Wondering what a simulated diamond is?
You're in the right place.
In this Learning Guide, I'll answer top questions like:
- What Are Simulated Diamonds?
- What Is the Best Simulated Diamond?
- Are Simulated Diamonds Real Diamonds?
Where To Buy Simulated Diamonds: Brilliant Earth
What Is A Simulated Diamond?
A simulated diamond is any colorless material that is used to imitate the look of a real diamond. They can be natural gemstones, lab-created gemstones, natural materials, or man-made materials.
Simulated diamonds can be tricky for someone who doesn’t know much about them. When it comes to lab grown vs simulated diamonds, many people assume they are the same. However, lab-created diamonds aren’t simulated diamonds.
They're also called synthetic diamonds, which causes some confusion. They are real diamonds with the same durability, optics, and chemical composition as a mined diamond, aka a natural diamond.
Synthetic gemstones are lab-created gemstones like lab diamonds with the same features as their earth mined diamond versions. A cultivated diamond is considered by gemologists to be a fake diamond.
Read more: How To Tell If Your Diamond Is Fake
Many people seek out simulated diamonds as a diamond alternative. There are many reasons why people opt to do this, including price point, brilliance, and ethical concerns about diamond mining and conflict diamonds.
Popular Types of Simulated Diamonds
Any colorless material that can be faceted can be a diamond imitation. However, there’s a handful of diamond simulants that are popular.
Moissanite has been the most popular simulated stone in the last 20 years. It rarely occurs naturally, so it’s considered a synthetic gemstone, not man-made. It’s nicknamed the “Space Diamond” due to the story of its discovery.
The light performance of a moissanite is more flashy than a diamond due to its high refractive index. The brilliance of a moissanite is cited as comparable to a disco-ball effect.
White sapphire is the colorless variety of sapphire. Both natural and lab-created white sapphire are available to buy.
Natural white sapphire is more rare, so you’re probably going to find it an an online retailer instead of locally. Lab-created white sapphire is available commercially at popular retailers like Kay or Jared.
Lab-created white sapphire is colorless like a diamond, but it doesn’t have the same brilliance. Its light-performance is described as a silvery look. White sapphire doesn’t have a high refractive index or dispersion, so it’s not a sparkly stone.
Cubic zirconia is the most popular man-made gemstone material. It can be made into any color and shade of color. You’re more likely to run into cubic zirconia in costume jewelry or low cost fashion jewelry. From far away, it looks like actual diamond jewelry.
Swarovski crystals are cubic zirconia crystals that have been maximized for sparkle and brilliance.
Standard cubic zirconia ranges in quality and it’s not easy to tell which is better. The brilliance of a CZ stone reflects more rainbow light than white light. Diamonds reflect more white light. Cubic zirconia’s brilliance is similar to moissanite, but more subtle rainbow light.
Just like with diamonds, white topaz can be a natural stone or lab-created, but it’s not usually available in synthetic form commercially. You can assume that any white topaz you come across in a jewelry store is natural. It is the colorless version of topaz.
White topaz is mainly used as a simulated diamond accent, but can also be a center stone. Places like Zales and Kay Jewelers use white topaz accent stones in a lot of lab-grown colored gemstone jewelry. The dispersion is lower than a diamond too, so it doesn’t have a whole lot of fire.
Zircon is a gemstone in its own right, and doesn’t have anything to do with cubic zirconia. White zircon is also called Matara zircon after the mine in Sri Lanka. It’s not a widely popular diamond simulant mainly because people associate it with man-made cz stones.
Zircon is mainly used in its colorful varieties, such as rose zircon. That’s one of the alternative birthstones for my birth month, October. You’ll have a harder time finding white zircon locally because it isn’t very popular.
Spinel is another gemstone variety in a rainbow of colors. It’s colorless variety isn’t common locally these days, but you can find it online. Online fine jewelry retailers probably won’t carry it. You’re more likely to find it in places like Etsy or Amazon. Spinel is a popular diamond imitation in vintage jewelry.
White spinel has good brilliance with a decent amount of rainbow light. One of the issues is finding a well-cut white spinel. The individual facets are apparent in white spinel, so you’ll want to make sure your stone is even.
Other Simulated Materials
Yttrium aluminum garnet
Yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) is a man made diamond imitation that had popularity in the 1950s. Even though it has the word garnet in the name, the January birthstone has no relation. It stopped being popular around the 1970s when cubic zirconia was created.
