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Synthetic Diamonds or Diamond Simulants: Why the Confusion?

Syntheticdiamondyellow There seems to be a great deal of confusion about the words man-made, synthetic, simulated, and simulant as they related to diamonds.  I get regular questions about the differences from clients and visitors to my blog and website.  In addition, I see many articles written online that have added further confusion by incorrectly using the various terminologies.

One of the reasons for this confusion is that many of the companies that are selling fake diamonds purposely use misleading terminology in the descriptions of their products.  Many marketers work very hard to not say what their product really is (cubic zirconia for example) while making every effort to imply their product is just a different form of diamond.

The distinction starts with a basic fact:  Diamonds are diamonds and all other materials are not diamonds.  Diamond is one of the three natural forms (amorphous carbon, graphite, diamond) of the element carbon and has the following physical properties:

  • Hardness of 10 as measured on the Mohs hardness scale
  • Density averages 3.51
  • Cleavage in 4 directions
  • Refractive index is 2.4
  • Dispersion is 0.044
  • Luster index is 17.2%

There are two types of diamonds: natural diamonds and synthetic diamonds.

Other terms used to describe synthetic diamonds include cultivated, cultured, man-made, Some of the brands of synthetic diamond include Apollo, Genesis, Adia Diamonds, New Age Diamonds, Tairus, and LifeGem, and Chatham

While natural diamond is typically used for jewelry, the lower quality stones are used for industrial purposes such as saw blades and drill tips.  Most synthetic diamonds are used for industrial purposes but as the brand name synthetics improve their products, increasing numbers of synthetic diamonds are now used for jewelry.

Diamond simulants are materials that look like diamonds but do not have the physical properties of diamonds.  These diamond simulants, also known as simulated diamonds, can be made by nature (white sapphire, quartz) or man-made (cubic zirconia, moissanite, glass, yttrium aluminum garnet).

The manufacturer and retailers of moissanite typically market it as a unique material, not to be confused with diamond.  While they often compare moissanite’s characteristics with diamond, the advertising is very specific that the material is moissanite.  That is not often the case with cubic zirconia.

Cubiczirconia Much of the confusion in recent years stems from the marketing of the various brands of cubic zirconia.  Every brand touts itself as the best diamond simulant while usually avoiding admitting the material is cubic zirconia.  As a result, the shopper who reads the advertising about these brands is not sure what material they are considering and often confuses them with synthetic diamond.  Just because cubic zirconia is man-made and therefore synthetic, does not make it synthetic diamond.  However, when you read the marketing literature on the various brands of cubic zirconia, it is obvious that those companies try to confuse shoppers into thinking they are some form of diamond.

Some of the more recognized brands of cubic zirconia are:

It is easy for a gemologist to determine the difference between diamonds (natural or synthetic) and diamonds simulants (fakes) but it is not so easy to determine the true type of material from the marketing ads.  I hope that the discussion above will help to sort through the misleading marketing descriptions.  It is important for consumers to understand the terminology so they can make an informed decision on what stone is correct for their particular requirements.

If you have questions about particular synthetic diamond or diamond simulant products, please leave a comment below.  I will research the produce and respond to your comments with whatever assistance I can provide.  If you have a question, chances are other consumers have the same question and we want to help shoppers avoid making expensive mistakes whether they are buying diamonds or diamond simulants.

Comments

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Irishlass

Your site has been the best I have seen yet, and thank you for that! The diamond simulant/CZ/Moissanite world is a very confusing one for the consumer, and we are in need of unbiased responses, so again, thank you!!!
I am looking to purchase a 2ct. solitare engagement ring in a white gold or platinum setting. I do not wish to spend the money on a real diamond for many reasons, but I do very much wish for the stone that I purchase to be realistic looking to the naked eye, and durable. (I do not want to have to replace my stone in two years due to dulling, discoloring, etc.) I have reseached Asha, Sona, DNL, and CARAT, and all the sites are claiming to have "the best"...and to make it worse, each site refutes the testimony of all the other sites!!! I have not really yet looked into Moissanite. Can you provide advice as to the best purchase option foe me...for realism, and durability?
Thank you for providing this much needed forum!!!

created diamonds

It's VERY VERY useful information. Thanks great. I've read much about cultured diamonds and cubic zirconia and it's clear for me when they are called by their names, however I'm a bit confused by such names as Russian Brilliants or Diamond Nexus. It is a kind of a trick to name simple CZ by names resembling diamonds. I realize that it is marketing technique however I would be very frustrated when I were cheated(

Thanks again!

Irishlass

First, thank you so very much for this forum to ask questions... I wish I would have found you sooner!!! We are looking to buy a very realistic diamond simulant, and I have done LOADS of research on ASHA, DNL, SONA and moissanite...and I am even more confused than when I started. I understand that the mounting is very important... so we plan to get white gold or platinum, but I want my stone to maintain its quality and shine, (No cloudiness, etc). I will care for it gently, but it cannot appear "fake".
Do you have ANY suggestions as to which "retailer" may be the best to chose?
Thanks in advance!!

