Diamonds possess an undeniable elegance. Writings describing their beauty date back as far as the 4th century B.C. Until very recently there were few options for people who wanted a comparable gemstone. Two of the best newer options are white topaz and cubic zirconia. Modern technology makes both of these items an inexpensive alternative to diamonds. But one should consider the unique strengths and weaknesses of each gemstone. This article will judge each gem as a possible replacement for diamonds.
Difference in Color
The color of a topaz can be best understood by looking at water. In the purest state, water is totally clear and pristine. As water picks up minerals or sediment from the environment that clarity will change to a variety of different tints. Likewise, a topaz can pick up environmental impurities while forming. This will tint the naturally clear state into a variety of different colors.
Cubic zirconia is also as clear as a diamond when formed in a pristine state. But an important point to remember about cubic zirconia is that it’s a synthetic gemstone. Cubic zirconia is always manufactured rather than mined. This means that cubic zirconia will almost always be clear due to the pristine conditions it’s created within.
Cubic zirconia has a slight advantage over the white topaz simply due to uniformity. Any given example of cubic zirconia will have similar color to a diamond. The way a white topaz forms will introduce a wide range of variation within a collection.
Difference in Sparkle
The sparkle of a gemstone is in large part due to overall durability. Diamonds usually have a striking sparkle due to the fact that they’re so strong. Environmental conditions won’t damage diamonds due to their durability.
Diamonds are stronger than either white topaz or cubic zirconia. But the clear winner of the two is cubic zirconia. Both cubic zirconia and white topaz possess an inherent sparkle. But the natural resistance of cubic zirconia ensures that the sparkle will endure for a far longer period of time.
Difference in Brilliance
A gemstone’s brilliance might seem rather subjective. But there’s a standardized metric which measures the overall brilliance of any given gemstone. A the name suggests, a refractive index measures the level of light refraction provided by a gemstone. The higher the refractive index the more brilliant the gemstone. For comparison’s sake, one can assume that an average diamond will have a refractive index around 2.4.
A white topaz has an average refractive index of 1.6. In contrast, the refractive index of cubic zirconia is an impressive 2.2. This places the overall brilliance of cubic zirconia fairly close to that of a diamond. There’s a clear winner in the white topaz vs cubic zirconia ranking for brilliance. Cubic zirconia comes out vastly superior in this category.
Difference in Hardness
The Mohs scale is a metric used to measure the overall hardness and durability of gemstones. The higher a gemstone’s Mohs ranking, the more durable it is. Diamonds are remarkably durable, with a Mohs ranking of 10.
A white topaz is much softer than a diamond. The average white topaz scores an 8 on the Mohs scale. While 8 is a respectable rating, it’s still far short of a diamond. Cubic zirconia fares slightly better with an average of around 8.5.
The white topaz vs cubic zirconia ranking for durability comes out in favor of cubic zirconia. A difference of 0.5 might not seem like very much. But that slight advantage can turn into a significant factor when multiplied over the course of several years.
Difference in Clarity
Clarity refers to the overall imperfections found within a gemstone. An inclusion stems from any variation from a gemstone’s standard form. The more plentiful and severe the inclusions the lower the overall value of the gemstone. It’s also important to remember that inclusions are often so small that they’re invisible to the naked eye. When a jeweler uses magnification to examine an item they’re often looking for these otherwise invisible imperfections.
The clarity of white topaz and diamonds are fairly similar. Natural processes create both of these gemstones. And these similar processes tend to impart imperfections at a similar level of chance.
The clarity of cubic zirconia is also influenced by the forces which bring it into being. Mass produced cubic zirconia will usually provide a lower overall level of clarity. More precise and expensive production methods will provide a higher level of clarity.
The amount of variability in clarity for both a white topaz and cubic zirconia make direct comparisons difficult. In this case it’s best to simply go by averages and what one will find for comparable prices. With those factors in mind the white topaz vs cubic zirconia ranking for clarity comes out in favor of cubic zirconia. The average method of production will still provide higher levels of clarity than random chance in natural environments. As such the synthetic gemstone will always have significant advantages.
Difference in Cut
People often assume that the classic shape of a diamond is a natural occurrence. Most commercially sold diamonds are actually specifically cut to an optimal form. The same is true of both the white topaz and cubic zirconia. Because of this the general procedure for cutting any gemstone will be fairly similar.
The white topaz vs cubic zirconia ranking is an automatic tie due to the use of similar procedures. The cutting process might impact other features of the gemstone. For example, a round cut is the classic shape for diamonds. A white topaz or cubic zirconia with a similar cut will be more appropriate as a diamond substitute. But a similar process gives form to all three gems.
Difference in Price
Diamonds are notoriously expensive. The high price point is one of the main reasons why people look into alternatives in the first place. But the price point of a white topaz and cubic zirconia offer up more variety.
A white topaz has built in scarcity due to the fact that it’s formed in nature. While cubic zirconia has a sliding price point that is usually in line with manufacturing techniques. Highly automated mass produced cubic zirconia is fairly inexpensive. Though the price of cubic zirconia will rise as more individual attention goes into its creation.
Despite their different origins there’s usually not much difference between the pricing of a white topaz and cubic zirconia. Carefully crafted cubic zirconia is about as common as higher quality white topaz. As such, the white topaz vs cubic zirconia ranking for price is a tie.
The Bottom Line
The white topaz vs cubic zirconia comparison shows that they’re fairly similar in most areas. The two gems do have some important differences though. A high Mohs value protects cubic zirconia as a long term investment and ensures superior clarity.
Additionally, cubic zirconia has a significant advantage in the brilliance rating when compared to a white topaz. With these factors in mind, the winner of the white topaz vs cubic zirconia comparison is clear. Cubic zirconia matches or surpasses white topaz in most areas.