Diamond Buyer's Guide: What's Real, What's Fake, And What The Difference Costs

A diamond and gemstone buying guide that compares possible substitutions for diamonds with both natural and synthetic replacements, and discusses the value of each.

Add highly compressed carbon with a master craftsman and the results are a beautifully cut diamond. Diamonds are truly one of nature's treasures. Because of its status symbol state, are there really any options to get a less expensive version of a diamond and make it look real? There are two types of possible alternatives, natural and synthetic stones. Zircon and Sapphire are natural alternatives to diamonds. Cubic Zirconia and Moissanite are created gems often used to give the illusion of diamonds.

One diamond supplier has done an incredible job marketing diamonds with powerful commercials and print advertisements. The genuine stones are prestigious and are associated with love and eternity. To adequately compare the substitutes to diamonds, we need to review what makes a diamond so special. The key is to select the proper item for your budget. Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat Weight are the four C's of buying diamonds. Diamonds are graded and priced according to those measures. Diamonds are a 10 on the Moh's scale of hardness, which means they are strong and wear well. As with any other gem, a highly rated diamond will cost more than an eye-clean average clarity stone. An eye clean specimen means that with your naked eyes, you cannot see any visible inclusions or flaws in the stone. These flaws are seen with a jeweler's loop or a microscope. The average cost of a 1-carat eye clean diamond will be several thousand dollars.

There are two naturally occurring gems that could potentially be used as a replacement for diamonds. Zircon is an alternative that comes in many colors. The clear version of Zircon has a very high brilliance, which is what makes it a potential substitution. The negatives to Zircon are, it is between a 6.5 and 7.5 on the Moh's scale so it can show signs of wear after some time. Because it is not readily available at many jewelers, the store will have to special order it. The price of a good quality 1-carat Zircon is very inexpensive. Another possible natural choice is Sapphire. Sapphires come in a wide array of colors including colorless. The benefit of Sapphires is that they are second to diamonds on the hardness scale, coming in at a very respectable 9. As beautiful as the stone is, it does have less fire than a diamond. It can also be difficult to find an excellent gem quality colorless sapphire. Per carat pricing is still quite reasonable, but like Zircon, many jewelers will not have a large selection on hand.

Lab created gems also give the appearance of a diamond. The most common is a Cubic Zirconia, which is grown in a controlled setting in a laboratory. Like other gems, there are different grades of Cubic Zirconia. Manufacturers use different materials and apply various amounts of heat and pressure to create the crystals. They are widely available and are an 8- 8.5 on the Moh's scale and highly refractive. The stones are heavier than a natural diamond. Pricing is extremely reasonable for a good quality CZ. Over time some stones can start to cloud and lose some of their luster. One of the newer created gems is Moissanite. Also known as Silicon Carbide, it has twice the fire of a diamond and is a 9.25 in hardness. Because the weight of the stone varies, it is sold by millimeter size instead of carat weight. The disadvantage of it is the color of the gem. It can have a slightly green cast to it. Out of all of the jewels that could pass for a diamond, this is the most expensive alternative because it is very difficult to create. It is sold through a limited number of dealers.

Can a natural diamond really be replaced by another natural or synthetic gem? The answer is a going to vary from individual to individual. Part of the allure of a diamond is its rareness, uniqueness, and perceived value. Can the romantic message that is associated with a diamond as a gift and as a symbol of eternity be replaced with something that can be widely purchased at a mass merchandiser store? If a consumer simply wants to buy a shiny pretty piece of jewelry any of the above will do, but for an engagement or special wedding anniversary, think it over. Nothing can replace the feeling that comes from within, knowing that you have the real thing.

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