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Denny's Response

Our company only deals with natural diamonds and gemstones so we have no first hand experience with any retailers of diamond simulants. Since Moissanite is the higher quality and more expensive diamond simulant, I would expect most retailers of this product to have better quality mountings too. Since the other simulants are generally just different forms of CZ (cubic zirconia), you should pay more attention to the quality of the mountings than the stones.

Simulated Lab Created Diamonds

Moissanite is a great choice if you are looking for durability, and you want it to always sparkle, even when it gets a little dirty. The downside, as people have pointed out here, is the color. However color is not really an issue for many in the more brilliant cuts such as the round brilliant and the cushion. Also, there are a few companies such as MoissaniteCo.com that offer color enhanced Moissanite stones: http://moissaniteco.com/enhanced_moissanite.html

Asha is also a great product, and it tends to be colorless although it is offered in a few different shades (H color and I color for antique cuts). The only downside of Asha compared to Moissanite is that it is not as hard and so it can be more susceptible to scratching (but the out diamond layer makes it much harder / susceptible to scratching than a regular CZ).

Jennifer Hill

Hey there. I have decided that a synthetic or lab created diamond is the way I want to go. Can you please recommend some reputable manufacturers? Thank you!! :)

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Denny's Response

You might want to read the page we have on our website that discusses synthetic diamonds.

http://www.diamondsourceva.com/Education/ArtificialDiamonds/synthetic-diamonds.asp

YL

Hi do u know if Gordon Max sells CZ or synthetic diamonds?

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Denny's Response

Their advertising clearly states "diamond simulant" so you can assume they are some form of CZ (Cubic Zirconia). Synthetic diamonds are real diamonds, only man-made instead of produced by nature. Diamond simulants are not diamonds but are materials that they claim look like diamonds (CZ, glass, white sapphire, Moissanite, etc.).

Susan

My boyfriend just purchased a 1.5 carat ring for 3500.00 from Milestone Jewelers on Florin Road in Sacramento. He asked for a 1 to 1.5 carat diamond and was shown this and told it was a diamond. The minute I saw it I knew it wasn't. I took it to my jeweler and was told it was worth about 150.00.
I called Tony the owner of Milestone Jewelers in Sacramento on Florin Road where the ring was purchased from. I asked why they would sell fake diamonds without representing them as fakes. He said there is a sign in the store. He said it was a hybrid but if I didn't want it he would trade in the one we bought for anything else. He said he sells 1 to 1.5 carat real diamond for about 7000 but I'm guessing this is way overpriced based on quality. Bottom line is I don't trust them and want our money back to go to a trusted reputable jeweler. Do you have any suggestions other then the BBB and maybe Call 3 NEws for action. I'm sure this fraud is going on with may unsuspecting customers.

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Denny's Response

This type of misrepresentation goes on all the time. We recently had a client who spent over $30,000 for a ring in the Diamond District in New York. He then discovered the stones in the ring were not diamonds and sued the company. It has been about 6 months now and he still does not have his money back.

The way the law works it is generally "Buyer Beware" meaning that it is the buyer's responsibility to ask the questions and read the fine print. Retailers marketing these diamond simulant products online and in the jewelry stores are very careful in their wording and how they advertise their product. They are big on the implications and dance around telling the consumer what the material really is (usually CZ-Cubic Zirconia).

Retro Jordan

I was thinking about writing a post on this exact subject. Thank you.

Puneet

thank you for clearing misconceptions but my question to you is how would i make out difference that is it a diamond or its stimulant ?which main property should i look for so that i easily can make out the difference?

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Denny's Reponse

Usually the easiest way to tell which is a diamond and which is a simulant is the price. If you see earrings that are a half carat in each ear, the diamonds will be the ones priced at $2500 and above while the simulants will be the ones for $500.

The next best way is to read the marketing description. Moissanite will be clearly stated as Moissanite. You can assume that all the other "looks like diamond" materials are some form of CZ (cubic zirconia).

white gold diamond earrings

Is it hard to determine which is real from synthetic diamonds? Any tips on how to easily determine which one is real and which one is fake?

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Denny's Response

Your questions shows part of the confusion. Your first question asks about real (natural) diamonds and synthetic diamonds. Both are real diamonds, with the difference being whether they are formed by nature or are man-made.

Your second question asks about real and fake. Fake (simulants) are not diamonds but are materials that are marketed to look like diamonds (CZ, glass, white sapphire, Moissanite, etc.).

Diamonds tend to be expensive and simulants relatively cheap so price is the first step in deciding which is which. Read the marketing descriptions. Moissanite is always cleared identified so you can usually assume the other simulants are CZ.

BEN KOH

I am would to ask your comment about Gordon Max stimulated diamond. What do you think about the quality of their stimulated diamond? How well do they pass off as real diamond?

