Difference Between Diamond and Cubic Zirconia

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: October 01, 2023


Difference Between Diamond and Cubic Zirconia

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Diamonds or cubic zirconia which is a better option? Diamonds win in every category except price/cost. The expensiveness of diamonds is the reason for the spike in cubic zirconia’s demand throughout the years. People are increasingly asking themselves why they should spend more on diamonds when they can feel just as confident and beautiful wearing jewelry made of cubic zirconia (CZ). While it is a valid question, people must also think about various other factors that make buying diamonds worth every penny.

Even the smallest diamond will outshine cubic zirconia due to its unparalleled brilliance and durability. On the other hand, CZ is available in various sizes, cuts, and colors at much more affordable costs. Blue, red, or yellow diamonds may be hypnotizing, but their costs would make a common man (or woman) turn tail and run. Colored cubic zirconia are much more affordable and hence hold their own against the diamonds.

Diamond Vs. Cubic Zirconia

Cubic Zirconia is a diamond simulant; it resembles a diamond in appearance, but its chemical composition differs. Diamonds (natural and lab-made) are made of carbon, whereas cubic zirconia is composed of zirconium dioxide.

Difference Between Diamond And Cubic Zirconia In Tabular Form

Parameters of ComparisonDiamondCubic Zirconia
AffordabilityDiamonds are stunning; that is indisputable. However, they cost an arm and a leg (a 1-carat natural diamond costs around $1800 - $12000). After all, they are rare and expensive to mine. Lab-grown diamonds are less expensive than natural diamonds but still more expensive than cubic zirconia.Cubic zirconia is a lifesaver for those who want to wear something aesthetically pleasing without having to rob banks to pay for it. That is why it is celebrated as the budget-friendly alternative (a 1-carat cubic zirconia costs a mere $20) to diamonds.
ImperfectionsNatural and lab-grown diamonds are imperfect (meaning they have flaws). These tiny imperfections in the diamonds are known as inclusions.Cubic zirconia has no such flaws, as it is created using pure minerals under the watchful eyes of the developers.
AppearanceThe ‘white’ diamonds may have a yellow, brown, or grey tint. They are not entirely colorless, as people believe.Cubic zirconia is much more likely to be entirely colorless.
Brilliance and FireBrilliance refers to white light reflection, and diamonds are the champions when it comes to brilliance. Fire refers to white light dispersion into rainbow colors. A diamond’s fire is unmatched under direct sunlight; however, it is a little dull and diffused when not under direct light.Unfortunately, cubic zirconia pales in comparison to diamonds when it comes to brilliance. Even their fire is a bit off (though they have more fire than diamonds), as they reflect more orange and blue flashes than an entire rainbow of colored light.
DurabilityNatural diamonds last a lifetime, making them family heirlooms. Their worth/value does not decrease much from the initial value for which they were bought. (No wonder people stick to diamond rings for engagements and weddings.)The beauty of these stones fades within years. Their appearance becomes cloudy and scratched, no matter how shiny they were initially. Moreover, they have no resale value.
Thermal conductivityDiamonds are the best thermal conductors (except the blue diamond, which is an excellent thermal insulator).CZ is an excellent thermal insulator (it does not allow current to flow freely).
Natural or man-made?Diamonds may be natural or man-made/lab-grown.Occurrence of natural CZ is rare. All cubic zirconia commercially available is man-made/synthetic.

What Is A Diamond?

A diamond is a solid form of Carbon and the most popular gemstone. People find it alluring due to its brilliance, fire, and hardness. They are not ‘white’ as many people believe. Composed of 99.95% carbon, these stones gain a blue, yellow, or brown color due to traces of impurities such as boron and nitrogen and defects (interruption of regular atom arrangement patterns) respectively.

Completely colorless diamonds are rare and expensive. However, entirely colored diamonds such as blue, red, and pink diamonds are immensely expensive, as they constitute only 0.1% of diamonds. Remember the ‘pick a diamond’ scene from the episode Diamond Exchange in White Collar? The pink and blue diamonds are so small but cost 1.2 million each! (Don’t faint, it will be awkward to explain away the cause of such fainting.)

Synthetic or lab-grown diamonds are not as expensive as natural diamonds and are a great option for people wishing to indulge themselves or their loved ones. Most people think since diamond is the hardest material known to humans, they are indestructible. This belief is true to some extent, as only diamonds can scratch other diamonds (hence, the saying diamond cuts diamond). Furthermore, jewelers can cut out the scratches in diamonds if they have enough carats to lose (so, a diamond can be repaired if it is scratched during a catfight over whose diamond is bigger? Awesome!).  

Diamond Cut Types

So, why do people keep flocking to buy diamonds when they are so expensive? Probably because of their beauty and timelessness. How a diamond is cut determines its beauty/brilliance; uncut or raw diamonds are an acquired taste (they are not for everyone). After all, a diamond’s brilliance is what makes it hauntingly beautiful. Without it, it is not worth much in the market. The following are some of the popular diamond cuts (styles or designs used to shape a diamond):

Round Brilliant Diamonds

Round brilliant diamonds are the most popular as they are radiant. (A brilliant is a gemstone cut in a particular shape to maximize light return and have exceptional brilliance.) Round brilliant diamonds can be cut to create the visual pattern of eight hearts (when viewed bottoms-up) and eight arrows (when viewed topside up), known as the hearts and arrows phenomenon (how cool is that? Makes one almost want to rush out and buy one, right?).

