attachment to, diamonds. Women, at the time, were more practical in their wants and expectations. They’d rather have a new oven or a washing machine than a ring that just sat on their finger.
A quality one-carat Cubic Zirconia would likely cost between $100 and $300 depending on where you bought it and other factors like the color and cut of the stone. A comparable diamond would probably cost $5,000 to $10,000, again, depending on its cut, color, and clarity. If you bought a Cubic Zirconia, instead of an expensive diamond, how could you put the money you save to better use? Here are a few potential ideas:
Upgrade your Honeymoon
Offset other wedding costs
Put a down payment on a home
Pay down Student Loans or other debt
Invest it in a Mutual Fund or retirement account
Start a college fund for a future child
Save for a ‘rainy day’
In the end, you have a beautiful ring on your finger that sparkles and reminds you of your vows, but you also have extra money in the bank, less debt, or maybe a new roof or your head.
11. You May Need a Different Ring Style in the Future
Your needs evolve over time. At some point, you may find that you’d love a new look because band styles change. You may also need a new ring for more practical purposes. I purchased a solitaire for my wife when we got engaged. It proved to be an effective sweater snagger. The protruding diamond would catch on clothing pretty frequently. That was an annoyance, but it became a bigger issue when we had our first child. My wife didn’t want her ring scratching our baby, so she needed to wear a simple band that had a more flat surface for a while.
The average engagement ring purchased in California is just over $10,000 currently. If you spent that much for your ring, it would be harder to set it aside and purchase a second ring. Because Cubic Zirconia is so affordable, you could purchase two or three in different styles over time and still only spend a small fraction of what a diamond ring would have cost.
12. Because Sentimental Value Can’t be Purchased
One of the major messages that De Beers has promoted, is the idea that your diamonds will have rich sentimental meaning to your children. They also promote the fact that you’re passing something along with real financial value.
Sentimental value has nothing to do with the fact that there’s a diamond on the ring. That has to do with the quality of love and memories that home life left behind. Your children would cherish a ring made of anything, if it symbolized love and commitment, but it isn’t what you buy (how you invest your money) that will achieve that…it’s how you act and where you invest your time.
Diamond rings put your kids in a tough spot. Either money stays needlessly locked up in a ring that they won’t sell because it means so much to them (which means they can’t realize the monetary value), or they sell your ring and sacrifice the sentimental value because they need the money. Both avenues have a downside.
The alternative, is to buy a beautiful ring that doesn’t cost a lot. When your children inherit that, they’ll be able to fully enjoy the sentimental value of the memories and commitment it represents, without being conflicted over whether they should sell it…it’s just a keepsake.
13. The Cost of Diamonds is Artificially High
Diamonds aren’t as rare as you might think. Supply has been constrained to keep prices high. De Beers has enjoyed a diamond production monopoly for years. At times, they produced 90% of all rough diamonds sold. Stories abound, of various dirty antics and shady practices that helped them to gain and keep their monopoly for so long.
While De Beers produces fewer of the rough diamonds sold today (approximately one-third of the total supply), they control the lion’s share of diamond processing. They’ve convinced other diamond producers to send diamonds through their diamond processing company, which can then continue to regulate the flow of diamonds into the market. It’s essentially, a diamond cartel.
Their aim, is to keep prices high so diamonds remain a luxury item with a feeling of exclusivity, rather than becoming a commodity that’s within everyone’s financial reach. If everyone could afford diamonds, they will no longer be useful as class separators, with rich people buying them to display wealth, and the middle class and poor taking on debt to finance the appearance of wealth.
By purchasing a Cubic Zirconia, you opt out of their game rather than participating.
Is Cubic Zirconia Real?
There are several possible answers for this question. Yes, it’s a real stone, but it’s always lab-created. Cubic Zirconia isn’t found in nature. While it has a strong resemblance to diamond, it isn’t diamond. The two stones are made out of entirely different materials. Cubic Zirconia is made of zirconium dioxide, while diamonds are created from Carbon.
Are Cubic Zirconia Engagement Rings Tacky?
Whether or not Cubic Zirconia is ‘tacky’ is a matter of opinion, not fact. That sense that Cubic Zirconia is substandard and uncool (or tacky) is a conditioned. The diamond industry is afraid of competition from low cost alternatives that looks so similar to their product. Rather than celebrating the technological advances that bring such high quality stones to us so inexpensively, they use marketing influence to cause us to question our self worth if we choose alternatives.
