Everyone is familiar with the high price tags of diamonds – not everyone can afford one. When shopping for a ring that has a gemstone similar in appearance to a diamond, you might come across moissanite, cubic zirconia, and white sapphire.
So, moissanite vs. cubic zirconia vs. white sapphire – which one should you pick for your ring?
These three options are all considered a diamond alternative that comes at a much lower price tag than natural diamonds. Each of these comes with unique characteristics, which we’ll cover below.
So, without further ado, let’s learn more about diamond alternatives!
What Is Moissanite?
Moissanite is a near-colorless stone made out of silicon carbide. First discovered by Henri Moissan, a French scientist, moissanite was initially found in the meteor-created crater.
Even though they look similar at first, moissanite is quite different from a diamond. Diamonds are, as you may already know, made out of carbon. On the other hand, moissanite is composed of pure silicon carbide, a natural mineral.
The natural moissanite discovered by Henri Moissan is exceptionally rare – making it practically impossible to use naturally-occurring moissanite for jewelry. As such, the moissanite found on today’s market is produced in labs.
Even though moissanite is made to look like a diamond, it differs from it in both composition and looks.
Although moissanite and diamonds can look somewhat similar in color when viewed from a distance, there are significant color differences between these two gemstones that are more apparent when the two are seen up close.
The difference becomes especially noticeable when the gems are bigger.
While diamonds are graded on a color scale from D to Z, moissanite isn’t categorized by its color. However, moissanite isn’t completely colorless, either. Rather, it resembles the color K grade of diamonds.
You can even notice yellow and green tints in moissanite when viewed under certain lighting conditions. The bigger the gem, the easier it is to detect yellow, green, or gray hues.
The moissanite’s clarity refers to the number of inclusions and blemishes detected in the stone. Just like diamonds, moissanite is generally imperfect; it’ll often have some sort of imperfections visible when viewed under magnification.
Almost all moissanite on the market is graded for clarity using a scale similar to the one used to assess the diamond’s clarity.
It’s vital to mention that the moissanite’s clarity grade isn’t given by the impartial gemological lab such as GIA or AGS. Instead, the moissanite’s clarity grade is often provided with the gemstone by its manufacturer or seller.
Because moissanite on today’s market is artificial, it’s improbable to see them with a clarity grade below the VS level. In general, the moissanite’s clarity is close to flawless most of the time.
Like diamonds, moissanite is available in a variety of different shapes. You can find round, pear, oval, cushion, radiant, and princess cut moissanite.
Some are even cut in antique cuts used for diamonds hundreds of years ago!
The most popular shape for moissanite is the round brilliant cut. There are a few reasons for its popularity:
- Brilliance: The round brilliant cut, just like with a diamond, offers the greatest brilliance. That means the gemstone will sparkle when it’s exposed to light that enters it, bounces within, and ultimately leaves the stone back to the viewer’s eyes.
- Color: The round brilliant cut for moissanite is best for hiding color, making the gemstone appear nearly colorless. That helps hide any yellow or green tints that are usually visible in moissanite.
- Versatility: The round brilliant cut is very versatile, with a design that looks gorgeous in modern as well as in vintage engagement rings – or any other piece of jewelry for that matter.
Generally, moissanite looks the best in shapes that hide color and emphasize the gemstone’s brilliance.
Moissanite earns a 9.25 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. As you may already know, a diamond has a score of perfect 10 – the maximum score on the scale.
The Mohs scale is used to measure the hardness of gemstones – in other words, their durability. The Mohs scale ranges from 1 to 10, 1 being the softest and 10 hardest. This scale shows one of the most apparent distinctions between moissanite and diamonds.
Even though moissanite is lower on the Mohs scale, it’s still very durable. The only minerals that can scratch moissanite are those equal or higher on the Mohs scale – namely, diamonds.
Since plenty of factors play a role in determining the value of diamonds, their prices tend to vary significantly based on the quality of those factors.
On the other hand, moissanite usually costs the same unless two gemstones differ in the type of material (enhanced or unenhanced) or size.
We’ve compiled the chart to outline the price difference between diamonds and moissanite:
|Size In Carats||Diamond Price||Size In Millimeters (the closest equivalent to carats)||Moissanite Price|
Related Read: Can I Pass Off My Moissanite As A Diamond?
What Is Cubic Zirconia?
Cubic zirconia is a synthetic gemstone composed out of the cubic crystalline form of zirconium dioxide. It can appear in nature, although it’s extremely rare.
In today’s market, jewelry containing cubic zirconia has gemstones that are almost exclusively synthetic, meaning they’re created in the lab.
Often regarded as a cheap diamond alternative, cubic zirconia is unique in its aesthetic qualities and its physical structure since it’s lab-made.
The process starts by melting zirconium oxide powder with magnesium and calcium. After being removed from the heat, crystals of cubic zirconia form and stabilize – and we get cubic zirconia. From there, the crystals are cut and polished as diamonds would be.
It’s worth noting that each laboratory has its specific method for creating cubic zirconia.
Cubic Zirconia: Beauty And Brilliance
Cubic zirconia contains no true brilliance. It has a lower refractive index than a diamond – between 2.15 and 2.18 compared with 2.42 for diamonds.
You see, light passes through cubic zirconia differently than the way it does through diamonds – it offers significantly less reflection than diamonds. By looking at the two under a light, you can immediately tell the difference in the reflection of the light.