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Denny's Reply

We only sell natural diamonds. If shoppers want to buy cubic zirconia that is fine, just don't pay more than a few dollars per carat which is the price from any jewelry supply company.

Bob

Have you heard of Spektralyte lab created diamonds

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Denny's Reply:

Check out the comment posted November 21, 2008

Diamond Engagement Rings

Thank you for clearing and make me aware about the diamonds. I like your site. Keep bringing such post for me.

vijayakumar jain.

sir, vijayakumar jain from india. i am in real diamond nd diamond jewellery trade. often now i have been receiving queries about diamond simulants alternate to real diamonds just for cost sake. i happen to browse various cos site, like Diamondelle, Diamone, Russian Brilliants, Hikaru Diamonds, Asha diamonds nd so on. Every co says dat their diamond has d similar properties to that of real diamonds excepting d hardness (Diamone says 9.7 nd some claim to b 10) nd also say dat they apply a coating of diamond crystals using nanotechnology nd so on and their products are amarphous, scratch nd fire resistant, but r a bit heavy in weight. so still i am confused about their product since i feel most of diamond simulants have cz as core. so i assume dat these product might have d brilliancy nd symmetry but do des have d durability, fire,hardness, returns as natural diamonds.cud u sujjest me any co dat manufactures diamond simulant or man made diamonds (brilliant white..DEF col IF-VVS clarity with identical/similar properties with all respect) which have carbon crystals as core nd can b an alternate source for diamonds. ps. clarify.
thank u nd regards.

Laura

Can you tell me anything about Arctic Star jewels? I have a local jeweler that sells these. They looked great, but I am a novice when it comes to diamonds.

Solitaire Diamond Wedding Rings

Superb article being updated. Really enjoyed reading it and thanks for sharing this lovely post.

Marc Murchison

Hi...I recently purchased a pear cut wedding set with matching band for my wife and me from Jewelers Direct. They sell CZ jewelry. They are pretty nice but now I wish I had known about Moissanite because we have to clean them a lot to keep them bright. But what I would like to know is what is up with the "bow tie" in pear cut and marquis cut stones?

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Denny's Reply

If oblong diamond shapes like the pear, marquise, oval, and radiant are not cut properly, they can have what appears to be a dark bow-tie shaped shaddow in the center of the stone where the facets are not reflecting properly. One of the challenges with these types of shapes is to find stones that have minimal or no dark bow tie. There is nothing on the GIA certifications that can ensure no bow tie so it must be seen in person.

Diamond Rings

Good post and brilliant views. Thanks for sharing!

online diamond appraisal

It really does sparkle more than most engagement diamonds I see. For fun, try shining a laser pointer into a cut diamond!" yeah, laser pointers have so many uses!

hgswamy

please advise me whether diamond- tine (tata gold plus) and cubic zirconia are one and the same or any difference

Calli Medved

I've found two simulated companies and their prices vary quite dramatically. How can I tell I done is better than the other, please? Gordon Max versus Carat ?

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Denny's Reply:

The materials for diamond simulants (basically forms of CZ) are much the same with the difference in price probably being which company things they can price higher. There many consumers who assume that something more expensive must be better so the marketing strategies play to those shoppers. With CZ available for a few dollars per carat, paying ten or a hundred times that does not make the product that much better. If buying jewelry items, I would focus more on the quality of the mountings and the cut of the stones rather than the brand of CZ.

Donna Roepenack

I purchased some stones about five years ago that were called Briolite for about $20.00 a carat. Now they are hard to find and a carat costs about $300.00. Have you ever heard of Briolite?

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Denny's Reply:

Briolite is brand of synethic gemstone and used as a diamond simulant. When I look at their website and the way Briolite is marketed, it appears to be a brand of CZ (cubic zirconia). As always you should assume a diamond simulant is some form of CZ unless they can prove otherwise. CZ with some type of surface treatment is still CZ the way I see it.

Lee

I currently own a 1.25 ct. mossianite ring. I got it enhanced so that there would be no yellow tint to it and it looks brilliant white. I have had it for a couple of years and it still looks beautiful. I compare it to my larger and significantly more expensive natural diamond ring and it is impossible to see any differences with the naked eye.

ChrisB, UK & Serbia

Ideally I'm sure the majority of people would prefer to purchase a natural diamond, if the prices weren't so inflated due to controlled distribution to make something seem so special when infact it isn't. Millions of diamonds are mined each year but with very clever marketing and cartels restricting what's available, and of course 'blood diamonds', working conditions, environmental issues have led many to look at alternatives.
What are the best, who knows, but having researched quite a bit my personal feeling is toward the Diamond Hybrid, although confused as how MiaDonna & Asha have the same patent pending for what seems to be the same technology. I think someone else pointed out Diamond Nexus technology and chemicals used is different to 'normal' CZ, but there was no reply to this, so are they just CZ or something slightly different?
At the end of the day the choice is yours.

brad

thank you for your article! you really helped clearing up the difference between the two diamond, thanks!

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