Gadolinium gallium garnet is associated with YAG because they were both used early on as some of the first diamond alternatives. GGG diamonds arrived on the market about 10 years after YAG first appeared. It's not valuable and it's extremely difficult to find.
Strontium titanate is another lab-created gemstone. When it first hit the market in the 1700s, it was thought to be a man-made material. However, when strontium titanate was discovered in a mineral form called tausonite, it was determined as a synthetic stone.
The most common material in the world is often used to dupe unsuspected customers as diamond simulants. Glass can be natural or man-made. An entire stone can be made of glass, or a stone can be glass-filled. It can also be faceted to look like a diamond, without the fire or brilliance.
Simulated Diamond Prices
The term “simulated diamond” refers to a group of different colorless gemstones or materials. Their prices may vary according to ring setting, certificates, individual quality levels, and retailer. Check out this chart below for average of popular simulated diamond prices
SImulated Diamond Durability
A gemstone's overall durability depends on its hardness level and cleavage. That will determine your stone's resistance to dirt, dust, and its likelihood to chip or break.
Simulated Diamond Hardness
A lot of people are familiar with Mohs scale of hardness. Yet, they don’t know exactly what gemstone hardness is. People think that a gemstone will chip or break if its hardness rating is too low. That’s not true.
The hardness scale only determines a mineral’s resistance to dirt and dust. If they’re too soft, dirt and dust can scratch them.
Once a gemstone is scratched, it becomes cloudy and irreversible. That’s why some gemstones don’t make good engagement ring center stones.
Here are the hardness levels of different popular simulated diamonds:
Simulated Diamond Cleavage
Cleavage is what determines a stone’s resistance to breakage, chipping, or shattering. It’s a weak spot in the crystal. Most gemstones that can be faceted have cleavage.
Diamonds have the highest hardness level, but they also have cleavage. Any stone with cleavage risks chipping or breaking if hit hard enough in the atomic weakness of the crystal structure.
Simulated Diamond Cleaning & Care
A lot of local jewelry stores will push a commercial jewelry cleaner they’ve got sitting out by the register. Using these jewelry cleaners could potentially cause harm to your simulated diamond if you don’t know how to properly care for your center stone.
Some gemstones can’t be submerged in water and need to be quickly dried. Ultrasonic cleaners and steam cleaners are also popular machines advertised to jewelry wearers. These are great for stones that can go in, but gemstones that can’t be put in those either.
That’s why you’ll hear the best process for cleaning an engagement ring is simple. All you need is water, a mild dish soap, and a soft-bristled brush, like a toothbrush. You’ll just run it under the water, put a little bit of soap on the toothbrush and gently brush away any loose dirt. If your gemstone can be submerged, you can leave in a solution mixture for 15-20 mins.
Simulated Diamond Red Flags
Not everyone who comes across a simulated diamond ring is doing so intentionally. In less popular cases, simulated diamonds are passed off as real diamonds or even other simulated diamonds that have more popularity.
If deception is occurring, you’re less likely to find it at popular jewelers. Many people come across all types of fake diamonds on Facebook Marketplace, Etsy, and Ebay.
Many times, diamond imitations are done at gem markets in other countries. Gem dealers will often offer tourists a fake stone to test their knowledge to determine what they could sell them.
These customers are often looking for a natural diamonds, or even a synthetic diamond. They're usually presented with a cheaper simulant.
That alone is one reason why you have to be very careful when purchasing online from any of those places.
Misleading Titles & Descriptions
The biggest problem I’ve come across when searching for colorless simulated diamonds is the way they’re being indexed. If you’re not a techie, just bear with me.
Here’s an example for you. I want to buy a lab diamond engagement ring. I type it into my Etsy app and a ton of results come up. However, out of the first 20 options, only about 6 of them is actually a lab created diamond.
That’s because in order for their product to rank high, they have to tag it with all relevant or not-so-relevant terms. It’s about pushing their place to the top, whether you’re wanting it or not. That’s why you’ll see the word "diamond" in many simulant diamond listings.
Never trust titles. Make sure the title and description match. If it’s still unclear, message the seller. You wouldn’t believe how often its missed - and the seller isn’t responsible for your mistake.