Having a tough time choosing between white sapphire or cubic zirconia for an engagement ring?
Perfect, you're in the right place!
In this Learning Guide, I'll answer the top questions asked about both of these popular diamond simulants like:
- Which is Better for Everyday Wear?
- What Are The Differences Between White Sapphire and Cubic Zirconia?
- Is Cubic Zirconia Man Made?
White Sapphire vs Cubic Zirconia: Origin
While natural white sapphires do exist, they're not as common. . It's safe to assume that most white sapphires you'll run into the jewelry market are going to be lab created. If you go to a specialty sapphire retailer, you'll more likely run into natural white sapphire. Brilliant Earth and Leibish and Co. carry natural white sapphires.
Sapphires come in a rainbow of colors, though most unfamiliar with jewelry only know of blue sapphires, the September birthstone. Every colored sapphire comes from the mineral called corundum.
Corundum starts colorless, but different impurities cause it to become different colors. Every color of corundum is sapphire, except red. You know red corundum as ruby.
When no impurities enter the corundum forming, that's what give us white sapphire. But as a natural gemstone, impurities infiltrate the mineral more often than not. It's much easier to make sure no impurities run into the mineral if it's in a controlled environment like a lab.
In a lab, scientists create sapphires using two different ways: the melting process and the solution process.
Flame fusion is a technique used in the melting process. It was the most cost-effective way and the first one used. During the process, aluminum oxide powder is melted with a flame.
As it's melted, it solidifies into a teardrop shape they called a boule. The boule is a colorless sapphire, so scientists can add different minerals to create the different lab created sapphire colors.
Hydrothermal synthesis, or the solution process is closer to how natural sapphires form.
Like man made diamonds, a tiny piece of a natural sapphire is put into a chamber. High heat and pressure imitate how natural sapphires form in the earth. These conditions in a lab setting forces sapphire fragment to start producing sapphire crystals as the solution rises in the chamber.
White Sapphire vs Cubic Zirconia: Appearance
Even though both white sapphire rings and cubic zirconia rings are colorless like a diamond ring, there are some key differences in their appearance to each other and to real diamonds.
Initially, white sapphire looks clear in a jewelry case or in an online picture, but its brilliance doesn't reflect rainbow light.
The reflections from a white sapphire cast almost a silvery white light. This silvery brilliance can make the stone appear slightly tinted gray and hazy in some lighting.
Check the brilliance and clarity of this loose princess cut white sapphire from Brilliant Earth below:
As you can see, the clarity of white sapphire is eye-clean, but small blemishes may appear under magnification. Best (AAA) white sapphire shouldn't ever have dark inclusions like diamonds. See how the stone doesn't give off any gorgeous flashes of light and appears a little dull? Not my favorite simulant, I must say.
While white sapphire appears a little more subtle, cubic zirconia can be a bit much for some. These stones have quite the flashy appearance with lots of rainbow light. It's not disco ball lighting like a moissanite, but still pretty sparkly.
That's because gemstones also have refractive indexes. A refractive index can help gemologist determine the identity of a unknown stone. But it also shows us the intensity of
Cubic zirconia is also flawless, so it shouldn't have any clarity imperfections. Lower quality cubic zirconia may have tiny little bubbles in it.
It can be made in any color and any shade for very cheap, making it perfect for inexpensive jewelry.
While not under outside lighting, you can see that cubic zirconia appears clearer than a white sapphire in both color and clarity.
White Sapphire vs Cubic Zirconia: Price
Prices always vary with gemstones, both manmade and natural ones.
However, in most cases, you can be sure you'll pay more for a natural white sapphire or a lab created white sapphire than you will for a loose cubic zirconia. This is just for the stone alone, because prices will begin to fluctuate drastically based on your ring setting material.
If you're shopping for a cz engagement ring on Amazon, you're going to find more options that are cheaper and usually set in sterling silver or gold plated metals.
But if you go to a specialty cz retailer like Birkat Eylon, you'll find high quality cz engagement rings set in solid gold and platinum. Check out the price differences between these two cubic zirconia engagement rings:
Quite the difference, right? Well, cubic zirconias don't follow a typical grading system like diamonds do with the 4Cs.
Colored gemstones have A to AAA quality. Cubic zirconia has A to AAAAA.
