Synthetic Diamonds or Diamond Simulants: Why the Confusion?
October 14, 2007
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.
- Natural diamonds are mined from the earth and formed by nature.
- Synthetic diamonds are man-made in a laboratory using high pressure and high temperature.
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.
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:
- Russian Brilliants
- Diamond Nexus
- Van Graff
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.