Cubic Zirconia vs Diamonds: Differences Explained

If you have been to the jewelry store lately, you may have noticed both diamond and cubic zirconia jewelry pieces that caught your eye. While they may look similar to each other with the naked eye, there are some major differences between the two.

Let’s talk about cubic zirconia, diamonds, and the differences between the two.

What is Cubic Zirconia?

Cubic zirconia, often shortened down to CZ, is a synthesized crystalline material that is highly refractive, which makes it a perfect choice as an alternative to diamonds. It was developed in the 1930s, but it did not make it to the market as a diamond simulant until well into the 1970s.

Related: Loose Diamond Buying Guide: Know What to Look For

Cubic zirconia is created by melting zirconium oxide at a temperature close to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Other minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, are added to the zirconium oxide and allowed to mix in. Once it is removed from the heat source, cubic zirconia crystals will form, and when it has completely cooled, it can be cut into the desired shape.

During the process that turns zirconium oxide dust into cubic zirconia crystals, manufacturers can add different trace elements that will cause the finished cubic zirconia to give it some color. Copper or iron can be added to make cubic zirconia with a yellow hue, and adding erbium can create pink-colored cubic zirconia.

If you are looking for a durable and rugged stone for your jewelry, cubic zirconia rates around 8 to 8.5 on the Mohs scale for hardness, which makes it an excellent choice for everyday wear jewelry due to its resistance to scratching or cracking. You can expect a quality cubic zirconia ring to last for roughly five to ten years.

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What is a Diamond?

A diamond is a natural mineral that is made of carbon and is the hardest naturally occurring substance that can be found in nature at 10 on the Mohs scale. Diamonds have been used for thousands of years not only as adornments and decoration but also as cutting tools since these were one of the few ways that they could engrave metal.

Ancient civilizations and cultures treasured diamonds for their brilliance and ability to refract light which is why they used diamonds as a talisman to protect themselves from evil. They also valued diamonds for their strength and believed that they could also protect them from their enemies during battle. 

Natural diamonds are formed when deposits of carbon that are located deep in the ground, usually around 110 to 125 miles deep in the upper mantle of the Earth, are subjected to tremendous pressure and extremely high temperatures. Some diamonds can take days to be formed, but others can take millions of years to form.

Related: Lab-Grown Diamonds Vs. Natural: What is Best?

Diamonds can also be created in a laboratory setting using either the High-Pressure High-Temperature method or the Chemical Vapor Deposition Method. Many people shopping for diamonds prefer to purchase these diamonds that are lab grown since they are more affordable and can be guaranteed to be ethically sourced. These lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds that have the exact same chemical composition as naturally occurring diamonds.


two cubic zirconia stones


Cubic Zirconia vs. Diamonds

Although cubic zirconia is similar to diamonds, there are some key differences between the two that will help you tell them apart.


Diamonds that are entirely colorless are extremely rare. When you are inspecting a diamond, you can expect to find a light yellow or brown tint to them. If your stone is completely devoid of color, chances are it is cubic zirconia.

Stone Durability

Diamonds are the hardest naturally occurring substance found in the world, ranking as a 10 on the Mohs scale, which is the highest possible score. Due to their toughness, the only thing that can cut diamonds are tools with edges made out of diamond blades. 

Cubic zirconia, on the other hand, is 8.5 on the Mohs scale, meaning that it is durable and scratch resistant but will not last as long as diamond does. Diamonds may be forever, but cubic zirconia will last for a decade with the proper care and maintenance.


tweezer holding up a diamond to display brilliance




The brilliance of gemstones is ranked by a refractive index, which is a measure of a material’s ability to bend light as it passes through. Diamond has a higher refraction index than cubic zirconia, which means that the diamond will be much more brilliant.


Diamonds can have imperfections that occur naturally inside of them. These are caused by the intense heat and pressure that it takes to create a diamond. 

Inclusions are usually only visible when inspecting a diamond with a high-magnification microscope. While it is possible to find flawless diamonds without any inclusions, these are going to be rare and expensive diamonds. If you inspect a stone with a high-powered microscope and you do not find any inclusions, you most likely have cubic zirconia.


Diamonds are many times more expensive than cubic zirconia. They also tend to retain their value over time, while cubic zirconia does not.

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Final Thoughts

While diamonds and cubic zirconia can look the same upon first glance, there are many differences between the two. Now that you know the differences between them, you can make the best choice for your next jewelry purchase!