Moissanite Vs. Cubic Zirconia: Which is a Diamond’s Best Substitute?
Moissanite Vs. Cubic Zirconia: which one should you choose? Diamonds, aside from being “forever” and being "a girl’s best friend," are valued for both their incredible hardness and stunning shine. Diamonds are clear and colorless, and the more colorless the diamond, the more valuable. These are all traits that other stones, such as Moissanite and Cubic Zirconia, don’t always have.
However, people shouldn’t feel pressured to go to diamonds for engagement rings and other jewelry. Living beyond your means isn’t a great idea, and there exist two excellent imitations (or simulants) of diamonds: Moissanite and Cubic Zirconia. Both of these stones are durable, pretty, with a nice bling factor, and can fool many people as real diamonds. Plus they cost less.
The question is, which is a better diamond substitute, Moissanite or Cubic Zirconia? We will guide you through all the factors to help you make the best decision.
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Moissanite Vs. Cubic Zirconia—Basics and History
So, what is Moissanite? It’s a very rare mineral that is great at conducting heat and that has an incredible brightness. It’s a synthesized form of silicon carbide. That is where it gets its hardness from. Because natural silicon carbide is so rare, a lot of the Moissanite you see today has to be lab-created.
It’s a rather new jewelry mineral, in use for fashion jewelry only since 1998. Yet it was discovered back in 1893, by Henri Moissan, who would later win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry (1906). It’s unusual for a mineral to be discovered so far into mankind’s history (and in America, Arizona to be exact). But the origins of Moissanite on Earth are even more interesting and go back way farther.
This is one of a few minerals here on Earth that came from an asteroid, one that plonked into Arizona, USA, roughly 30,000 years ago. It created a crater a mile wide, with an impact similar to a nuclear blast.
Moissan was exploring this area for his research and initially thought he’d found diamonds—hence the use of Moissanite as a diamond simulant. Later, scientists figured out how to create Moissanite in the lab, so now a new generation can turn to Moissanite as a substitute for diamonds.
Cubic Zirconia comes from Zirconium Oxide, a crystalline, white powder. When it is melted under extremely high heat, it forms crystals, known as Cubic Zirconia. Cz is then polished and stabilized. It is colorless and clear, like diamonds.
Cubic Zirconia favorably compared to diamonds in most aspects.
CZ has shapes similar to various diamond cuts, such as fashion or oval. It is bright like a diamond, but throws off color differently. That is how CZ is different from a diamond, its rainbow effects. While people value that pure, colorless sparkle of a diamond, some people prefer the colorful bling of CZ.
Like Moissanite, CZ is made in a lab, and it took until the 20th century to discover how. The process was nailed down in the 1970s, and brands like Swarovski started selling CZ. Before long, greater than fifty million carats of CZ were sold for jewelry.
Moissanite Vs. Cubic Zirconium, Head to Head Comparison
So, how are these two diamond substitutes different from one another? In this section—the rest of the article, we’ll look at several factors that display the differences between these stones.
1. Moissanite Vs. Cubic Zirconia : Color
First off, diamonds are (usually) without color. But how does Moissanite stack up vs. zirconium in this way? Well, the stone that contains more color, by far, is Moissanite. It’s not uncommon for Moissanite to have yellow, green, even grey tints, as part of their structural imperfection.
Zirconia is always clear and its color is flawless. Some of that comes from the fact that it’s made in a lab, and some people look down on both Moissanite and CZ for that very reason. Then again, “conflict diamonds” are the source of huge controversy, and some like to avoid them. In any case, those looking for pure color should go for CZ.
- Moissanite- often tinted
- Cubic Ziconia- clear, with perfect color
2. Moissanite Vs. Cubic Zirconia : Interaction with Light
Refraction and Dispersion
As we showed above, diamonds are much loved due to clarity—people want to see that icy shine. Where both Moissanite and CZ excel is in how they deal with light and turn it into beauty. There are two main things that a gem can do with light:
Refraction means bending light that hits a gem and shooting it back out to the human eye in the form of a light. Dispersion means separating the colors you see, making more of a rainbow. Don’t worry, we’ll spell all this out now.