Overall, cubic zirconia is no match to the beauty and brilliance of a diamond.
Cubic Zirconia: Color And Clarity
Since cubic zirconia is made in a laboratory, it lacks the natural inclusions and blemishes that all the natural diamonds have. So, cubic zirconia has the highest clarity possible.
While some regard cubic zirconia as flawless, they are often considered too fake looking or “too perfect.” Cubic zirconia is considered colorless since it’s manufactured that way.
However, these lab-created gemstones often reflect an orange-tinted light – which is, by the way, another clear sign that it’s not a natural diamond.
Cubic Zirconia: Durability And Density
While diamonds score a perfect 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness, cubic zirconia, on the other hand, ranks at 8.5.
Since it’s a synthetic material, cubic zirconia does offer some durability. It can be set and worn in jewelry – but won’t have the longevity of a diamond, of course.
In addition, cubic zirconia is slightly denser than diamonds.
A gemologist or jeweler can easily distinguish cubic zirconia from a diamond simply by weighing it on their scale.
Cubic Zirconia: Value
Cubic zirconia is worth next to nothing from a value standpoint.
If you were to try and, let’s say, resell your cubic zirconia ring, you could maybe retain some of the value for the setting – but the actual cubic zirconia gemstone caries no market value.
But just to give you a clearer picture, the retail prices for rings that feature cubic zirconia gems often range between $15 and $25.
- Are Cubic Zirconia (CZ) Diamonds Fake?
- How Can You Tell a Diamond From a Cubic Zirconia?
- Cubic Zirconia Vs. Diamond: What’s The Wiser Choice?
What Is White Sapphire?
Although they are commonly thought of as blue gemstone, sapphires naturally occur in a range of different colors – including white.
As a part of the corundum mineral family, sapphires are a kind of aluminum oxide that contains traces of iron, copper, titanium, and chromium. The minerals present in the gemstone’s structure help designate its color.
White sapphires are generally used as a diamond substitute because of the lack of color and lower price tag than diamonds.
From the cut and color perspective, a white sapphire ring resembles a diamond one – with a few minor compromises, of course.
Generally, white sapphires are less expensive than diamonds, and in most cases, they are grey or yellow stones that have been treated by heat or certain chemicals to achieve their clear color.
Even though natural white sapphires do exist, they’re extremely rare.
So, there are generally two types of white sapphires used in jewelry – natural white sapphires and lab-created white sapphires.
Learn More: Diamond Vs. White Sapphire: Comparison Guide
White Sapphires: Cut
When it comes to colored gemstones, there is a wide range of cutting styles.
Creating grading scales for each cutting style and every gemstone would be a significant and unfruitful undertaking for any lab. Up to this point, lab grading systems haven’t found the need to have standard cut gradings for most colored gemstones.
Nevertheless, white sapphires come in pretty much all of the same shapes that diamonds do.
White Sapphire: Color
The hue of a colored stone is the most crucial factor when it comes to choosing one. With white sapphires, the purer their colorlessness, the better.
Interestingly enough, brilliance matters less in white sapphires than in diamonds.
Determining a sapphire’s color should come down to how the gemstone appeals to you – and what you see with the naked eye. Specifically, you’d want to watch for color-zoning.
The more consistent the gem’s color is throughout, the more valuable the stone is. So, a white sapphire with uneven coloring is usually less appealing.
That said, many white sapphires are color-treated, which makes them far cheaper than natural white sapphires. The gemstone may be chemically-treated or heat-treated based on the stone’s structure and the desired effect.
Related Read: Can You Test a Sapphire With a Diamond Tester?
White Sapphires: Clarity
Colored gemstones tend to have more internal imperfections than diamonds but are only visible under 10x magnification.
To determine a white sapphire’s clarity, examine the gemstone closely on your own and see if it contains any inclusions or blemishes that might take away from the gemstone’s overall beauty.
White Sapphires: Hardness
White sapphires earn a 9 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, making them more durable than moissanite and cubic zirconia – but still not as durable as diamonds.
White Sapphire: Value
White sapphires are a less expensive alternative for diamonds.
However, be aware that the white sapphire won’t ever have the same brilliance that diamond provides.
With bigger white sapphires, it’ll be much easier to tell that it’s not a genuine diamond. That is due to the fact that white sapphires lack brilliance, so larger stones will noticeably look lifeless.
Just to provide you with a clearer picture, a 1-carat white sapphire will generally cost roughly $830, which is way less than a diamond of the same carat weight.
Related Read: Is Black Diamond More Expensive Than Sapphire?
So, moissanite vs. cubic zirconia vs. white sapphire, which one should you get?
All three of these gemstones are less expensive alternatives to diamonds. If your budget’s tight and you want something close to the looks of a diamond, then these three gems are your best bet.
- Cubic zirconia is the cheapest option – but that doesn’t mean it offers much value because of its physical characteristics. On top of that, being lab-made, cubic zirconia might look “too perfect” to some people; it lacks the inclusions that natural gemstones have.
- Natural moissanite is extremely rare, so you can only find the lab-created one on the market. It offers a nice blend of price and value in terms of beauty, though!
- White sapphire can provide that natural appearance but compromises brilliance along the way.
Ultimately, neither of these can match a diamond’s beauty. However, if you want a gem that will resemble a diamond at a much lower price tag, any of these three would do the trick!