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What Are Simulated Diamonds? Learn About Diamond Simulants

What Are Simulated Diamonds? Learn About Diamond Simulants

As many of you know, apart from being the hardest substance that exists, diamonds are one of the most expensive and popular gemstones that charm with their sparkle and beauty.

But their expensiveness is the reason why diamond stimulants are getting more popular day by day.

Now, you’re probably wondering: What are simulated diamonds?

A simulated diamond is essentially a material similar to a natural diamond that shares some of its characteristics. That said, a simulated diamond has different optical and physical properties, chemical composition, and crystal structure – and that’s why it costs a lot less than a real thing.

These simulated diamonds – also called “diamond simulants” or “substitutes” – can be natural or artificially made. 

But, how can we distinguish a simulated diamond from a natural or a grown one? Check out this article to find out the answer to this – and many other questions!

What Is The Difference Between Simulated And Synthetic Diamonds?

Although many people think that “simulants” are the same thing as synthetic diamonds, they are undoubtedly different. 

Synthetic diamonds are also called lab-grown, cultivated, man-made, or artificial. They are still genuine diamonds – only created in a lab – that share natural diamonds’ chemical characteristics. 

So, unlike simulated diamonds, synthetic ones are actually real diamonds. The only difference is that synthetics are created artificially.

Even with gemological equipment, it can be nearly impossible to identify a lab-created diamond, and only special diamond testing can help with that.

Learn More: Lab-created Diamond Vs. Natural Diamond

Recognizing A Simulated Diamond

So, that gorgeous-looking, sparkly diamond you crave might not be an actual diamond at all. You’d be surprised to know how many gems that you see at the jewelry store are, in fact, simulated diamonds.

But, how do you identify a simulated diamond and distinguish between different types of them? Well, it’s helpful to have some of its characteristics in mind when choosing.

Hardness Level

According to the Mohs scale that rates the hardness of gems, diamond is the hardest material on Earth with a rate of 10/10. Indeed, most of the simulated diamonds cannot even come close to that hardness level.

Simulated diamonds aren’t as durable as natural ones. They cannot hold up to daily wear since they’re not resistant to everyday hazards like scratches from fingernails, coins in your pockets, and even household dust. 

Believe it or not, dust contains tiny particles of quartz, which is ranked a “7” on the Mohs scale and is the number one enemy of jewelry and simulated gems.

Brilliance Level

Diamonds’ single reflectiveness and superior hardness mean that you can polish them more easily than other gems – let alone imitations. This quality allows diamonds to have a brighter sparkle. 

Still, it is known that few simulated diamonds have more fire and brilliance than diamonds.

On the other hand, some of the simulated diamonds are double reflective, meaning that they can emit a rainbow sparkle visible to the naked eye. The rainbow sparkle is an indicator of a diamond imitation.

Density Level

Moreover, we have to keep in mind that diamond imitations have alternating densities.

That implies that a simulated diamond with less density than the diamond can appear larger – and vice versa: An imitation with a higher density level could appear smaller than the diamond with the same carat weight.

Clarity Level

Natural diamonds contain inclusions that developed within their structure as the stone formed. As opposed to real diamonds, simulated diamonds usually don’t carry that kind of internal flaw – much like lab-grown diamonds. 

They’re perfect – but not in a good way. 

Related Read: Diamond Clarity Chart: Everything You Need To Know

Color Quality 

Diamond color is of crucial importance when you need to identify a genuine diamond.

Even though colorless diamonds are somewhat rare, they still exist. On the other hand, most simulated diamonds are manufactured without color.  

Therefore, if you put a genuine diamond next to a simulant, a simulant will look “whiter.”

Type Of Setting

While a simulated diamond doesn’t need to be set in a cheap metal, its most significant selling point is the low price. 

Therefore, it doesn’t make much sense for the jewelry sellers to raise the price of the diamond simulant by using a precious metal for its setting.

Hence, a simulated diamond will most likely be placed in a silver setting type.

Related Read: Types Of Diamond Settings: A Guide To Setting Styles

Different types of simulated diamonds are available, each with its own composition, quality, and appearance. 

Below are some popular gemstones, followed by detailed information about them: 

  • Cubic Zirconia
  • Synthetic Moissanite
  • White Topaz
  • White Sapphire
  • Quartz
  • Synthetic Rutile
  • Strontium Titanate
  • Gadolinium Gallium Garnet
  • Yttrium Aluminium Garnet

Cubic Zirconia

Sometimes shortened to the acronym CZ, it appeared in 1976, and due to its diamond-imitating qualities, it is considered the second-best substitute for diamond.

It is a synthetic, colorless gem made of zirconium dioxide. Although it’s really rare, it can appear in nature in the form of mineral baddeleyite.

This gemstone is a softer stone than other diamond simulants you can find since it ranks as 8.5 on the Mohs scale. This fact suggests cubic zirconia is prone to scratching and chipping.

In natural light, cubic zirconia emits a rainbow of color, while under sunlight, it produces a disco ball-like effect, which according to many people, looks artificial.

Apart from that, it is much more dense than diamond. That’s something that gives it away and translates into a specific weight of almost twice of a diamond of the same size.

Even though this gemstone is very affordable, it has no resale value like diamonds do. 

Related Read:

Synthetic Moissanite

French scientist Henri Moissan, Charles & Colvard employee, discovered moissanite in 1893. He first thought he had discovered a genuine diamond – but later concluded that the gem was made of silicon carbide. 