In my opinion, there’s nothing tacky about wearing a beautiful stone, regardless of what it’s called, or where it came from. The fact that it can be purchased and enjoyed at such a low cost makes it more attractive and interesting, not less.
Are Cubic Zirconia a Better Value Than Moissanite?
Both Cubic Zirconia and Moissanite are fantastic diamond alternatives. Both are a considered hard stones, both are entirely lab-created, and both are substantially less expensive than diamond. Moissanite is a harder material (9.25 on Mohs Scale of Hardness), meaning that it’s even more scratch resistant than Cubic Zirconia or Sapphire. While still relatively inexpensive, Moissanite is more expensive than CZ.
Since value takes both cost and quality into account, it’s hard to say whether Cubic Zirconia is a better value, but it’s probably a better fit for people that have really serious budget constraints.
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.
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.
Diamonds are so much more expensive than than an equally beautiful Cubic Zirconia, but who wants to cut corners on something as important as a wedding ring if the cheaper alternative is soon going to end up looking terrible?
Do Cubic Zirconia look like real diamonds? Quality Cubic Zirconia look a great deal like diamonds, but they aren’t indistinguishable. Cubic Zirconia have more fire, but less brilliance, than diamonds. They also aren’t as hard, so they will wear differently over time. Under magnification, diamonds have natural imperfections, but Cubic Zirconia don’t.
There are both strong similarities and critical differences between Diamonds and Cubic Zirconia. We’ll help you to understand and weigh those factors so you to choose the material that going to work best for you.
Where Cubic Zirconia Come From?
While natural diamonds are either found or mined, Cubic Zirconia (often referred to simply as CZ) are manufactured. They’re essentially very clear crystals that are made from Zirconium Oxide and an additive like yttrium or calcium oxide. The resulting product is relatively hard and completely clear material that can be cut like a diamond.
Unlike diamonds, Cubic Zirconia are optically perfect. Natural diamonds have inclusions, fractures, and other other imperfections. Only the rarest of diamonds are colorless. Most have some degree of yellow or brown tinting.
Cubic Zirconia on the other hand are clear, colorless, and free of the small blemishes of all natural diamonds.
For the record, Cubic Zirconia are often mistakenly referred to as Cubic Zircon. In reality, a Zircon is a naturally occuring gem. It’s actually the December birthstone, and has nothing to do with Cubic Zirconia.
Does Cubic Zirconia Shine Like a Diamond?
Your friends and family probably won’t notice a difference in the sparkle, but Cubic Zirconia have more colored light and less white light reflected back. This provides a beautiful show of shimmering colored sparkles, but it isn’t exactly the same sparkle you’d get from a natural diamond.
To maintain that sparkle across decades, you’ll want to follow the simple cleaning and maintenance instructions outlined below.
How Can Others Tell That You are Wearing a CZ, Not a Diamond?
It’s honestly incredibly hard to tell at first glance…especially from any distance.
The most common give away that a ring contains an imitation stone instead of a diamond, is the size of the rock on the ring. If a young student at a state college is wearing a ring with, what appears to be, a multi-carat diamond, it’s likely to strike others as an almost certain fake. If a CZ is a reasonable and believable size, it’s extremely unlikely that it would ever be questioned.
With diamonds, sometimes less is more.
What’s the Difference in Scratch Resistance?
Mohs Scale of hardness is something that’s used to help clearly compare and relate the relative hardness of various minerals or materials. On this 1-10 scale, softer substances have a lower score. Harder materials have higher score.
The hardness score for both gold and platinum is about 3. Cubic Zirconia scores an impressive 8.5, while diamonds are in a league of their own with a perfect 10. Anything that’s harder than a particular material is typically capable of scratching it. For example, a Cubic Zirconia could easily scratch gold, but gold couldn’t scratch a Cubic Zirconia.
Because diamonds are at the extreme end of Mohs scale, they aren’t very prone to scratches, however, there are things harder than a Cubic Zirconia, so you have to exercise additional caution when wearing one to ensure it isn’t coming in contact with things that could mar it.
Are There Differences Related to Color Changes and Risk of Damage?
