Razzle Dazzle: What's the Difference Between Diamonds, Zircon, and Cubic Zirconia?

 Hello to all you cool cats and jewelry lovin’ kittens! If you love the stones that bring the sparkle, you are in the right place. Today, we are going to be learning about the differences between diamonds, zircon, and cubic zirconia. Let me razzle dazzle you with some rock-out, knock-out knowledge!


What are these stunning, sparkling stones? 


Diamonds are a solid form of the element carbon, with its atoms arranged in a crystal structure called diamond cubic. They are thought to have taken formation within the first few billion years of the Earth’s history. Diamonds were formed about 100 miles or more below the Earth’s surface. It is VERY hot in this layer of the Earth, and the heat, in combination with the pressure of overlaying rock, created these dazzling diamonds. It is believed that the diamonds we see at the surface were brought up by very violent, deep-seated volcanic eruptions that occurred a long time ago in Earth’s history. They had to be fast moving eruptions because if the diamonds traveled too long or too slowly, their molecules would have changed structure and turned into graphite along the way. Science is SO COOL! Diamonds are the hardest known natural substance, is chemically resistant, and has the highest thermal conductivity of any natural material.  Diamonds also have special optical properties (AKA ways to SHINE) such as a high index of refraction, high dispersion, and unbreakable luster. It’s no wonder this is the world’s most popular gemstone!


Zircon is lesser known than diamonds, and severely underrated in the gem world.  It is the oldest mineral found on Earth today, with some crystals found in Australia estimated to be over 4.4 billion years old! Zircon is composed of zircon silicate and is found in a number of regions around the world, including Sri Lanka, Cambodia, the United States, and Australia.  It is much like diamonds in its hardness (diamonds have a hardness of 10 and zircon has a hardness of 7.5-8) and look. In fact, zircon has the highest refractive index out of any other gemstone, and that’s including diamonds. If you were to look at a zircon and a diamond with a loupe (a jeweler’s tool to get up-close and personal with stones), you would see that zircon has double-refraction so the pavilion facet junctions would appear as double-images, whereas diamonds are singly refractive and will not show doubling of features within the stone. In other words, you’re going to get more sparkle with zircon than with diamonds. Zircon is well known for its ability to split white light into a spectrum of colors and its dispersion, or fire. Some zircon also displays pleochroism, meaning that they have the ability to display two or more colors, depending on the angle at which the stone is viewed. Zircon is more rare than diamonds, but is sold at a fraction of the cost (we’ll get to why that is in a moment).


Cubic Zirconia is a colorless, synthetic gemstone made of the cubic crystalline form of zirconium dioxide. While diamonds and zircon are both found in nature, cubic zirconia is lab-created by melting zirconium oxide powder with stabilizer like magnesium. Cubic Zirconia has a hardness level of 8, which is less than diamonds but slightly harder than zircon, which gives it good durability for every day wear. Over time, however, cubic zirconia will become scratched and cloudy unlike diamonds and zircon, which will maintain their sparkle and shine for a lifetime. It is the most popular alternative to diamonds in the jewelry world.


You may have noticed when shopping for the sparklers that there can be a huge price difference between these three stones. Well, there’s a reason for it and we are going to dive right into it. First, cubic zirconia is the least expensive out of the three because it is man-made. Secondly, here is a myth in the jewelry world that you may have heard: Diamonds are expensive because they are rare. Zircon is actually more rare than diamonds and is sold at a fraction of the cost. Why is that? For centuries, diamonds were rare and a sign of wealth, power, and status. However, in the 1800s, a huge diamond mine was unearthed in Kimberly, South Africa, which had the potential to flood the market and bring down the cost of this precious stone. To prevent too many diamonds from hitting the market, De Beers quickly bought the mine and maintained tight control over the global diamond supply. De Beers also started an aggressive marketing campaign to promote diamond engagement rings, pushing out the long-standing tradition of engagement rings with sapphires and rubies. This mad rush demand, paired with the De Beers’ controlled limited release of diamonds, increased the overall cost of diamonds. Who knew?!


I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the differences between these three stones! As always, Barb and everyone at Local Luxe is happy to assist you with all your jewelry needs and wants because you are fabulous and should be treated as such! 

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