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Diamond Alternatives: CZ vs. White Sapphires
Which is a better diamond substitute, cubic zirconia (commonly labeled CZ) or white sapphires? With the price of diamonds continually on the rise (depending on the quality 13-15% or more increase in price per carat from January 2010 until now) it is not surprising that people are looking for affordable alternatives to diamonds. The biggest question is, “what is the best diamond substitute?”
Let’s narrow it down to two alternatives: CZ (cubic zirconia) and white sapphires. CZ stones are lab created out of synthetic material that is fairly hard, has no visual flaws, and normally colorless. The best part is cubic zironia looks very similar to a diamond and is very inexpensive to create. Before CZ’s commercial production in 1976, white sapphires were widely used as diamond substitutes. Natural sapphires are composed of a mineral called corundum. The color of sapphires- be it blue, yellow, green, colorless, etc.- is determined by other minerals that mix with the corundum. If no other mineral is close to where the corundum is formed, then the sapphire is colorless. The main reason that white sapphire is used instead of diamonds is that it is durable as the hardest naturally occurring gemstone next to a diamond (9 on Mohs scale with diamond being a 10) and much less expensive than diamonds.
How do CZ and white sapphires compare to one another? Although CZ is fairly hard (8 – 8.5 on Mohs scale) it still scratches- and thus can be worn down- more than a white sapphire. Depending on how well the CZ is made, it can become discolored with time whereas a natural white sapphire will not. A CZ does have a better refractive index (what makes the stone sparkle and shine) at 2.15- 2.18 verses sapphire’s 1.76 - 1.77 (a diamond is a 2.42). However, sapphire does have the highest refractive index of natural gemstones, and some CZ stones have been known to fade in brilliance over time. CZ also wins the battle of price over white sapphires.
When trying to determine whether to go with white sapphire or CZ you should also consider the type of jewelry piece. For a ring, you are usually better going with a white sapphire due to its hardness as rings are subject to more wear and tear. If you are looking at earrings or pendant/necklace, then the hardness of stone you select is not as critical because it will not be hit or nicked as much.
Overall, I would personally go with a white sapphire over a cubic zirconia due to it being natural, durable, and having a lasting brilliance.