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||Brilliance||Fire|
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.