Cubic Zirconia and Lab Created Gems

Q1: What is Cubic Zirconia?

A: Cubic Zirconia (or CZ) is zirconium oxide (ZrO2 ), is widely synthesized for use as a diamond simulant and it is a lab made created stone with a specific gravity of between 5.6-6.00 and at about 8.5 hardness on Mohs scale, which is harder than most natural gems. Its refractive index is high at 2.15 - 2.18 (B-G interval) and its luster is very good. Its dispersion is very high at 0.058 - 0.066, exceeding that of diamond (0.044).
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Q2: Cubic Zirconia (CZ) VS. Natural Diamond?

A: Cubic zirconia (CZ) is so optically close to diamond that only a trained eye can easily differentiate the two. There are a few key features of CZ which distinguish it from diamond, some observable only under the microscope or loupe.
For example:
Dispersion:
With a dispersive power greater than diamond (0.066 vs. 0.044) the more prismatic fire of CZ can be seen by even an untrained eye.
Hardness: CZ has an 8.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale vs. a rating of 10 for diamonds. Meaning CZ can only be scratched by  sapphires or diamonds.
Specific gravity: CZs are heavyweights in comparison to diamonds; a CZ will weigh about 1.7 times more than a diamond of equivalent size. Obviously, this difference is only useful when examining loose stones.
Flaws: Contemporary production of cubic zirconia is virtually flawless.  Whereas most diamonds have some sort of defect, be it a feather, included crystal, or perhaps a remnant of an original crystal face (e.g. trigons).
Refractive index:G> CZ has a refractive index of 2.176, compared to a diamonds 2.417.

Q3: What are CZ's and Simulated Diamonds?

A:CZ is the abbreviation for the word cubic zirconia. Simulated diamonds and cubic zirconia are the same thing. Cubic Zirconia is undoubtedly the best diamond simulate available today. Cubic Zirconia has successfully established itself as the high quality and affordable diamond substitute in today's fashionable jewelry market. The untrained and naked eye cannot distinguish the difference between a real diamond and Cubic Zirconia. Even gemologists cannot tell the difference unless various testing and examination is done.
Cubic Zirconia is an incredible hard material similar that of a real diamond and with the introduction of color, it has great potential as a gem to fulfill elegant fashion demand at a fraction of the cost.
The composition of this man made product is typically a combination of Zirconium Oxide and Yttrium Oxide both of which are opaque by nature. But when melted together under intense heat reaching almost 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit and then cooled under controlled conditions, they produce what we call Cubic Zirconia. Cubic Zirconia is colorless in its pure state. The various colors are achieved by mixing in small quantities of chemical additives.

Q4: What is Synthetic Gemstones?

A: Synthetic gemstones are grown in a laboratory instead of being formed in the ground by nature. They are physically and chemically identical to natural-grown gems but cost much less to produce and to buy.
Just like natural gems, synthetics vary tremendously in quality and it takes several months to create a batch of gems.  Using low-quality processes, synthetic sapphires and rubies can be created for less than a dollar a carat, whereas high-quality synthetics can cost a hundred times more to create and sell for several hundred dollars a carat at retail.
 

Q5: How Loose Cubic Zirconia Quality is Determined?

A: There are four main factors that help determine the quality or grade of cubic zirconia.  

These are carat (or carat weight), clarity, color, and cut. CZ stones are imitation diamonds or simulants and are measured in carat weight. Loose cubic zirconia stones are always heavier than real diamonds. This is because the materials that are used to create the stones are denser.

Though loose cubic zirconia stones are generally colorless, many shades of colors can be added using trace elements during the manufacturing process. These colors might include lavender, peridot, pink, violet, champagne, aqua, citrine yellow, and others. Typically, transparent cubic zirconia will be the more valuable, high-end diamond imitation. Colored CZ stones are valued according to the rarity, evenness, and tone of their colors. 

Clarity, or clearness, of loose cubic zirconia is also a quality factor. The manufacturing process can sometimes cloud a stone, making visible imperfections. Just as with genuine diamonds, the clearer the stone is, the greater the value.

The cut is also very important in determining quality for loose cubic zirconia stones. Just as with diamonds, the cut reveals the stone's beauty through every facet. The facets must be even and precise to create just the right appearance. Also as with diamonds, the skill of the stone cutter makes all the difference. Stone cutters do much more than cut. They analyze the stone carefully to determine how much of the stone should be cut off to give proper clarity. Then, they take many steps to perfect their cut without taking away from the stone. 

Though the Brilliant cut is the standard, there are other popular cuts such as the Trillion, Princess, and Radiant cuts. There are also a variety of shapes to give each stone its own unique personality.


Q6: What is the difference between Real, Lab Created,and Simulated Gemstones?

A: Real or Natural Gemstones: Real gemstones are just that, real and natural, as they were created in nature.Natural gemstones may be treated by various methods to make the color appear as we would expect them to look. Some treatments are permanent and some are not. For an example of gemstone treatment, Tanzanite in its natural state is a brownish color, but when heat treated, Tanzanite becomes the beautiful blue-purple gemstone that we admire. Due to the rarity of Tanzanite, all offerings of this gemstone whether in sterling silver rings, lockets, sterling silver bracelets, or earrings by Glittering Treasures are Russian formula cubic zirconia. These are the finest man made gemstones of this type available on the market today. 

Lab Created Gemstones: Lab created gemstones are made of the same mineral composition as natural gemstones, and are created in laboratories with equipment that simulates the high pressures and heat that nature used to create the real gemstones far beneath the surface of the earth. A lab created gemstone is identical to the natural gemstone it replicates in color, hardness, composition, luster, and looks.

The only difference between a lab created gemstone and a natural gemstone is that the natural gemstone most likely has flaws called inclusions, and lab created gemstones have no inclusions, as the mineral composition, heat, and pressure are controlled in the laboratory.

The flaws or inclusions in natural gemstones are caused by minute traces of minerals that are trapped within the gemstone during crystallization, and are the result of certain extraneous gases and other minerals being mixed in the molten mass prior to its cooling and crystallization. Natural gemstones with fewer inclusions are given a higher clarity rating, and thus a higher value when being appraised.

It seems odd that when comparing the price of a lab created gemstone which is flawless, against a natural gemstone which has inclusions, that we would knowingly pay for a natural gemstone, many multiples of the price of an identical flawless lab created gemstone, but this is a result of our culture, and the jewelry industries marketing efforts. In today’s marketplace there are many variables that urge consumers to choose jewelry made with stones other than diamonds or natural gemstones. Remember a lab created gemstone is identical to a natural gemstone, except that the lab created gemstone is flawless. Because of the high price of natural gemstones many gemstones sold today are lab created and just as beautiful and long lasting as their natural counterparts.

Sapphires and Rubies are in the Corundum family of gemstones, and are fairly easily created in the laboratory,therefore lab created Rubies and Sapphires are very common. Emeralds and Aquamarines in the Beryl family of gemstones, and Emeralds and Aquamarines are not easily made in the laboratory. Lab created Emeralds are very expensive to make and not as readily found in jewelry. Lab created Aquamarines are not as expensive to make as Emeralds. This is why Aquamarines are commonly made into jewelry.

Simulated Gemstones: Simulated gemstones are created in a laboratory environment, but they differ from natural gemstones and lab created gemstones in many significant ways, and are only made to look like a natural gemstone. Simulated gemstones in most cases do not have the same mineral composition, color, hardness, luster or looks of a natural gemstone or lab created gemstone.