Simulated diamonds aren’t diamonds. They’re rocks that look like diamonds. They can be natural gems, like white sapphire; natural minerals grown in labs, such as moissanite; or lab-created monstrosities like cubic zirconia. While they may seem like legitimate substitutes, simulated diamonds eventually reveal their inferior natures.
Pronounced mois-en-ite, this naturally occurring silicon carbide was originally discovered by French chemist Henri Moissan in 1893. The crystals were so convincing, that Moissan didn’t even realize they weren’t diamonds until 1904. However, moissanite differs from diamond in a few key areas. Namely, moissanite lacks the clarity and purity of white diamond. Instead, moissanite comes in grey, pink or yellow tones. On the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, moissanite ranks 9.5, which is certainly harder than sapphire or ruby – though not as a hard as diamond.
- not as hard as diamond
- lacks clarity and pure “whiteness” of diamond
Like diamond, sapphire comes in many colors. Blue is traditionally the most sought after, but white sapphire is often used as a diamond substitute. On the surface, white sapphire looks very similar to diamond, but the two differ in terms of hardness, durability, and light refraction. Sapphire is four times less hard than diamond, and therefore prone to scratches. Sapphire is also “cloudier” than diamond, meaning that there is less light refraction to give the appearance of brilliance or shininess. While white sapphire is found in nature, several companies also produce synthetic variations, though they are less durable and no less expensive.
- much less hard than diamond
- “cloudier” than diamond
To compare cubic zirconia to moissanite and white sapphire, let alone diamond, is to compare a Shakespearian sonnet to this blog post. Yes, both contain words, and that is where the similarities end. Cubic zirconia, in its natural form, is a mineral called baddeleyite. Microscopic grains of cubic zirconia exist as part of the metamictization process of baddeleyite. However, since it is essentially a byproduct, nobody really paid attention to naturally occurring cubic zirconia until the 1960s, when scientists began experimenting with single-growth crystals. Ultimately, Soviet scientists perfected the synthetic technique, and commercial production began in 1976. While it bears a physical likeness to diamond, cubic zirconia is less hard, less brilliant, and prone to dullness.
- not nearly as hard as diamond
- lacks the diamond’s “fire”
- prone to dulness
So yes, these diamond simulants exist, and they are often less expensive than their namesake. However, the whole point of a diamond simulant – and this bears repeating – is that is simulates a diamond. If the goal of something is to mimic a better or more popular thing, it will always, inevitably, reveal its own secondary nature. So while the three most popular simulants are all commercially successful, they ultimately fall short of diamond in one category or another. They’re great for bitchin’ costume jewelry, but otherwise inadequate as authentic pieces.
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