Under a lot of pressure?

We explore the differences between a diamond, a created diamond and a cubic zirconia.

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If you are looking for head turning jewellery with sparkle, durability and a classic look, then there a few options for the stone. It doesn’t always have to be a diamond mined from the earth in order to make a great impression!

If you research diamonds, you may find information about created diamonds. Some people may refer to created diamonds as ‘fake diamonds’, imitations or simulants, but this is inaccurate and simply untrue!

There are two different types of real diamonds that exist; those created naturally by Mother Nature herself and those created in laboratories by man.

Cubic zirconia on the other hand, is a cheaper likeness of a diamond, and is a different material entirely. A created diamond is chemically and optically identical to a mined diamond.

Natural Diamond

All the naturally occurring diamonds found today were formed 1-3 billion years ago by a combination of high temperatures and extreme pressure below the earth’s surface.

The diamonds are developed 130-200 kilometres below and reach the surface by way of volcanic activity. Diamonds are then found encrusted within rock and this is where and how we are able to mine them.

Because natural diamonds are so old, this plays a big role in why they are so expensive and desirable. They are quite literally artefacts that represent a time before life as we know it. This also plays a role in the diamond engagement ring symbolism and everlasting love.

Not every natural diamond is created equal though. Differences in carat, colour and clarity are caused by trace minerals and other conditions that influence a diamond as it grows.

For example, the vivid yellow colour in fancy yellow diamonds is caused by tiny amounts of nitrogen mixed with the carbon.

Natural diamonds also have inclusions like feathers, crystals, pinpoints and clouds that are caused by various environmental conditions including the violent volcanic eruptions that transport them towards the surface. It is extremely rare that a diamond emerges in perfect condition, with no inclusions.

Created Diamond

A created diamond is grown in highly controlled laboratory conditions that mimic the earth’s natural growing environment with the intense pressure and high temperature.

Sometimes, created diamonds are referred to as synthetic or ‘fake’ diamonds. However, created diamonds are not fake.

Created diamonds are chemically, physically, optically and visually identical to natural diamonds. The only difference is the origin of the diamond (where it was formed).

Therefore, they provide a wonderful alternative to mined diamonds, especially as they are more affordable, and environmentally and socially friendly. Created diamonds can actually be of higher quality than some natural diamonds.

Created diamonds are the result of either of these processes; High Pressure-High Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) and take about 6 to 8 weeks to fully develop. 

Just like no two mined diamonds are alike, no two created diamonds are the same.

Created diamonds are grown in a molten metal solution and as a result, they have metallic inclusions that do not occur in diamonds that come from the ground.

These can only be seen under 10x magnification and are not visible to the naked eye. It would take an expert gemmologist to identify these metallic inclusions.

Another interesting difference is the carat weight range of created diamonds. They can only be created up to about 20 carats whereas natural diamonds can get as big 400+ carats. Not that you would be able to wear that on a piece of jewellery anyway!

Cubic Zirconia

On the other hand, a cubic zirconia is not a diamond.  It is a laboratory created diamond simulant, meaning that it looks very similar to a diamond but has very different chemical and physical properties.

In fact, a cubic zirconia contains zero carbon, whereas both natural and created diamonds are made entirely from carbon.

A cubic zirconia is made of crystalline zirconium dioxide. Other minerals are used during the creation process to add colour and make the gemstone a bit more durable.

As it cools, the mix of minerals naturally form into cubic crystal shapes. This helps give cubic zirconia its clear, diamond-like sparkle.

Cubic Zirconia (also known as CZ) was first created in a lab for commercial use in 1976. Jewellers started using them as a diamond substitute because they are cheap to create and have reasonable durability and sparkle.

But because these diamond simulants are not made of carbon crystals, they don’t have the same brilliance as diamonds. For that reason, cubic zirconia jewellery sells at much lower prices than diamonds.

It important to remember that a cubic zirconia can scratch easily, and it does show its wear and tear quickly, so they don’t often last for years on daily wear rings like engagement rings.   

Nevertheless, rings made with cubic zirconia stones are an affordable alternative to genuine diamonds and are perfect for affordable fashion jewellery.

Diamonds and cubic zirconia share a few key characteristics, but they do vary when it comes to quality, longevity, and price.

For a long-lasting jewellery that can last decades without much maintenance, diamonds are the clear winner.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive stone that is still shiny, beautiful, and timeless, cubic zirconia might be the better choice.

The amount of money or time you want to put into your jewellery can be a good way to determine what option is best for you!

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Matt Kalinski

Head Of Valuations

Qualifications & Affiliations

American Society of Appraisers Candidate Member

Certified Practicing Valuer AVAA


Matt has been in the valuations space for many years and has extensive experience in the space across an abundance of various industries. He now leads the valuations teams for Lloyds Auctions with a passion for encouraging his team to set and achieve high goals and produce great results for the company whilst growing the team’s skills starting with a great culture and team mindset.