The Birkate Lyon 2 carat solitaire engagement ring is considered AAAAA quality. The one from Amazon is considered AAA.
Now with white sapphire, there's a pretty big difference in cost between lab created white sapphire. Of course, that's also dependent on the setting as well.
You'll have more difficulty finding lab created white sapphire in high quality metals like solid gold or platinum. You'll be more likely to find it in handmade jewelry places like Etsy.
Kay, Jared, and Zales all sell large carat weights of white sapphires set in sterling silver. They are usually around $150 max.
On the other hand, a natural loose white sapphire can go 10 times that as we saw with Brilliant Earth. The cost will increase based on a gemologists certification too.
Treated natural white sapphires can cost between $500-$1000 on average. Untreated white sapphires can be around $1000-1500 for a 1 carat sapphire. Keep in mind that prices will fluctuate based on quality, designer, and ring setting.
There's no complete definitive standard for sapphires like the 4Cs with diamonds. And like some places classify colored gemstones are typically shown with a clarity grade like diamonds, but also shown as A to AAA with AAA being best quality.
Read also: Where to buy the best loose gemstones?
White Sapphire vs Cubic Zirconia: Value
So it's abundantly clear that white sapphire, lab or natural, is usually more expensive than cubic zirconia. That also includes top quality cubic zirconia.
But the overall value of a gemstone doesn't just reflect a lower price. There's a lot more to the center stone of an engagement ring than just its monetary pricing.
A key thing to taking into account when choosing an alternative to a diamond engagement ring is its hardness rating.
All minerals and gemstones follow the Mineral Scale of Hardness, or the Mohs scale for short. The hardest material in the world is a diamond, and that also includes lab created diamonds too since they have the same physical properties as natural diamonds. Diamonds are rated 10 at the top of the Mohs scale of hardness.
Read also: Natural diamonds vs lab diamonds
One of the biggest mistakes customers make when looking at the hardness level of a gemstone is equating it to the overall durability of the stone, such as chipping.
Truth is, any gemstone can chip if it gets hit hard enough in the right place.
The hardness of a gemstone simply means scratch resistance. And we're not talking just accidental scratches. Dirt and dust in the air day after day can wreak havoc on an engagement ring, even if you're still cleaning it once a week.
But since they are natural minerals, the dirt can warp the surface causing scratching. Sapphire jewelry rates a 9 on the Mohs scale. Cubic zirconia rates 8-8.5. Still, other diamond alternatives like white topaz and white zircon rate even lower than that.
Overall, white sapphire engagement rings will be better for everyday wear than cubic zirconia engagement rings.
But other than longevity, some customer take the value of the piece if passed down through younger generations. Cubic zirconia engagement rings and wedding rings really hold no resale value unless you're going to sell it somewhere like Facebook marketplace or Mercari.
Lab created white sapphires pretty much have no resale value either. Pretty much anything created in a lab has no resale value in the jewelry market- because they can always just make more.
Read also: White Sapphire vs Natural Diamonds
This is true with lab grown diamonds as well. Even the best cut diamonds will only resale for a fraction of the price. That's why many online diamond jewelers have trade in or upgrade policies for their mined diamonds only.
Untreated natural white sapphires will go for the most, but don't expect to get more than 20% of its original value.
Honestly, the jeweler will probably find more value in your white gold ring setting than a white sapphire or cubic zirconia center stone.
Read also: Lab diamonds vs cubic zirconia
But if that's not a factor for you, then you won't have to worry about that.
Bottom Line: White Sapphire vs Cubic Zirconia
So, which is truly the better diamond alternative? In the battle of white sapphire vs cubic zirconia, we'll have to go with white sapphire. While I personally don't care for it as a simulated diamond, I'd rather have a real gemstone than a fake one.
Here are some other good reasons why you might like white sapphire better:
- White sapphires repel dirt and dust better than cubic zirconia
- There's better quality factors for white sapphires
- White sapphires can be certified by the GIA, the world's leading resource in gemstones
- White sapphire have better durability for day to day wear
- White sapphires occur naturally and lab grown
- More likely to find white sapphires in gold or platinum settings
- White sapphires have value, cubic zirconia doesn't
- Sapphires have better scratch resistance than cz
But no matter what, you should always choose the gemstone that fits your situation and budget.