Lab-Grown Diamond vs White Zircon: Which is More Valuable?

Wondering which is better, a lab grown diamond or a white zircon stone? You're in the right place.

In this Learning Guide, I'll answer the most popular questions asked about these two stones like:

lab grown diamond vs white zircon
  • Are lab-grown diamonds real diamonds?
  • Does white zircon scratch easily?
  • Which stone is better for an engagement ring?

Main Differences Between Lab Grown Diamonds vs White Zircons

  • Lab grown diamonds have the same properties as natural diamonds, whereas white zircon does not.
  • Lab grown diamonds are always man made diamonds, but white zircon can be natural gems or a synthetically created stones.
  • White zircon is used as a diamond substitute, whereas lab grown diamonds are diamonds.
  • White zircon has a glassy luster, whereas a lab grown diamond has white light and rainbow sparkle.

Origin

Despite being colorless gems, they are produced completely differently. Let's see how each of these stones are made and how it impacts them as stones.

Lab Grown Diamonds

At first thought, many people believe that lab grown diamonds are just another colorless diamond imitation. That couldn't be further than the truth. They are manmade diamonds, not fake diamonds.

A lab diamond's physical properties, chemical composition, and optical properties are the same as a mined diamond from the earth's crust. They may be called man made or synthetic diamonds, but make no mistake-

They're real diamonds. Instead of growing in the earth over millions of years like mined diamonds, lab created diamonds grow in as little as 3 weeks. Larger diamond crystal structures can take up to two months or so.

There's two main processes used to create a lab grown diamonds. Neither way produces a better diamond than the other; both are capable of producing diamonds of high clarity and color grades.

The HPHT process involves subjecting a piece of a natural diamond to the same conditions as mined diamonds experience in the earth. Just instead of forming in the ground, it is formed in lab environment. Inside the isolated chamber, the diamond seed crystallizes when extreme heat and high pressure are applied on it.

The CVD process involves filling a chamber with carbon rich gases and high heat. The gas turns into a plasma, leaving nothing but pure carbon left, which then crystallizes. 

White Zircon

Like a lab created diamond, a white zircon stone comes with its own assumptions. This colorless stone is often confused with cubic zirconia. A cubic zirconia stone is a lab created stone, but does not occur naturally. It also considered a fake diamond.

Make no mistake, white zircon is used as a diamond substitute, but it's a natural gemstone in its own right. Zircon gems are some of the oldest recorded gemstones used in jewelry. It was more often used as a diamond alternative years back, until more durable alternatives like white topaz or white sapphire.

Zircon gemstones can be unearth in different countries in the world, with the most notable being Thailand. Sri Lanka and Myanmar are also notable for their production of zircon.

Appearance

Lab grown diamonds and white zircon have more in common regarding light performance than lab diamonds vs cubic zirconia stones. Diamonds and cubic zirconia have very different refractive indexes, whereas white zircon and lab diamonds have a similar sparkle.

Lab Grown Diamonds

Lab grown diamonds share the same sparkle and light performance as mined diamonds. They are subjected to the same quality factors such as color grades and clarity.

Though people compare lab diamonds to other simulated diamonds like cubic zirconia and white topaz, it is the only one that has the same sparkle as a natural diamond engagement ring. Cubic zirconia has a much lower refractive index than diamond. A cz exhibits flashes of mostly rainbow light. A lab diamond and natural diamond give off a balance of white light and rainbow light.

When deciding which lab grown diamond you want for your engagement ring, you'll want to pay attention to its cut. If your diamond has low cut quality, it will cause lab or natural diamonds to look dull. For round diamonds, I recommend choosing a cut grade of Excellent/Ideal. Very Good will save you money, and most people can't tell the difference, so that's a great alternative option for those trying to make the most of their budget.

Synthetics and Imitations

Lab created diamonds are the synthetic version of a mined diamond. A lot of people think synthetic means fake, but it simply means that they are lab made. A synthetic sapphire still has all the same chemical composition, physical properties, and optical properties as an earth grown sapphire.

Lab diamonds can be imitated by any other colorless gemstones. If you search up lab grown diamonds on websites like Etsy or Amazon, you're also likely to bring up cubic zirconia and white sapphire stones because of the way the listing or description is worded. Be careful who you trust on the internet.