The appearance of diamonds doesn’t really change over time, but they can lose some of their luster temporarily if not cleaned regularly. A scratched surface can also start to dull the appearance of a ring and make it look somewhat clouded. Because of the relative hardness of both rings, this is a much greater risk with a CZ than a diamond.
Early CZ stones manufactured in the 1970’s would take on a clouded appearance with time, instead of maintaining the beautiful clear qualities they had when they were new. That change took place with time, regardless of how they were maintained.
The industry soon found that by adding certain stabilizers during the manufacturing process, the problem could be addressed and avoided. Stabilizing agents have been widely used ever since. Because of those adjustments to the manufacturing process, you can now purchase Cubic Zirconia that looks as clear and beautiful as the day you bought them indefinitely.
Some have reported that their Cubic Zirconia have taken on a more milky or cloudy appearance as they’ve used hand sanitizer regularly. It’s a good idea to keep both your diamond and CZ from coming in contact with chemicals and agents that could have adverse effects.
It’s not uncommon for diamond evangelists to rail against Cubic Zirconia as cheap, disposable, or evidence of some substandard kind of love.
Of course, none of those expressions and opinions are true. CZ’s have made amazing strides over recent decades. Much of the misinformation is being spread ignorantly, but a great deal of it is spread by people that have an interest in selling you natural diamonds. The growth of Cubic Zirconia popularity in recent years is, almost certainly, troubling to the diamond industry.
In reality, Cubic Zirconia aren’t the same as a diamond, but they’re very close in several areas that really matter, and they cost a great deal less. Those that don’t have money for something more expensive, or that choose to spend the money they save on a diamond to pay down debt, save, or invest in a first home, will almost certainly be thrilled with their brilliant and beautiful CZ ring.
What’s Most Effective for Cleaning and Care?
Natural oils from you hand, as well as oils and general grime from our everyday environment can find their way into crevices in and around your diamond or CZ causing them to lose some luster and sparkle.
To clean your ring inexpensively and effectively, use a soft bristled toothbrush (either new or used will work fine) and some mild dish soap in warm water. Gently scrub your the surface area of your stone, as well as the mounting. Be sure to pay extra attention to the underside of the ring. As grime accumulates there, it has an extra impact on muting natural sparkle.
Be sure to thoroughly dry your ring after the cleaning. Drying can be done by dabbing the ring, and then also using a blow dryer on a cool air setting.
What’s the Cost Difference?
While both Diamonds and Cubic Zirconia looks very similar when they’re mounted on a ring, their price tags couldn’t be more different!
Business Insider reported a state-by-state study that found Americans spend $6,351 for an Engagement Ring on average. Couples in California spend more than $10,000 for their ring on average! That says a lot about the cost of diamonds. They aren’t inexpensive.
Many people feel a sense of societal pressure to present the person that they love with a diamond ring they really can’t afford. While the ring may look beautiful, it isn’t worth years of financial bondage.
In contrast, an equally beautiful ring with a quality Cubic Zirconia might typically run $50 to $700. There are a number of factors that lead to such a wide price range, like the size of the CZ, the metal that the ring is made out of, the size and intricacy of wedding band and mounting, the warranty offered, branding, and a number of other factors.
If you’re planning a surprise proposal, a CZ ring could at least be a safe temporary measure that allows you to get on one knee, with a beautiful ring in hand, for that special moment, without spending, or risking, a lot.
If your proposal ends in a “Yes,” you can go shopping together for the more permanent ring…ensuring that she gets something she really loves.
Opportunities for significant savings make it worthwhile for many couples to at least explore an option like Cubic Zirconia as they evaluate alternatives and make decisions.
Can Cubic Zirconia Scratch Glass?
Glass is rated at about 5.5 on Mohs Scale of Hardness. A Cubic Zirconia is rated at 8.5. Since the CZ is the harder of the two, it will easily scratch glass. Because of this, you can’t do the glass scratch test to distinguish a diamond form a CZ.
Can a CZ be set in any kind of ring?
A Cubic Zirconia can be used for any ring that a diamond can be mounted in (or on). There are no added restrictions.
Should You Tell Your Partner if You Bought a Ring with a CZ?
