You’re on a quest for fine jewelry, and of course, your mind goes to the number one choice- diamonds. So, you walk into the finest store or browse numerous retail shops online for the best choice. But alas! Diamonds are super pricey, and you feel discouraged. But before you give up, the retailer lays out a new option- simulated diamonds. And like everything else you hear for the first time, your mind struggles with deciphering what the term even means.
Don’t panic because you’re not the first to be in such a dilemma. As diamonds are the most expensive gemstones on the planet, it’s no surprise that your preferred options come with a heart-stopping price tag. It’s why simulates diamonds exist. But before you pick one, it’s best to fully understand what they are and how they match with the real deal.
Here, you’ll learn about simulated diamonds, including their properties and pricing ranges. And you’ll see how they compare with natural diamonds, allowing you to decide if they’re the best fit for your needs.
What Are Simulated Diamonds?
The first thing to note is that simulated diamonds aren’t diamonds per se. As the name implies, they’re make-believe; stones or materials carved or designed to look and feel like natural diamonds but aren’t. Technically, simulated diamonds are gemstones created such that they share gemological similarities with natural diamonds. While they may glint and reflect like diamonds, their chemical material and properties are entirely distinct. Simulated diamonds also display optical properties and crystal structures utterly different from natural diamonds. They’re also called imitation diamonds, substitutes, or stimulants.
Simulated Diamonds vs. Synthetic Diamonds
Newbies to the diamond trade and industry often interchange the terms ‘simulated diamond’ and ‘synthetic diamond.’And this mix-up is birthed from the impression that they mean the same thing. But though they’re both created in labs, the idea that they’re the same is a misconception that must be addressed if you plan to buy the gemstone. And while it’s alluring to fall into such a category of people, it’s best to understand that these two terms are very distinct.
The main reason is while a simulated diamond is a copycat material, a synthetic diamond is a real deal. This difference puts them on extremely polar ends in many aspects of comparison, especially price and physical properties. A synthetic diamond is a natural but engineered diamond manufactured by creating similar environmental conditions required to form natural diamonds. This means they share the same physical and chemical properties as mined diamonds, except for being built and birthed in a lab. And their authenticity is further solidified by the fact that they’re made from the same carbon seeds that create natural diamonds in volcanic environments.
But simulated diamonds don’t share any of these chemical attributes, as they don’t contain the same materials found in real gems. They’re nothing like natural diamonds in these aspects but only look like them from a gemological angle. This explains why simulated diamonds are lower-priced than natural and synthetic diamonds and don’t last as long.
Types of Simulated Diamonds
Most simulated diamonds are crafted from gemstones that share similar physical attributes with natural diamonds, but sometimes, other materials are combined to form these imitation stones. As such, you’ll find numerous types of imitation diamond materials. And the most commonly found natural and lab-created types are listed below;
Natural Diamond Simulants
These types are created from natural gemstones with specific physical properties with real diamonds. And when crafted, such gems can easily pass as natural diamonds to the inexperienced eye. One main reason is these stones’ natural clearness and brilliance, while another is their crystalline structure. And the common examples include andradite, clear quartz, white zircon, beryl, sphalerite, and topaz.
One main attribute to note about these stones is their explicit, colorless nature. As such, they can be carved to look like natural diamonds. Zircon and clear quartz are two famous examples that have been used as imitation diamonds for centuries.
Lab-Made Diamond Stimulants
These types are lab-created diamond substitutes formed by combining various chemical materials to produce crystals that resemble natural diamonds. Famous examples of such include moissanite and cubic zirconia (C.Z.). While moissanite is made from silicon carbide, cubic zirconia is produced from the combined melting of powdered zirconium and zirconium dioxide. And some manufactured simulated diamonds like scheelite and white sapphire can also form naturally, though such types are rare, resulting in more synthetic versions.
Synthetic, simulated diamonds have been used for almost as long as real ones. At one time, the standard options included flint glass, spinel, rutile, Gadolinium Gallium Garnet (GGG), Yttrium Aluminium Garnet (YAG), and strontium titanate. But today, these options aren’t in demand, like cubic zirconia and moissanite have better mimicry of a natural diamond’s physical properties. Other modern material options include
Sometimes, simulated diamonds are made from two natural or lab-made compounds, or one of each. These types are called composites or double diamond stimulants. A famous example is using epoxy glue to merge halves of a strontium titanate and a sapphire.
Identifying Simulated Diamonds
While simulated diamonds may easily pass an amateur undetected, those who know the difference can spot them at a glance. And once you know what to check, telling one from the other becomes as easy as pie. The good thing is a diamond simulant can be detected once you’re keen on observing certain factors. And below are the essential ones;
1. Lower Hardness
Diamonds are noted for their high density and are considered the most complex materials. This makes them pretty impossible to scratch unless you’re in a bid to damage them seriously. However, simulated diamonds aren’t as hard. And to emphasize, we shall compare their ratings on the Mohs scale of hardness.
The Mohs scale of hardness is a parameter used to determine a gemstone’s durability, and on it, diamonds rate the highest, with a record of 10. And no imitation diamond has reached that far, with the highest being moissanite at 9.25. White sapphire hits a 9 rating on the scale, followed by cubic zirconia at 8.5. But after these gemstones, other diamond substitutes vary from 8.5 to 7.5.
This vast difference in density makes it easy to spot a simulated diamond, as they mostly come with scratches or smooth edges instead of sharp ones.