So, when light travels through the universe, it’s in waves. When it hits the lovely, curved surface of a gem, it is bent. Thus, instead of zipping right through the stone and going wherever it wants, it bounces back at the human eye. That’s why and how a diamond or other gem “shines”—like a mirror it reflects, but it reflects light.
A gem has a Refractive Index, or RI, meaning how good it is at reflecting light. For Moissanite, it is 2.65, and for CZ, 2.16. So Moissanite outshines in this category, and in fact, has a higher RI than diamonds.
As for dispersion, as you may recall from school, the waves we mentioned above, come in different lengths, with a spectrum of colors, red, blue and everything in between. Well, red light is bent less than violet light. It’s possible to measure how much each type of light is refracted (bent) and the greater the difference between the two, the more the light is split up into its different colors. This is called dispersion.
Moissanite has a dispersion rate of 0.104 to CZ’s rate of 0.058-0.066. This means that it shoots light back at a person in more of a rainbow, so you can see what people call “fire” literally leaping from a wearer’s hand. Both of these stones have more fire (dispersion) than diamonds.
It’s obviously a cool trait, yet some people find fire from a stone to be a bit distracting and not really the look they’re going for. If you want fire, Moissanite is your best bet.
- Moissanite- Gives off more light by bending light rays
- Moissanite- Disperses light more, creating the “fire” effect of rainbow streams of light hitting the eye.
In terms of light, Moissanite wins.
3. Moissanite Vs. Cubic Zirconia : Durability
If you have a frugal approach to buying your jewelry, you’re not going to want something that is easily scratched or damaged. One thing to look at when thinking about durability is hardness, which is measured by the Mohs scale.
Because diamonds are the hardest substance on Earth, neither Moissanite nor Cubic Zirconia can equal them here. However, both are very hard stones. Moissanite has a hardness score of 9.25 and CZ, 8-8.5. This means that Moissanite is harder to a clear extent.
As for the “toughness” rating, which would indicate how likely or unlikely the stones are to break, Moissanite really kills it here. It has a toughness rating of 7.6 PSI to 2.4 of Cubic Zirconia.
- Moissanite- By far tougher, and somewhat harder than Cubic Zirconia.
- Moissanite and CZ- Both fit for day-to-day wear based on their hardness scores.
4. Moissanite Vs. Cubic Zirconia : Price and Value
Things get a bit more interesting when we start looking at the price of these two items. As we’ve seen, they are similar in quite a few areas, with their scores in some key indexes being similar. However, their price is vastly different.
One carat of a Moissanite stone can sell for $350-$400, while the same size of Cubic Zirconia is about $40. The price of the Moissanite, as you see, while lower than that of a diamond, is much greater than that of CZ. It comes from natural materials that are very rare, even if it needs to be lab-created. As you’ve learned, it performs better than diamonds in some indexes, and is nearly as hard. Therefore, it can be disappointing to some people, who may feel that something that is technically a simulant should be much less expensive.
Conversely, some people (whether they’d admit it or not) judge items by price, and may think of Cubic Zirconia as less valuable due to its low price, particularly when it comes to an engagement ring.
As far as value goes, there’s perceived value, sentimental value, and actual monetary—resale—value. One thing to keep in mind about Cubic Zirconia is that there’s essentially no resale value at all. Moissanite, on the other hand, will have some resale value, meaning it can serve as an investment.
- Moissanite- Much more expensive
- Cubic Zirconia- Much more affordable for almost any budget, but with no resale value
Comparing these two diamond simulants, we’re going to have to call it a toss-up. A dead heat. On the one hand, quality is important. And while both Moissanite and CZ are quality stones, Moissanite has a slight edge in almost every category we mentioned above. That means it’s the higher-quality item any way you slice it.
But when you’re picking out a gemstone, particularly one that is a substitute for a more expensive one, price is surely an issue. The Cubic Zirconia gains a lot of ground by being so much less expensive. The huge difference in price is incredible considering that the differences in these stones’ traits aren’t very big.
Both Moissanite and Cubic Zirconia can pass for diamonds and deliver that diamond feeling. If one is looking for an item that is a bit more durable, that may have some resale value, you may go for the Moissanite. But if you feel that a close match in overall quality is made up for by great savings, it’ll be hard to pass up Cubic Zirconia.