Diamonds are expensive, there's no doubt about it.
Diamond lookalikes and diamonds that are grown in a lab are becoming extremely popular in the jewelry industry.
In this Learning Jewelry guide, you'll find an in-depth guide to the most popular diamond look-alikes in the jewelry market today.
What Are Diamond Imitation Stones?
Gemstones that are intended to be viewed as a diamond, but aren't a diamond are called diamond simulants, or diamond imitation. Some of these are natural gemstones and others have been grown in a lab.
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Common Gems to Replace Diamonds
Natural moissanite was discovered in a crater in Arizona by Henri Moissan. He thought it was a diamond, but found it was a different gemstone altogether. Moissanite is originally thought to be from meteors, which paved the way for its nickname, the "Space Diamond" or "Stardust."
Moissanite is very sparkly and has more brilliance than a diamond due to its higher refractive index. Many compare the look of a moissanite to a disco ball. When placed next to a diamond, the moissanite will be much flashier.
Moissanite gemstones don't have the GIA's 4Cs grading scale like diamonds, but will come in Premium or Super Premium quality. The company who created moissanite in a lab, Charles & Colvard, also carry the highest quality moissanite, the Forever One Moissanite.
Moissanite are an excellent choice for the person searching for a reliable substitute to a diamond engagement ring. It is rated 9.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness, which means it's incredibly scratch resistant.
Diamonds are the hardest mineral in the world, rating at a 10. Keep in mind, hardness equates to scratchability, not whether it's breakable or not. Any gemstone can chip or break, if it is hit with enough pressure at the right spot.
Cubic zirconia, aka CZ, is a manmade gemstone. It's the most popular and usually least expensive diamond substitute in the jewelry market.
Natural cubic zirconia is rare, so scientists found a way to synthesize it. They take powdered zirconium dioxide and melt it with calcium and magnesium. They all mix together. During the cool-down process, the cubic zirconia crystals are formed. Then, they are cut and faceted into the extremely affordable diamond imitation.
Don't expect to find too many high quality cubic zirconia jewelry, because the stones aren't usually set in precious metals like gold and platinum. You might not be able to find any in some physical stores like Kays and Zales, but they'll have many options online.
The price of a 1 carat CZ usually ranges from $5-$30, so it's very affordable. The pricing of a CZ ring is usually due to the metal rather the stone itself.
On the hardness scale, cubic zirconia rates at an 8-8.5. You shouldn't wear cubic zirconia engagement rings, but it may be just fine for fake diamond earrings or trainer jewelry for children.
Cubic zirconia comes in a variety of colors, which is why you'll see it portrayed as other colored gemstones in cheaper birthstone jewelry.
When set next to a real diamond, cubic zirconia will appear way flashier than a diamond. Diamonds have a more subtle brilliance, whereas cubic zirconia will be pretty noticeable. CZs are known for their brilliant display of rainbow light.
A lot of people don't know about sapphire. They think it's blue and only blue. Sapphires come from the mineral known as corundum. Corundum comes in a variety of colors depending on what impurities have been mixed with it when it was forming. Every color of corundum is a sapphire, except red. Red corundum is known as ruby.
If no elements were mixed into the corundum as it was forming, you get colorless sapphire, known in the jewelry world as white sapphire. Corundum almost always has some sort of impurity in it while it forms, so natural white sapphire is r rare.
Almost all white sapphires you'll find in jewelry market will be lab-created. You can get natural sapphire, you'll just have to do a bit of research. White sapphires, natural or otherwise, aren't expensive.
These gemstones don't go up in price based on carat size or setting. In fact, finding white sapphires 1 carat and below are difficult because most white sapphire center stones are at least 2 carats.
If not taken care of regularly, the stone is known to become cloudy. You should also be aware that its brilliance is different from that of a diamond because its light is more silvery and gray-toned.
Topaz is a semi-precious gemstone that also has many different colors. Colorless topaz is known as white topaz in the industry. Topaz is an affordable gemstone that comes from a silicate mineral.
Blue topaz and orange topaz are the most popular colors. Orange topaz is often mistaken for citrine. Both swiss blue topaz and London blue topaz are commonly sold together in fine jewelry.
You won't find white topaz usually as the center stone on a ring. Even though it's colorless like a diamond, that's where the similarities in appearance differ. White topaz brilliance is nowhere near the fire of a diamond.
That's why you'll see white topaz more often as side stones, just like this earring from Blue Nile.
Topaz is also very affordable, costing less than white sapphire. However, white sapphire seems to be the preferred one between the two.
On the hardness scale, topaz rates an 8. This means that your white topaz will scratch with everyday use.
Topaz wouldn't make a good center stone for an engagement ring since it won't survive the day-to-day for long without scratching. Topaz center stones should be in a protective setting like a flush or bezel setting.
- Make excellent gifts
- Keepadding on
- Removable charms
- Known to snag on fabrics
Read also: White Topaz vs Diamonds
Zircon is the world's oldest known gemstone and diamond simulant. It's found in various parts of the world, including but not limited to the United States, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and Burma.
The word "zircon" is a Persian word meaning "gold colored." But you can find zircon in a range of other colors as well as a colorless version. A colorless zircon is usually sought after as a diamond simulant.
Zircon jewelry used to be pretty popular, but have taken a back burner to more trendy diamond imitations. It might surprise you to know that zircon's luster and brilliance is the most similar to a diamond out of all the stones on this list.
Unlike a diamond, zircon has double refraction. Double refraction is when a single ray of light in a crystal is bent, slowed, and split into two. It's also referred to as birefringence. Birefringence is what causes the rainbow light effect.
While stunning, the rainbow effect can cause the zircon to look fuzzy, so make sure you check out some videos of it in different lighting. Most zircon are eye-clean, so it's very easy and affordable to buy one without inclusions as opposed to diamonds.