Honesty is the best policy. If your partner is offended or upset that you purchased (or are thinking of purchasing) something other than a diamond, it’s best to know now. The better practice, is to find comfortable ways to bring up rings and artificial diamonds before buying something, so you can learn about their thoughts and preferences in advance.
Mined diamonds are expensive! If you’re looking at potential alternatives, Synthetic Diamonds and Cubic Zirconia may be options you’re considering. Some people wonder if those are two names for the same stone.
So, are synthetic diamonds the same as cubic zirconia? Synthetic Diamonds are not the same as Cubic Zirconia. Synthetic stones are literally diamonds…they’re just man made instead of earth made. Synthetics are chemically, physically, and visibly the same as a mined diamonds. A Cubic Zirconia (or CZ) is not a diamond. It’s a look alike (a Simulated Diamond).
While Synthetic Diamonds aren’t the same as Cubic Zirconia, both options are cheaper than a mined diamond. The features and info outlined below will help you determine the option that will work best for you.
Like Zebras and Horses
Horses and Zebras look similar in many ways. In fact, very young children might call both animals a horse because they haven’t yet learned to identify Zebras as a separate animal. They both have the same basic shape, and a young horse might even be the same size as an adult zebra for a while, but they’re still very different.
They both have four legs, hooves, long faces with similar basic features, mains, tails, and similar ears. They’re similar in more ways than they’re different, but their still very different. If you genetically removed the iconic stripes from a zebra, and even made it grow as large as a horse, it still wouldn’t be a horse. The same is true of Lab-grown diamonds and Cubic Zirconia. The Cubic Zirconia may look similar, but it contains no carbon, so it’s chemically very different and could never be considered to actually be a diamond.
Getting our Terminology Straight
There are a couple of important terms that you’ll want to be familiar with as you learn and shop. The term, “Synthetic Diamond” refers to a diamond that was grown in lab rather than mined from the earth. In this application, the word synthetic is misleading because the word is typically synonymous with fake, but in this case, there’s nothing at all “fake” about a synthetic diamond.
In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has stated that it’s misleading for companies to refer to their competitor’s man-made diamonds as “Synthetic” because of the potential to misunderstand the meaning of the term.
The term “Simulated Diamond,” essentially means a look alike of some sort that isn’t actually a diamond. Simulated stones could be natural or man-made. They’re general much less expensive than synthetic stones. Examples of simulated stones could include: Cubic Zirconia, Moissanite, White Topaz, White Sapphire, Zircon, Rutile, Spinel, and synthetic garnet.
Other Names that are Used
“Synthetic” Diamonds are known by many other names as well. Because you’ll see all of these names used in different places and applications, it’s important that you recognize that they all refer to the same thing. Some of the other names that these stones are known by, include:
Cubic Zirconia are also commonly called by the abbreviation CZ. It’s important to know that people sometimes mistakenly use the term Cubic Zircon. Zircon is something completely different. It’s a naturally occuring gem. It’s actually a birthstone for those born during the month of December.
All of these terms can be used interchangeably.
How Man-Made Diamonds are Made
There are a number of processes that have been devised for creating diamonds in a laboratory, but the two most common are HPHT and CVD.
The HPHT process is most common currently. It’s a laboratory process that simulates the forces that the earth uses turn carbon into diamonds. With intense heat and pressure the earth produces diamonds over the course of 3 million years. Labs can now make identical diamonds in 6 to 10 weeks using machines also use intense heat and pressure to turn carbon into a man-made diamond.
CVD is an entirely different kind of process. It uses a low pressure process with gases that are rich in carbon. Heat is used to break the carbon bonds in the gas, and then the carbon falls and settles on a substrate below.
How Cubic Zirconia are Made
Cubic Zirconia are also manufactured in a laboratory, but unlike lab-grown diamonds, they don’t contain any carbon. The crystals that comprise this stone are made of Zirconium Oxide and an additive like Yttrium or Calcium Oxide. Stones that use Yttrium seem to be higher quality, and more durable, stones than those that use Calcium Oxide.
The relative hardness of the various components of a potential engagement ring or wedding ring is important information to have, because it tells you something valuable about potential maintenance needs and durability. Any material can be scratched by an item that’s harder than it is. If your ring is made of a soft material, then everyday house or yard work could easily scar your ring.
