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Cubic zirconia is a well-known substitute for diamonds because of its hardness, durability and shine. Cubic zirconia (abbreviated to CZ) is a type of zirconium oxide (ZrO2) that is not a mineral found in nature but instead is created in a laboratory to simulate the look of diamonds. It is an “oxide of the metallic element zirconium.” Every atom that makes up zirconium is surrounded by approximately eight atoms of oxygen and in turn each one of these oxygen atoms is linked to four atoms of zirconium. Practically all cubic zirconia that can be purchased today also contains a certain amount of yttrium oxide, which acts as a method of stabilizing the CZ. In order to produce colored versions of cubic zirconia, other types of oxides besides yttrium oxide must be added. The majority of cubic zirconia is made up of 87.5 percent of zirconium oxide and 12.5 percent of yttrium oxide. Both of these compounds are opaque and white ores but put together they meld together to create a stunning looking crystal.

Cubic zirconia is flawless to the human eye and it is generally colorless and it can be made into a multitude of beautiful colors. Cubic zirconia was found in its natural state in the 1930s but has never been found anywhere in the environment since that time. There is one mineral that does have the same chemical composition as cubic zirconia and this is baddeleyite, which is to be found in the monoclinic crystal system. Be aware however that cubic zirconia is not the same as zirconium silicate (ZrSiO4). Many people often get the two mixed up.

Cubic zirconia is durable and it bears a striking resemblance to diamond but it is also much lower in price, which makes it a very popular choice for jewelry. Due to these traits, synthetic cubic zirconia has remained the most “gemologically and economically important diamond stimulant” since the year 1976 and even today, it does not appear to be losing any of its popularity among jewelry consumers. The biggest competitor to cubic zirconia on the market today is a cultivated material that is simulated and very recent which is called moissanite.

On the Moh’s scale of hardness cubic zirconia registers a hardness of 8.5 and it also has a white streak. The exact gravity of cubic zirconia falls between 5.65 and 5.95 and it has a density that comes in somewhere between 5.5 and 5.9. The refractive index of cubic zirconia is very high and falls between 2.088 and 2.176. Cubic zirconia is transparent in appearance and for that reason it is very often faceted. As well it is a very versatile stone as it can be made into a variety of different cuts and it can be designed into practically any color of the rainbow.

To an eye that is untrained in gemstones, cubic zirconia looks exactly the same as a diamond. There are differences however. Cubic zirconia has less sparkle and brilliance than a genuine good quality diamond. Cubic zirconia has a fierier look to it and it also has more “flashes of color.” Sometimes the difference between the two is so small that even an expert gemologist can be fooled. Weight is one of the biggest differences between cubic zirconia and diamond. Cubic zirconia is a great deal heavier than a diamond- approximately 75 percent heavier. A cubic zirconia that is the same in size as a one-carat diamond would weigh an estimated 1.75 carats. Another difference is that cubic zirconia is softer than diamonds, which are one of the hardest of all gems, and also cubic zirconia is more brittle in nature than is diamond. Most diamonds have their fair share of inclusions and impurities whereas cubic zirconia is completely flawless.

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