Cubic Zirconia (also known as CZ) is regarded as best replacement of natural diamonds due to its extraordinary qualities. Although it does not resemble with natural diamond in any aspect, its sparkling shining is good eye-catcher to bind you in mesmerism.
Do you know what is a cubic zircon? Or how is it made? Or how CZ differs than a diamond? Obviously these questions arise when the mass like to prefer cubic zircon over diamond despite it is neither a natural nor a man-made diamond.
What is Cubic Zirconia?
CZ is a crystallized form of zirconium dioxide. Though CZ contains few properties of rough zircon, a raw mineral, it is not the same. It is manufactured mostly transparent and colorless as economical substitute of natural diamonds but it can be made in different shades also.
Journey of Cubic Zirconia
Very firstly, zirconium oxide was found as baddeleyite in late 1800s. It immediately attracted jewellery industry’s attention due to resemblance with diamond. Since the natural mineral was a rare mineral and was insufficient for industrial purpose, researchers began efforts to create man-made CZ in laboratories utilizing a mixture of different zircon chemicals and elements.
In 1973, Russian scientists achieved success to create CZ in lab on industrial scale using “skull crucible” technique, after which cubic zirconium emerged as a major player in gemstone market.
How Cubic Zirconia is made?
Cubic Zirconia or crystallized zirconium dioxide is manufactured using skull crucible method. The skull crucible is cooled on the outside with chilled water while inside is heated with radio frequency coils. These heated coils heat up zirconium oxide powder to melt, as the power is melted completely to take crystal forms, coils are cooled whereas the outside of skull crucible water gets cooler and cooler. Eventually the cubic zirconia crystals start to take form gradually which are removed after the completion of the process. The prepared crystal may have sizes of more than 1.97 in (50 mm) in diameter and 3.281 ft (1 m) in length, and of very high purity. Using this technique, a single skull can produces approx. 2.205 lb (1 kg) of cubic zirconia crystal per cycle.
Processing and Cutting
Stone cutting is a field of stone cutter’s expertise. Only he can tell about stone’s final size and finish. This process occurs in three steps.
- Marking: The stonecutter measures and marks CZ crystal for final cutting considering maximum possible use of stone. He marks for removal of flawed areas using special tools impregnated with diamond powder. He also decides which stone shape should be draw out in the given piece of the produced stone.
- Cutting: In next step crystal’s corners are shaped using automated machines equipped with a diamond tool. Machines are used to make facets using a cutting wheel giving its final shape.
- Cleaning: Finally processed cubic zirconia is cleaned to removed all dusts, oil and diamond powder before get inspected under a fine microscope for delivery to the gem industry.
Cubic Zirconia vs. Man Made Diamond
Both cubic zirconia and cultured (aka man-made) diamonds are produced in laboratories for industrial purposes using scientific research and methods. But there are certain factors to differentiate them easily.
CZ is crystallized form of zirconium oxide while man-made diamond is pure carbon alike natural diamonds, thus both are produced using different techniques. Besides this, artificial CZ was discovered in 70’s decade of last century; man-made diamonds have been around since 2003.
Properties of Cultured diamonds Vs. Cubic Zirconia
- Man-made diamond or cultured diamond is made from carbon whereas CZ is produced from zirconium oxide powder which is very similar to natural carbon but not identical creating unlike properties of diamond.
- Cultured diamonds are identical to natural diamond so they resemble also. They are scaled 10 on Mohs scale and are 500 times harder than CZ whereas CZ is 7 on Mohs scale.
Productions and Pricing
- You can produce a single CZ crystal weighting 1 kg. with a massive size of 2 inch in diameter and 3.25 ft. (1 mt) in length, but not artificial diamonds.
- Creating CZ is quite cheap then man-made diamonds. For example the average retail price of a one cut, cultured diamonds you pay US $4,000 but you can buy the same weight CZ at only US $20. This is the reason many companies are selling CZ as cultured diamond fooling buyers.
CZ and Real Diamond
Real diamond is a natural wonder to astonish human mind, but CZ is perfect to substitute it at affordable prices. Most people don’t know how to differentiate a real diamond with CZ or man-made diamonds. Luckily there are several methods to recognize a true diamond among the stones.
You can use fog test to learn the actual stone. Moreover take an actual cubic zirconia of the same size of your stone and weight both. CZ is twice as heavy as a diamond of the same size.
So if your stone has same weight as CZ, it’s definitely CZ but if it is half of CZ’s weight, it is real diamond.
How to spot a cubic zirconia
- CZ contains properties of a diamond but can be easily separated from real diamonds. Certainly identifying a real diamond is quite hard but finding a CZ is too easy. Let’s have a dig on the factors.
- A cubic zirconia stone looks perfect with sparkling shining and perfect edges which is another test to recognize CZ as natural gemstones can’t be found so perfect. If the stone looks extremely perfect, you can define it as CZ.
- Test stone on hardness scale. A CZ breaks easily in comparison of diamond, sapphire or ruby. You can scratch CZ with diamond comfortably without using extra tools or conditions.
- Do microscopic test. When you observe CZ with a microscope, it can be easily identified watching its internal atomic bonding.
- Natural gemstones come with a tinge of color resulting from some impurity/ imperfection. A CZ comes colorless and if it is colored, it reflects excellent color pattern eliminating all impurities.
How to shop cubic zirconia jewellery?
Cubic zirconia jewellery is topmost alternative to the traditional diamond jewellery due to too many similarities in look and huge price difference. So many people opt to buy cubic zirconia jewellery to enrich their jewellery collection at economical prices. Here are tips, you should consider before buying CZ jewellery.
- Set a budget. Surely CZ can’t override diamond in long term investment so you should not invest money into CZ for better return other than good looking jewellery fixing a budget to buy. In case you have excess money you should spend it in various time phases depending on current vogue instead on one-time shopping.
- Make your preferences to buy jewellery. Decide in which shape, color and size, you want to buy. As CZ is available in almost every possible shape, color and size, you should do some window shopping before buying a real jewellery set.
- Buy at a prestigious shop. Surely you would have many shops in local town offering jewellery at pocket friendly prices but you should prefer merchants offer quality, best rates and support assistance for future also. Most importantly low quality CZ becomes cloudy with time so you must ask the merchant to provide guarantee regarding stone quality.