The desirability and high value of gemstones today has meant that they have become expensive and therefore unobtainable by some people. This has lead to the creation of almost identical looking but inexpensive substitutes, known as created and simulated gemstones.
Simulated gemstones do not have the same properties as the gem they are substituting only resembling the natural gem in appearance. A simulated gemstone can be made from any material that takes on the appearance of a natural gemstone. One of the most well known simulated gemstone today is cubic zirconia or CZ. Marketed as a successful diamond simulant, cubic zirconia resembles diamond but it does not have the same properties.
Cubic zirconia was first used in the Russian space program to serve as a window to take photographs through. It was discovered in its natural state in 1937, but it was not until the 1970's that Soviet scientists learnt how to grow the crystals in a laboratory. It was not used in jewellery until 1969 when facets were first cut into the stone and was made popular by Swarovski & Co who began using the crystal for mass production.
Cubic zirconia is extensively used in jewellery as a successful diamond substitute due to its hardness and brilliant sparkle. In fact cubic zirconia is so visually similar to diamond that only a trained eye can see the difference between the two, the most notable differences being that the cubic zirconia is manufactured to be flawless and so contains no visible inclusions. It is completely colourless, in comparison to diamonds, which can occur with natural “fingerprints” and can vary in colour depending on the quality of the stone.
In recent years, cubic zirconia has established itself as a gem in its own right, with cubic zirconia jewellery becoming more and more popular it is no longer solely marketed as a diamond substitute. A highly versatile gemstone, cubic zirconia can be made in nearly any colour and lends itself to a wide variety of different cuts and styles.
The Mohs’ scale measures a gems relative hardness on a scale of 1 to 10 based on the stones “scratchability”. Diamond is the hardest at 10, sapphire and rubies measure 9, with pearl at around 3 ½ and amber at 2 ½.Cubic Zirconia is a very hard gemstone measuring 8 - 8 ½ on the Mohs’ scale.
Care and Cleaning:
Cubic zirconia is very hard wearing, harder than most natural gemstones, and it retains its sparkle and polish well, making it relatively easy to care for. It should not be allowed to rub against other gemstones, particularly diamonds as this will cause wear and scratching. Cubic zirconia jewellery can be cleaned with any conventional jewellery cleaner, a toothbrush can be used to clean away any dirt or oil. Specialist ultra sonic cleaners found in jewellery stores can also be used without damaging the stone.