Diamond is the product of adamas finishing, which is the hardest and simplest gemstone in the world. It is a natural crystal with a cubic structure made of carbon. The bigger the diamond, the rarer it is. Diamond often contains 0.05%-0.2% impurity elements, among which N and B are the most important. The pure diamond is colorless and transparent, which presents different colors due to the mixing of trace elements.
Natural diamonds are expensive due to their scarcity, especially the larger ones. However, artificial diamonds (synthetic diamonds) are difficult to achieve large size gemstones. Generally, synthetic diamonds are used in cutting and polishing tools. Therefore, in order to meet the design needs of jewelry and some products, there are usually some substitutes, such as glass, artificial spinel, artificial sapphire, zircon, scheelite, strontium titanate, cubic zirconia and so on. Among them, cubic zirconia is very close to diamond in terms of its optical and hardness properties and is the most common diamond substitute.
The cubic zirconia was first developed by the Soviets, also known as Soviet Stone. Cubic zirconia in cubic crystals is rare in nature and is usually synthesized artificially. Synthetic cubic zirconia is a hard, colorless and optically immaculate crystal, and it has been a replacement for diamonds since 1976 because of its low cost, durability and its resemblance to diamonds. Cubic zirconia is known as a “fake” diamond or CZ diamond. The following is a brief analysis of the difference between diamonds and “fake” diamonds and how they are identified.
Difference in hardness
Natural diamonds have a Mohs hardness of 10 and are difficult to process, and the cubic zirconia has a Mohs hardness of 8.5 to 9.0, while quartz sand is 7 and stainless steel is only 5.5. Therefore, the treatment of gem-level cubic zirconia can meet the requirements of daily use and is easier to process.
Differences in dispersion
The dispersion of cubic zirconia was 0.060, which is higher than that of diamond, so cubic zirconia looks more brilliant than diamonds.
The index of refraction
Cubic zirconia has a refractive index of 2.176, which is slightly lower than diamond’s 2.417. Depending on the refractive index, cubic zirconia cuts slightly differently from a diamond, which can be seen under a magnifying glass.
Completely colorless diamonds are very rare, and usually, they are pale yellow. However, the cubic zirconia can be made into diamonds of the highest grade, or D-grade color. A variety of trace elements can also be added to the cubic zirconia to render it in different colors to meet customers’ demand for colored gems.
The crystals of different colors can be obtained by adding different metal oxides to the raw materials. For example, cerium: yellow, orange, red; chromium: green; neodymium: purple; erbium: pink; titanium: golden brown.
Cubic zirconia is 1.7 times heavier than a diamond, so they can be distinguished by differences in specific gravity, but can only be used to separate unencrusted gems.
The heat-transfer capability
The thermal conductivity of cubic zirconia and diamond are two extremes. Cubic zirconia is a good insulator and can be used as an insulator for jet engines, while diamond is one of the best heat conducting bodies, its heat-conducting ability surpasses copper.