Read also: What are eye-clean diamonds?
Zircons are fairly cheap in small sizes, but prices can increase when searching for larger stones. You should expect to see zircon costing around $45-$400 per carat.
They aren't the best choice for engagement or wedding rings. They rate a 7.5 on the Moh scale, making them very vulnerable to scratching. Scratched zircons will look very dull, so it's best not to wear them everyday.
Zircon also doesn't have the best reputation, which steers customers from it. They are often confused with cubic zirconias, the cheap man-made diamond simulants. But the two are completely different, and zircons deserve their recognition as their own stone.
Less Common Gems Similar to Diamonds
You won't find clear quartz as a traditional diamond simulant. Quartz is used more in boho jewelry and crystal healing than in fine jewelry. In fact, it's used more in home decor than in jewelry. Quartz also comes in a variety of colors. It's most popular colors are purple and yellow. Purple quartz is the birthstone of February, also known as amethyst. The yellow gem version is November's birthstone, citrine.
The biggest reason why quartz isn't a popular diamond simulant is because of difference in optical properties. Clear quartz doesn't have a high refractive index, so it doesn't really sparkle or give off high dispersion. Quartz has double refraction too, but it's brilliance is more of a twinkle.
You'll probably have trouble finding quartz in fine jewelry retailers, so your best bet is to go online or check your local area for a jeweler. Quartz rates a 7 on the Moh hardness scale, just below white topaz.
Quartz shouldn't be worn daily if you're using it as a diamond simulant. Many people wear quartz jewelry that aren't concerned with the transparency of the stone.
Clear quartz also has to be cut exceptionally well to maintain the illusion of a diamond. While a diamond can be graded as a Good cut and still have a great appearance, this isn't the case with clear quartz. Quartz without a high quality cut will appear cloudy or hazy, unlike a diamond.
Goshenite is the clear form of the mineral beryl. You might be more familiar with the dark green, light blue and pink gemstone varieties of beryl, also known as emerald, aquamarine and morganite. Goshenite isn't used much as a diamond simulant, and most people don't even know it exists.
This stone is used more in the metaphysical and crystal healing and stopped being viewed as a diamond lookalike when lab grown diamonds became popular.
Goshenite has sparkle, but its refractive index is 1.5 times lower than that of a diamond. So it will have some sparkle, but it will look considerably less than a diamond. But from far away, no one will really know.
Goshenite requires more upkeep than a diamond, so you'll want to clean it with soap and water every time you wear it. Beryl rates a 7.5 on the Moh scale of hardness, so it can be scratched if worn frequently.
So over time, your stone will cloud, so it'll need to be polished by a jeweler. If you aren't really wanting to have to keep up with your jewelry, I'd recommend choosing a different diamond lookalike.
Sometimes, none of the gemstones mentioned in this article are used in jewelry. For the cheapest diamond simulant in jewelry, I present to you: glass. That's right, it's not even a gemstone.
It's is kind of a nifty thing because it's constantly being mined from people looking for gemstones. Glass is used in all sorts of jewelry, but less in high-end retailers. Glass jewelry is often found associated with cultures and handmade jewelry.
Glass is commonly used to fool people into thinking they're buying a more valuable stone. But don't worry, every retailer recommended by us is safe to purchase from. Situations like that usually happen when buying from unknown gemstone dealers or companies no one's ever heard of.
It should be known that glass isn't supposed to be sold anywhere as an engagement ring, but more of an underhanded practice. No one uses clear glass for engagement ring purposes. But if you'd like to see how glass rings are made, check out this video below!
You should always buy any kind of jewelry from a reputable retailer, and always make sure to read through return policy and return process, just in case you don't like what you ordered.
And if you're looking for a real gemstone, you should only purchase loose diamonds or engagement rings that come with a grading report, also called diamond certification.
We recommend that you only purchase stones that have either a GIA diamond certification or an AGS certification. These are the most reliable reports in the world and will guarantee you are getting exactly what you paid for.
Keep in mind that GIA reports have been faked, so exercise caution where you're shopping. Check out reviews and stay away from unknown sellers you don't trust. It's not often that reports are faked, but it has happened on platforms like Facebook.
Our Recommended Picks for Gemstones That Look Like Diamonds
As you can see, there's quite a few different options to choose from if you're looking for a gemstone that look like a diamond. Each of these diamond lookalikes has their positive points and detracting features.
You should choose a stone that is ideal for your situation and lifestyle. If you're a nurse who usually has a ring put away or covered, clear quartz or white topaz might be an option.
If you're someone who doesn't have a lot of time for upkeep, you might choose a stone with a high hardness rating, like a moissanite or white sapphire.
When it comes to gemstones that look like diamonds, we think the best option is a moissanite. Moissanites might be the most expensive simulants on the market, but they are so much cheaper than diamonds.
You can get a large moissanite with incredible fire than shines brighter than a diamond for much less. Moissanite doesn't require a lot of upkeep, and they are perfect for engagement rings because of their high resistance to scratching.
For some, there is a no gemstone that could replace a diamond. Sometime you just want a diamond and don't want to pay diamond prices for it. Thankfully, you've got another option. If you want a high quality, eye-clean diamond for 20%-50% less than a mined diamond of the same grade, you should consider buying a lab-grown diamond.
Lab diamonds are real diamonds with the same optical and physical properties as a diamond. They are just grown in a lab in the matter of weeks rather than the ground over billions of years. Only the most skilled jewelers can tell the difference under a microscope.
Read also: Lab diamonds vs natural diamonds: which is better?
If you're looking for a lab-grown diamond, we recommend James Allen, both for its competitive pricing and for its lifetime warranty with their lab diamonds.