Fake diamonds come by many different names like faux diamonds, diamond imitations or simulated diamonds. We listed some of the most common types below, sorted by hardness and ranging from soft materials like glass up to one of the hardest minerals on the planet, moissanite.
The cheapest way to imitate real diamonds is to use glass. These types of faux diamonds are very soft, therefore not very durable and prone to scratches and cuts. Also, glass diamonds can not compete with real diamonds in terms of brilliance and sparkle.
Quartz is an abundant mineral, related to silicon dioxide, also known under the more common term “sand”. Quartz gemstone’s appearance can look similar to those of diamonds when properly cut and polished. One problem you might face as an owner of quartz jewelry is fogging that can occur due to sudden changes in temperature or humidity, similar to glass.
Cubic zirconia is one of the more widely used types of fake diamonds. The raw material for this diamond simulant is zirconium dioxide which is quite hard and durable, even though not reaching hardness and durability of real diamonds. While diamonds are rated a 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness, zirconia achieves a respectable 8.5. That is harder than topaz minerals, which are another type of widely used material for jewelry gemstones.
Low-cost zirconia products are usually machine cut and offer less sparkle compared to natural diamonds. Hand-cut zirconia can reach the brilliance of real diamonds but comes at a higher price. Because of that, prices vary widely and can go up to a couple of hundred dollars per carat. For a more in-depth look into the production of zirconia, check out this interesting youtube video:
Similar to colored diamonds, natural sapphires occur in different colors ranging from colorless to deep blue and even red, although red sapphires are called rubies. Colorless sapphires are commonly used as diamond substitutes. Sapphire is the second hardest mineral behind diamonds, reaching 9.0 on the Mohs scale of hardness. This durability makes sapphire gemstones and ideal diamond replacement.
Moissanite is made of silicon carbide, a very hard and rare natural mineral that reaches up to 9.5 on the Mohs scale making it the second hardest gemstone material. Discovered in 1893 by french chemist and Nobel price winner Henri Moissan, jewelers began to use moissanite as a diamond replacement during the 20th century.
Due to the similarity to diamonds in terms of hardness and appearance, moissanite can be quite hard to distinguish from real diamonds. Only ultraviolet light can reveal the true nature of this gemstone.
Synthetically made diamonds do not differ from naturally created stones in any way. Their hardness, brilliance and overall appearance are identical which makes these stones almost impossible to distinguish from one another. That makes them technically a real diamond, although created in a special facility. Only special detectors or the engraved serial number can tell if the examined diamond is made in a laboratory or by mother nature. All these properties plus a much lower price makes these type of stones an ideal alternative to natural diamonds. Price per carat for a lab-created diamond can go down as much as half the price you would pay for a “real” diamond.
In case you want further information about this topic, we also created a more in-depth guide about the differences between lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds.
As you have seen, many diamond alternatives are ranging from low-cost materials like glass or quartz up to sapphire and lab-diamonds. Which one you prefer is completely up to your preference, jewelry-taste, and budget. Our recommendation when selecting an engagement ring would be to at least go for a white sapphire stone, moissanite or lab-grown diamond. An engagement ring should be the ultimate symbol of love and picking lower quality gemstones does not make the grade. For any other type of jewelry like earrings, necklaces or bracelets, it depends on your personal preference if you want to buy natural diamond jewelry or not.