Yet, it is the best simulated diamond that has been discovered to this day.

It is a pretty rare material, only found in minimal quantities in meteorites and small deposits in Earth’s crust.

With a hardness of 9.25 on the Mohs scale, it is the second hardest stone in the world after diamond. Therefore, it is ideal for everyday activities.

That’s not the only property for which it is considered the perfect imitation of a diamond, though. 

Synthetic moissanite also shows twice the dispersion and has a similar specific gravity of 3.22 versus 3.52 of a diamond.

In addition, it presents birefringence or double image, without forgetting that it is often up to ten times cheaper.

Although it has greater fire than a real diamond, moissanite’s accentuated shimmer creates a disco-ball effect, which, again, indicates that it’s a simulant and not a diamond.

Related Read:

White Topaz

White Topaz is a silicate mineral made from aluminum and fluorine. And even though it comes in many colors – including green, blue, and yellow – its original form is transparent.

One of the disadvantages of this gem is its softness. It ranks as eight on the Mohs scale, which makes it softer than cubic zirconia and unsuitable for daily wear. Even more so, it’s susceptible to scratching and chipping.

White topaz is known for its glossy emitted look and prismatic crystals that result in lower shine. Nevertheless, even if you choose a stone with the slightest flaws, it can still appear clean to an unaided eye.

You can find these stones in different cuts. When used as a diamond imitation, the preferable and most popular is round white topaz cut.

Related Read:

The White Sapphire

White sapphire is a gemstone that belongs to the corundum group of gems.

While blue sapphire is the most popular sapphire color, white sapphire has gained a place in the group of popular diamond imitations.

This gemstone is characterized as very hard, tough, and durable due to its ranking as “9” on the Mohs scale. That also suggests that it’s fit for everyday wear – and won’t be easily damaged or broken.

One argument against choosing white sapphire is that it lacks optical similarities to a diamond. Its shimmer is not nearly as charming and beautiful as the diamond – and can come to be very cloudy.

Also, it’s worth noting that this gemstone can be natural and lab-grown. The mentioned types of white sapphires have the same characteristics and can be easily confused.

If you’re looking for a gem that looks like a diamond, you should consider choosing a white sapphire in a smaller size, though. The disparateness from the diamond becomes more evident in a larger size.

Related Read: Diamond Vs. White Sapphire: Comparison Guide

Quartz

Quartz, also called Herkimer diamonds or rock crystal is the second most common mineral in natural occurrence, a composition of silicon dioxide.

Quartz is ranked as “7” on the Mohs scale. That is the lowest ranking a jewelry-type gem can have. Softness makes quartz unsuitable for daily wear and prone to cracking or scratching.

This gem comes in a range of colors, such as brown or purple, but can also be multicolor – or in some cases, colorless. 

When choosing quartz, you should have in mind that it has a significantly lower reflection index than a diamond. Therefore, the sparkle is going to be quite different. More precisely, quartz reflects light in a twinkly, not sparkly manner.

Related Read: Diamond Vs. Quartz: ​Comparison Guide

Synthetic Rutile

Synthetic Rutile appeared on the market in 1948. It’s a gemstone with a higher reflective index dispersion than a diamond, which makes it slightly more brilliant than a diamond.

Besides, this gemstone’s fire is more than seven times greater than the diamond’s fire. One positive aspect of synthetic rutile is that it can be almost colorless but with excellent clarity.

However, its popularity began to decrease when buyers discovered its low hardness (6.5 on the Mohs scale), causing abrasion injuries. Also, it is double reflective, causing a blurry image of the stone’s inner side.

Gadolinium Gallium Garnet (GGG)

Gadolinium Gallium Garnet is a synthetic gemstone used as an early diamond substitute. GGG is manufactured by the Czochralski method and can be manufactured in many colors.

This stone is a lot denser than a diamond, with a specific gravity of 7.5. 

Moreover, it is considerably softer since its ranking is 6.5 on the Mohs scale, meaning it is not a great choice for daily wear. You could wear it daily – but it won’t hold up well.

Yttrium Aluminum Garnet (YAG)

Commercially called “diamonair,” Yttrium Aluminum Garnet first appeared in 1969.

It’s a material that does not exist in nature and is manufactured by the method of stretching, also known as the Czochralski method. 

It’s a stone made specifically of an oxide of aluminum and yttrium, otherwise known as “yttrium aluminate garnet.” It has a structure equal to that of natural garnets – but with a slightly different composition as it does not contain silicone.

However, despite having a hardness of “8” on the Mohs scale and high clarity, it has a lower refractive index and is much heavier than a diamond of the same size.

It should be noted that the yttrium aluminum garnet is no longer a popular simulated diamond.

More often than not, it can only be found in vintage jewelry.

Conclusion

It’s no secret to anyone that diamond is one of the most coveted and valued stones in the world of jewelry. These facts indicate that scientists will keep on inventing different types of simulated diamonds.

With that said, let’s do a recap – what are simulated diamonds?

Diamond simulants are often a stunning natural or artificial alternative to diamonds. Still, they’re not compositionally or optically equivalent to diamonds – meaning that they don’t hold their value as well in the long term. 

But, on the other side, they are affordable.

Nonetheless, some of these stones – like synthetic moissanite – feature optical dispersion and hardness that imitate the appearance of a diamond, making them barely distinguishable. 

So, no, a simulated diamond won’t necessarily scream “Fake.”

Related Read: Moissanite Vs. Cubic Zirconia Vs. White Sapphire