In 1812, Fredrich Mohs contrived a relative scale of hardness that would allow us to have a clear way to conceptualize and communicate the relative hardness of various materials. He chose ten minerals and arranged them in order of hardness, with the very soft talc first and the hardest material, diamond, last.
Each mineral was assigned a different number ranging from from 1 to 10 based on hardness with 1 going to the softest material, 2 going to the next softest, and so on. In the end, Fredrich created a scale known as Mohs Scale of Hardness. Using that same 1-10 scale, we can now easily communicate the hardness of a variety of materials.
Man-made diamonds, like diamonds mined from the earth score a 10. In reality today’s lab-grown diamonds are even harder than mined diamonds. That hardness means that the gem on your ring is unlikely to scratch as you do everyday tasks with your ring. The edges of your stone’s cut will stay sharp and crisp, without ever wearing down.
A Cubic Zirconia is between an 8 and a 8.5 on the Mohs scale. Anything harder than the stone can easily scratch it. Scratches on the surface of your stone can mute it’s sparkle and make it look worn. Abrasion can also wear down the sharp edges and corners of your CZ, making those appear more rounded and dull over time.
A Cubic Zirconia is, by no means, considered a “soft” stone, but it is softer than various items it may bump up against as you go through your daily routine. To avoid wear and scaring, you would need to be especially careful to guard and protect your Cubic Zirconia from coming in contact with things that could come in contact and scratch it. If you’re playing with your kids in the yard, doing yard work, helping new neighbors move in, or even cleaning around your house, you might want to take your ring off first.
The terms “Fire” and “Dispersion” refer to the way a stone takes light, breaks it, and then reflects colorful sparkles. A stone that glitters with colorful sparkles is said to be “fiery.”
The term “Brilliance,” refers to the way a stone takes light, and reflects white light back.
Sparkle is one of the things that is attractive about diamonds, but it can also be a noticeable point of differentiation with many stones that are used as diamond alternatives. Cubic Zirconia tend to have lower brilliance and more fire than diamonds do. When they catch light, they reflect back a rainbow of sparkles that are full of color. While both lab-grown and mined diamonds also have fire, it’s nowhere near the amount that your average CZ has.
Many brides really love the fiery look for their Cubic Zirconia engagement rings. They don’t care that it isn’t exactly like a diamond in this regard. A fiery ring can be really hard to keep your eyes off. You may often find yourself slowly moving your hand back and forth as you notice light hitting your ring, so you can watch the colorful display of sparkles shining back.
While the weight difference wouldn’t be noticeable on your hand, Cubic Zirconia are significantly more dense, and therefore heavy, than diamonds. It’s one more way that these stones can be distinguished.
Another difference in the two stones is their conductivity. Diamonds are excellent conductors of heat and electricity, but a CZ is not. There are electronic tests that can quickly and decisively determine if a particular stone is a diamond or not based on conductive properties.
You can do the same thing by breathing on a stone to fog it up. If it’s a diamonds, the fog will clear within a couple of seconds. If your stone is a Cubic Zirconia, or some other diamond alternative that’s less conductive, it will take much longer for the fogged stone to clear again.
Synthetic diamonds are far more expensive than Cubic Zirconia. While a CZ isn’t as durable as a lab-grown diamond, because of the differences in physical and chemical properties described above, they cost so little that replacing them isn’t a serious financial set back if it’s needed at some point.
A 1 Carat Synthetic Diamond currently runs approximately $2800 to $4,400. By contrast, a 1 carat Cubic Zirconia will only set you back between $20 and $40! That’s a HUGE cost difference! The CZ is roughly 1% the cost of the Lab-Diamond. It would be hard for someone to argue that it only provides 1% the value and beauty of a lab-grown gem. It’s not the same as a diamond, but it may be a great value for those that really need, or want, to keep their ring costs minimized.
If you buy a Cubic Zirconia and it gets scratched over the course of 10 or 15 years, you can pay to have a new CZ put in. You could even upgrade at that point to something like a Moissanite, a White Sapphire, or lab-grown diamond if you’d like.
Comparing Color and Clarity
Diamonds, both lab and earth created) come in varying shades. Sometimes they’re clear, but often, they have a yellow or brown tint to them. Diamonds also have flaws called inclusions that develop naturally. Diamond that have clear coloring and are more free of inclusions sell at big premiums.
