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.