White Zircon

White zircon is one of the many clear gemstones used as a diamond substitute or imitation. However, the brilliance of a well-cut white zircon can compete with that of a natural or lab diamond. The light passes through a high quality zircon similar to a diamond. In a cubic zirconia ring, the light passes through differently.

White zircon is colorless, but can also be treated to become that way. Despite this, there's more than enough untreated white zircon to go around. The value and interest in zircon lies with its color varieties rather than the colorless one. Keep in mind that if you have a treated white zircon, it may revert back to its original color when exposed to light. After a long period of exposure, treated zircons become light yellow or brown.

Synthetics and Imitations

White zircon can be synthesized, or created in a lab. However, it's still zircon. Lab created white zircons are not the same as cubic zirconia stones, which are also lab created. They have completely different properties. A lab created diamond is the synthetic version of a natural diamond. Likewise, a lab created white zircon is the synthetic version of a natural white zircon. A lab created diamond is a real diamond and a lab created white zircon is a real zircon.

Other less expensive material can be passed off as white zircon, especially if you're buying a large carat weight in an unknown market. Most often you can find white topaz, cubic zirconia, and even faceted glass being passed off for white zircon and more expensive clear gems.

Cost and Value

When you compare the costs of white zircon vs lab grown diamonds, it's not a huge surprise to find a white zircon is less expensive. We know that natural diamonds are already expensive. If lab diamonds have all the same properties as natural diamonds, you can probably guess they'll be similarly priced.

james allen lab diamond

Fortunately, lab created diamonds can be priced from 20% to over 50% less expensive than a natural diamond of the same carat weight, clarity, color, and cut quality. Just for being grown in a lab instead of the ground. A lab grown diamond can allow someone to purchase a larger diamond for less than they could with a mined diamond.

The downside to lab grown diamonds is they have very little market value when it comes to resale to jewelers and pawn shops. Most lab diamond jewelry retailers don't offer a trade-up program like they do for natural diamond jewelry.

But don't get it confused. Lab diamonds can still be returned and claimed on jewelry insurance. You can also sell your lab diamond engagement ring on places like Mercari or Facebook Marketplace and get compensation. Though lab diamonds are much less expensive than their natural counterparts, they still may be too expensive for many ring wearers.

Natural white zircon on the other hand, is not. Don't get me wrong, large stones with high cut quality and eye-clean clarity can be more expensive than a simple white zircon accent stone. You'll just have a harder time finding them.

Gemstone Wearability and Durability

One of the reasons the affordable white zircon engagement ring isn't popular is its durability. It has a hardness level of 7.5 on the Mohs scale. The Mohs hardness scale determines a mineral's resistance to scratching. Anything with a higher hardness level than 7.5 can scratch a white zircon.

Mohscale

Image by the National Park Service. Public Domain.

The stone's rating is still higher than quartz and dust, which is a major determination of everyday wearability. The air particles rubbing against your gemstone will eventually scratch it. The higher the hardness, the less time it takes to damage.

Even white sapphires have a hardness level on 9, but can become cloudy if not cleaned properly or worn for years and years. A lab grown diamond has a hardness level of 10. Only a diamond can scratch a diamond. It is the hardest mineral on earth. However, diamonds and white zircon are not unbreakable.

Conclusion

It is clear that not all colorless gemstones are created equal. Some grown in the ground only, others are created by scientists too. Some don't even occur naturally.

A lab grown diamond may be a synthetically created stone, but it occurs naturally as mined diamonds. A white zircon stone also occurs both naturally and in lab created crystal form.

You'll have a harder time finding white zircon engagement rings than you will with lab grown diamonds. The interest and popularity in lab created diamonds has skyrocketed. The opposite has happened for white zircon. It's often replaced in fine jewelry stores by more durable colorless stones, like white sapphire.

However, as a gem collector myself, I definitely recommend getting both of these stones to add to your collection. I do realize that not everyone can afford a lab grown diamond, though they're much less expensive than a natural diamond.

I hope you've learned the difference between white zircon and lab diamonds. Maybe you can help us redeem white zircons reputation as a cheap cubic zirconia stone and clear the confusion for jewelry lovers all around! 


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