Cubic Zirconia are far more consistent in terms of color and clarity. In fact, Cubic Zirconia are optically perfect. They’re very clear and don’t have inclusions.
Comparing Tendency to Cloud Over Time
Like mined diamonds, lab-created diamonds have a clarity and color that will never change. They will occasionally need to be cleaned in order to remove dirt and oils that can temporarily dull their sparkle, but one well cleaned, they should sparkle like new again.
Cubic Zirconia, by contrast, can cloud over time, meaning that they get white haze that dulls the stone’s fire and brilliance. The original synthetic CZ stones tended to all get cloudy with time. Recognizing that issue, manufacturers found additives that corrected the issue. Today it’s far less common. Clouding isn’t something that will happen to all CZ stones. In fact, it’s probably more the exception than the rule if you buy a quality stone.
There are several potential causes of clouding. It seems that really cheap CZ stones are more prone to clouding, so it seems that maybe corners are being cut in the manufacturing process to minimize costs. It could be that they’re using less expensive, but also less effective, stabilizers for example. Cubic Zirconia are inexpensive as it is, so it’s probably worth it to spend just a little more to get a stone that was less likely to skip on quality materials.
Another cause is scratching. A stone with a scratched surface is going to be more muted and dull, however the scratching allows space for substances like oils to collect and impact the ring. Cubic Zirconia also has a surface area that is somewhat porous compared to diamond. Those tiny pores in the stone can collect dirt and oils that are the most likely culprit for most clouding.
Chemical exposure could also potentially cause clouding issues. It’s recommended that you don’t apply lotion with rings on generally, because of the oils in the lotion. It’s also a good idea to remove your ring before applying hand sanitizer.
Washing your CZ ring regularly, and thoroughly, in warm water and mild dish soap can help to remove dirt and oils to preserve brightness and sparkle of your ring hopefully delay or prevent clouding.
Comparing Grading Standards
Without going into exhaustive detail, Cubic Zirconia are sometimes promoted as be grade A, AAA or AAAAA. It would nice if those grades were tightly policed and regulated, but their not. Because of that, lots of retailers with what truly amounts to grade A stones will claim they’re AAAAA grade. Just know that you can’t put much weight in a promoted grade for your CZ. Instead, just personally inspect the stone and make sure you’re happy with its appearance.
Both man-made and mined diamonds have a very regimented grading scale and certifications that you can have much better confidence in. Grading standards for diamonds address cut, color, clarity and carat weight.
The Best Stone for Your Engagement or Wedding Ring
Choosing between a Lab-made Diamond and a Cubic Zirconia is a little like choosing between a Ford and a Mercedes. Both can get you from point A to point B, and both can look good and run well, but they just aren’t the same in terms of features or cost.
You could decide the Ford is the best, and most practical fit, given your budget. That would be good choice. If you have the money available, you might decide that it’s worth splurging for the Mercedes because it has some features that you really love. That’s would also be a great choice given the situation.
It’s important to know that there is a wide variety of options that fall in between the Ford and the Mercedez before you make your final choice. Maybe a Toyota or Lexus could strike a better overall balance between cost and features. In terms of diamond alternatives, the mid-range could include things options like Moissanite or White Sapphire for example.
How Much Does it Cost to Have a New Stone Set?
If no additional repair or work is needed, a reasonable range would be $30 to $150. Some jewelers may ask as much a $300, especially if they’re making other repairs at the same time. Prices can vary a lot from store-to-store, so checking with multiple jewelers before settling on one could save you some decent money.
Do Lab Created Diamonds have Resale Value?
All diamonds tend to lose at least 30% of their value (often more) the moment that you buy them. You can’t sell them back to the store for anything remotely close to what you paid for them. Jewelers aren’t likely to buy your diamond for cash when they can buy diamonds that are as cheap, or cheaper, from wholesalers with better terms. It’s best if you view your ring as a sunk cost, and assume your ring will only have sentimental value in the future.
How Big is too Big for a Cubic Zirconia Ring?
You should get a size that makes you happy with the look and feel of your ring, but wearing a stone that’s too large is the most obvious clue for most people that the rock on your hand isn’t a real diamond. If you want others to assume your CZ is a diamond, then don’t over do the size of your stone…less is more.