Princess-Cut Diamonds

Princess-cut diamonds differ from other cut styles because they display colors in the center and the corners, whereas diamonds cut in other styles show off the diamond’s color only in the center. These diamonds are available in square and rectangle shapes (as popular as this cut is, it would be awesome to see a diamond in some other shape for once). Wastages are minimal when diamonds are cut in this style, as it uses 80% of the original crystal, which is much more than other cut styles can boast of.

Cushion-Cut Diamonds

Also referred to as pillow-cut diamonds, this style shapes the diamonds to resemble a square or a rectangle. Cushion-cut diamonds are lustrous and have enviable clarity (absence of inclusions or blemishes), attributable to their large facets and slightly rounded corners. The Hope Diamond’s mythical twin featured in the TV series White Collar is nothing compared to the true cushion-cut, blue Hope Diamond.

Pear-shaped Diamonds

Most people who see a pear-shaped diamond cannot get over its beauty, brilliance, and style. The teardrop shape of these diamonds makes them aesthetically pleasing and gives off an elegant vibe (for most people that is more than enough reason to get their hands on one). Though most people associate this style with diamond earrings, pear-cut diamonds are also suitable for rings and bracelets. They make the wearer’s fingers and hands look slimmer, soft, and delicate.

Oval-Cut Diamonds

Oval-cut diamonds are the best friends of people with slender fingers. Diamonds cut in this style are a classic choice. They are the preferred style in engagement rings next to round brilliant diamonds. The famous Kohinoor Diamond is an example of an oval-cut diamond (everyone needs a diamond like that in their life. Unfortunately, people can only dream about it unless they are willing to stage a heist.).

Emerald-Cut Diamonds

These diamonds are unique because of the rectangular facets step-cut into them. This cut type makes the diamond’s color more prominent and shows off its perfect imperfection – the inclusions. Some people prefer emerald-cut diamonds in their engagement rings, as they consider them purer and clearer than round brilliants. Moreover, people can see into the heart of the stone, making it a much more personal piece of jewelry (a unique diamond for a unique soul!).

Radiant Cut Diamonds

The radiant cut is a combination of round brilliant and emerald cut. Who said people cannot have the best of both worlds? Diamonds cut in this style become more beautiful when set/combined with diamonds cut in other styles. With the emergence of radiant-cut diamonds and the growing popularity of round brilliants, rose-cut diamonds have gone out of fashion.

What Is Cubic Zirconia?

Cubic zirconia (also known as CZ) is ZrO2’s crystalline form. It is a synthetic material that closely resembles a diamond. People find it difficult to tell apart a diamond and cubic zirconia unless they know what to look for. Though CZ has been the preferred substitute/alternative to diamonds for years, synthetic moissanite (composed of silicon carbide) is a worthy competitor (however, it costs $500 per carat whereas CZ costs only $20 per carat. So, it is not a big surprise that people still prefer Cubic zirconia). These imitation diamonds or diamond simulants are less sparkly than real diamonds but are popular because of their fire.

Moreover, manufacturers have started applying a thin coating of diamond-like carbon/DLC (carbon material displaying certain properties of diamonds) on cubic zirconia to ‘improve’ them. This technique makes the gemstone harder and more lustrous, making it a much more believable-looking diamond (stop plotting a scheme. The time in prison is so not worth it). The DLC coating also aids in reducing the stone’s fire; therefore, it is possible to prank an unsuspecting person (however, the prank won’t work when the target is well-versed in the art of discerning real diamonds from imitations.).

Cubic zirconia show polish marks and their sharp edges appear dull. They are often colorless but can be colored to imitate other gemstones if people wish. Maintaining the pristine condition of CZ is not challenging; all people need is a soft-bristled toothbrush, mild dish soap, and water.

Main Difference Between Diamond And Cubic Zirconia (In Points)

  • Diamond is the hardest stone in the world; they do not show any wear and tear because of daily use. In fact, they scratch the surfaces near them without any damage to themselves because of their sharp and precise edges. Cubic zirconia becomes scratched, dulled, and worn due to daily use.
  • Cubic zirconia has a greater density than diamonds. Therefore, cubic zirconia will weigh more than a diamond of the same size (so, don’t be confused when a carat of cubic zirconia is smaller than a carat of diamond).
  • Colored cubic zirconia act as substitutes for diamonds (though a poor one in the eyes of diamond lovers) and several gems such as emeralds and rubies. Diamonds are one of a kind and do not act as substitutes for anything.
  • Diamonds have a refractive index of 2.417, whereas cubic zirconia has a refractive index of 2.176.
  • Cubic zirconia disperses light more than diamonds. The former has a dispersion rate of 0.060, whereas the latter has a dispersion rate of 0.044.


Ultimately, cubic zirconia is not as alluring, radiant, or durable as a diamond. However, it is affordable and has a less lustrous but still beautiful appearance. Therefore, diamonds are best suited for indicating commitment and providing a sense of permanency (after all, diamonds are women’s best friends). Moreover, they are treasured as family heirlooms representing the generations they were passed down through (it’s easy to lose track of how many movies and books featured a scene where the protagonist proposes with his mother’s or grandmother’s ring!).

On the other hand, cubic zirconia has enough fire to turn heads and retain attention. Sure, it may not be as popular as diamonds, but that does not mean they are not worth buying. Many people prefer CZ to diamonds as the latter’s history is filled with conflict (that is why they gained the notorious name blood diamonds). However, diamonds with conflict-free origins are available; therefore, it is up to the people to make an informed decision and buy whichever gemstone they want.


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"Difference Between Diamond and Cubic Zirconia." Diffzy.com, 2024. Thu. 29 Feb. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-diamond-and-cubic-zirconia>.

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