2. Unusually High Color Grade
Natural diamonds are rated by how many yellow or brown tints their whiteness contains, and this encompasses what the color grading system is all about. And the whiter the diamond, the higher its color grade, quality, and price. Purely white diamonds are scarce, and most high-rise options still exhibit shades of yellow or brown. However, most simulated diamonds are surprisingly colorless, exhibiting more whiteness and almost no other hue or tint. And if you find such a stone at a low price, it’s highly possible that what you have is a mimic.
But note that some imitation diamonds like moissanite may display tints of yellow, which may sometimes be more robust than those found in natural diamonds. So, combine this feature with others for better clarity.
3. Excess Brilliance
While diamonds are renowned and loved for their brilliant sparkle, simulated diamonds are renowned for displaying an excess of this feature. Moissanite, for example, exhibits a blast of rainbow colors that shimmer brighter than would in a natural diamond. And when put side by side, the simulant would display this sparkle more than a natural diamond. So, if you note this on a stone, consider it an indication of a possible substitute.
4. Excess Clarity
Finding a natural diamond with almost zero flaws is very rare, and those that come as such rank high on the pricing scale. But imitation diamonds are notorious for their flawless clarity. This feature is ubiquitous in cubic zirconia and white sapphire, as they’re primarily manufactured in a lab and extracted of all impurities to achieve more brilliance.
5. Slower Heat Dissipation
The fog test is commonly carried out by a natural diamond’s ability to disperse heat. And most simulated diamonds fail in this aspect. When fog is breathed onto the surface of a natural stone, it dissipates in no time. But a simulated diamond will have the heat linger for longer. Of course, you can’t use this feature alone to determine the difference as other environmental conditions may come into play. And some diamond substitutes like moissanite may dissipate heat fast. So, it’s best to combine this observation with other methods.
6. Cheap Setting and Mount
When dealing with a diamond on a ring, it can be difficult to tell if it is actual or simulated. But you can confirm by checking the stone’s setting and mount. Natural diamonds are placed on high-quality gold and platinum to indicate their high value. And such stones will also sit on halo or side-stone settings, with the platinum (P.T.) or gold (K) quality indicated on the ring.
Natural diamonds mostly sit on 10K, 14K, and 18K gold, or 585, 770, 900, and 950 platinum rings. But a simulated diamond will have the material’s code engraved or stamped on the ring, such as C.Z. for cubic zirconia.
7. Low Price
Simulants are mostly low-priced because they’re made from low-cost materials compared to natural diamonds. This is a huge tell, especially when you have a large or heavy stone up for sale. Also, it would help if you assumed a stone is a simulated diamond when it’s unbelievably flawless but offered at a shockingly low price. And this should be noted, especially when the cost is lower than a natural diamond of similar quality and size.
While one of these factors can help you quickly point out a simulated diamond, it may also confuse it for a real one if you depend solely on it. For instance, some imitation stones like moissanite may exhibit an attractive ‘fire’ that may even be close to the real thing. Others may also seem just as hard or offer an almost similar luster when polished. And though simulants are cheaper than natural diamonds, their price range could still be in the thousands. So, the best way to be sure of what you have is by the combined observation of all the factors listed. This gives a stronger conviction of how to identify one from the other.
Should You Get a Simulated Diamond?
So, you’ve compared the similarities and differences and can tell one from the other. But you’ve also arrived at a conclusive junction- are simulated diamonds not worth it? While the journey may seem like it’s driving you to say no, simulants also come with a few advantages. So, let’s highlight why simulated diamonds are good and why people may wish to avoid them.
Cheap, Yet Valuable: Simulated diamonds are more affordable than natural diamonds. But while their price may be lower, it’s still on the high side, with some stones going for as much as $2,000!
They’re Ethical: Due to the existence of conflict and blood diamonds, many jewelers and buyers worry about the origin of natural stones. Others may also be bothered about its mining process’s toll on the environment. But simulated diamonds are free of these burdens, as they use fewer materials and are created in controlled environments.
They’re Attractive: Some people prefer the flawlessness and brilliance of stimulants over natural diamonds. And because you can get a larger stone for a lesser price, they’re more pronounced in your outfit.
Some are Certified: Some companies offer you authenticity certificates and warranties, ensuring good value for your money and claiming to purchase a valuable stone.
Low Durability: Simulated diamonds aren’t as hard as real ones and scratch or break easily. Even the most substantial option, moissanite, is prone to wear over time.
Easily Detected: Some users may not like the excess brilliance, fire, and clarity with most imitation diamonds. And in some cases, the size difference between it and a natural diamond of equal carat can be a clear giveaway of its true nature.
Lower Lustre and Refraction: Most simulated diamonds lack the high luster of a natural polished diamond. And others, like moissanite and rutile, are double-refractive, making their inside appear blurry.
May Need More Maintenance: Some diamond substitutes like colorless sapphire require frequent cleaning. And others like zircon must be handled with extra care due to their brittleness.
With these notes in mind, it becomes clear that choosing a simulated diamond is a matter of preference. For one thing, they’re more affordable, and their higher sparkle may appeal to your need. But they’re also not as durable as natural diamonds, so you’ll need to take extra care with them. But in a nutshell, you will still find something that works with your budget, provided you keep your preferred features in mind when looking for one.
Not everyone can afford natural diamonds’ superior quality and authenticity, so simulated diamonds are made. With them, you can still enjoy the perks of owning the world’s most expensive jewelry material without spending as much as expected. And though they may not match up to the real deal, they’ll still give a level of satisfaction that’s just right for your requirements.