Are you Considering a CZ vs diamond as your “Gem” of choice for getting married?
Is cubic zirconia on your radar for your engagement ring? You’d save a lot of money…. Do I approve? No! As a wedding ring designer I’ll tell you why in technical and emotional terms.
What is Cubic Zirconia?
Technically, cubic zirconia is zirconium dioxide. It’s a laboratory grown synthetic mineral. It’s optically flawless, usually colorless, though it can be made in a variety of colors.
Don’t confuse cubic zirconia with zircon. Zircon is a birthstone for December babies. It is a gemstone mined from the earth. CZ’s are not. CZ’s are grown in a lab. We December babies who have zircon as a birthstone are not happy when someone asks, “What’s that pretty stone?” I say, “it’s a zircon.” They look bored. And say, “oh.” They assume it is a cubic zirconia. That is because in addition to calling them CZ’s, they get called zircons.
There is a thorough and technical Wikipedia explanation of CZ.
CZ vs. Diamond, a Poor Substitute
Cubic zirconia—commonly called CZ—is widely used as an inexpensive diamond substitute. To the untrained eye, a brand new CZ looks like a real diamond. This is why many people substitute them for the real thing.
Does this mean it’s alright to put one in your wedding ring? For a number of reasons, the answer is NO! A CZ is to diamond what brass is to gold. The two substances may look similar—especially when new and clean—but they’re not!
Unlike diamonds, CZ’s scratch and become dull and lifeless over the long term. They don’t sparkle like real diamonds either once you’ve worn them for a bit.
How Do You Tell CZ from Diamond?
The Fog Test
Hold the CZ next to a diamond and “huff” on them with your hot breath. Both stones will fog up. The diamond will clear up rapidly, while a CZ will take a little longer. This is due to diamond’s greater thermal conductivity.
The Facet Edges are Different
Diamond facet edges are sharper and more defined than CZ facet edges. Under ten times magnification you can see the cz has rounded facet edges.
CZ’s are Denser Than Diamonds
If you take two identical diamond looking gems knowing that one is a diamond and one is a cz, but not knowing which is which and weigh each one, the cz will weigh more than the diamond. Some jewelers say they can tell by having them in their hand and bouncing their hands. I haven’t tried that. I use a scale.
You Can Read Through a CZ
If you take a CZ and a Diamond and lay each one over a line drawn on a paper, you can see the line through the cz, but not through the diamond. This has to do with the way diamonds refract light from their facets.
Diamonds Scratch CZ, Not the Other Way Around
Diamonds scratch many gemstones. That is why I tell people to store their rubies, opals, pearls and other gem jewelry where it won’t be touched by their diamonds.
CZ’s most definitely can be scratched by a diamond. A CZ will not however scratch a diamond.
The Real Cost of Cubic Zirconia
Perusing the internet the other day, I was astounded at the prices jewelers—and the regular public—were quoting for CZ’s. I saw them costing anywhere from forty dollars per carat to hundreds!
One site said that CZ’s cost about one-tenth of what a diamond does! That means that if a one carat diamond went for $6,000, a CZ of the same size would cost $600. Nothing could be farther from the truth! If you paid more than $20 or $30 for one—whatever the size—you probably paid too much.
Diamonds vs. CZ’s, What Are You Saying with Your Gem Choice?
Diamonds are the hardest natural substance on Earth. As I mentioned, they rarely scratch, they don’t cloud up, and degrade over time. Like the famous slogan says, “A diamond is forever.” A cubic zirconia? Not even close.
Diamond rings mean something. They’re a symbol of love, marriage, and eternity. Diamonds don’t degrade over time and the rings in which they’re set get passed down from generation to generation. CZ rings? Not so much. Diamond rings are valuable. CZ rings? Nope!
CZ’s are cheap. A few grande lattes at Starbucks would cost more. So would a toaster or two tickets to the movies and snacks for you and your significant other.
Diamonds are valuable. They’re important and precious. They always have been and always will be. Diamonds stand for a lasting, sparkling love. CZ’s…not so much.
CZ is so close to diamond on the Moh’s Scale of gemstone hardness, so Diamond is only slightly better, right?
The Moh’s scale of hardness is not a numerical scale. A number is assigned to the next hardest gemstone in this scale.
This would be a gemstone that can scratch the previous gemstone. That doesn’t mean that the next level of hardness is for example 10% harder than the previous gemstone. It could be 100% harder or it could be 13% harder.
For example, the difference between a sapphire, which is 9, (corundum on the scale) and a diamond, which is 10 is considerable. A sapphire will chip and scratch way before a diamond will and yet they are one numeric level of hardness away from each other on the scale.
A diamond is much harder than sapphire. So a CZ, which is at 8.5 is not close in hardness at all to a diamond. There is a very large gulf between the 8.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness of CZ and the 10 of diamond.
Wouldn’t it be cheaper to replace CZ every few years than to get a diamond?
Technically, it would be cheaper to buy a new cubic zirconia once a year for many years than it would be to buy a diamond, but there are other costs to consider.
If your intention is to replace your CZ every time the shine fades, then you need to remember to factor in the cost of labor to un-set the old and re-set a new CZ.
While we’re at it, just like twisting a paperclip back and forth will break it, your ring prongs will not put up with your yearly back and forth un-setting and re-setting action without needing replacement. The labor and replacement, with prong work, may over time still be cheaper than having a diamond, but at what cost to your ring? Quite a bit if you stay married very long. Which I sincerely hope you do.
Diamonds, CZ’s, and You and Getting Married
You would never buy a brass or aluminum wedding ring, right? You’d get one made out of gold or platinum. Gold and platinum are valuable. Brass and aluminum are not. Brass is for plumbing fixtures and aluminum is for cheap pots and pans. Likewise, diamonds are for weddings. CZ’s are for cocktail parties.
Last Word on Cubic Zirconia
There’s nothing wrong with CZ’s in costume and less expensive jewelry—especially the kind your teenage daughter wears to school everyday (more than likely, on more body parts than you would care to think about).
If you are considering a CZ instead of a diamond, know that the urge to choose the cz is the urge to have a gem that looks like a diamond. That is understandable.
Now you know that CZ’s do not hold up to daily wear. I’d recommend going for a smaller stone size and getting a nice yet small diamond. It will last.
I just made a new engagement design for a half carat, round diamond, that is a hundred years old . It was my client’s great grandmother’s diamond. It was small, but sparkly. A hundred years old. Just wow.
When it comes to matrimony, I say stick with the real thing. Choose a diamond.
Passionate Wedding Jewelry Designer,