A diamond simulant imitates the appearance of a diamond but is different in every other way. Although the first diamond simulant was the natural gemstone zircon, today the most popular are the lab-created cubic zirconia (CZ) and moissanite.
You might be wondering:
Of these two, which is the better diamond simulant? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of cubic zirconia vs. moissanite to see which is the better option.
Moissanite vs. Cubic Zirconia – History and Origin
Natural moissanite was first discovered by Henri Moissan (hence moissanite) in 1893 in Arizona. It is believed that the crystals had been brought to earth on a meteor that crashed into the site several thousands of years ago. As a result, moissanite is sometimes called stardust or space diamond. Moissanite is composed of silicon carbide, with the chemical formula SiC.
Natural cubic zirconia was only discovered in the 1930s. It is composed of zirconium oxide. Cubic zirconia contains a mix of zirconium and oxygen in its composition whereas moissanite is made of silicon and carbon. In this regard, moissanite is similar to diamond, which is composed of pure carbon.
Both moissanite and cubic zirconia are extremely rare in their natural state. As a result, all moissanite and CZ on the market today are lab-created.
Winner: Moissanite. Its origin in the stars gives it an added romance and mystery and its composition is closer to diamond than CZ.
Moissanite vs. Cubic Zirconia – Durability
Diamonds are the hardest gemstone with a perfect ranking of 10 on the Mohs scale. But moissanite comes pretty close. It is the second hardest gemstone used in jewelry after diamonds ranking at 9.25.
This makes moissanite an exceptionally hard stone and ideal for daily wear. It has a high resistance to damage and abrasion.
Moissanite is perfect for engagement rings, which need to be hard-wearing and scratch resistant due to the excessive exposure they receive every day. Moissanites are more heat resistant than even diamonds, meaning that even if they were in a fire, they would still retain their sparkle and form.
Cubic zirconia is also a hard stone, ranking at 8 to 8.5. This makes it a good option for daily wear, just like moissanite as it is durable and scratch resistant.
However, in terms of toughness, which refers to the gemstone’s resistance to breaking, moissanite is much tougher than CZ. Moissanite has a toughness rating of 7.6 PSI while CZ is only 2.4 PSI. This means that moissanite is over 3 times resistant to breaking or chipping than CZ.
Winner: Moissanite. It is harder than CZ by 1.25 points and three times tougher.
Moissanite vs. Cubic Zirconia – Reaction to Dirt
Over time, with the accumulation of dirt and grime, both moissanite and CZ can take on a cloudy, hazy appearance. This can come from household detergents, cosmetics, body oils and dust and so on causing the stones to lose their sparkle and appear dull.
Moissanite is better able to resist dirt as opposed to CZ. CZ clouds over easily and loses its sparkle at a faster rate. It will need to be cleaned much more frequently than moissanite in order to keep it shining.
Winner: Moissanite. It is easier to clean and maintain.
Moissanite vs. Cubic Zirconia – Light Performance
The RI of a gemstone measures the amount of light that is bent as it goes through the gemstone and is an indicator of the gemstone’s brilliance.
Moissanite has a Refractive Index (RI) of 2.65 whereas diamond’s RI is lower at 2.42. Moissanite has an extremely high level of brilliance and excellent light performance. This is one reason it is a favorite in engagement rings as it has much higher brilliance and fire than a diamond.
The flip side is that moissanite often gives off a fiery flash of colors, which is noticeable especially under sunlight. This isn’t prominent in smaller moissanite stones, but the larger the stone is, the more pronounced this effect can become. Shoppers are often divided on how they feel about the rainbow effect, with some finding it gaudy and others loving the colorful sparkle. This rainbow effect is one main distinguishing feature between diamonds and moissanite.
Cubic zirconia has an RI 2.15 – 2.18, which is much lower than moissanite. Although CZ has a good amount of sparkle and brilliance, it is not at the depth of that of a moissanite. CZ can sometimes appear glassy and lacks the fire of diamonds and moissanites. Its sparkle is often described as being more superficial.
Winner: Moissanite wins for brilliance but may lose for the rainbow effect (depending on how you feel about it). We’ll let you decide this one.
The Final Verdict…
Although CZ is a more affordable choice, we would have to choose moissanite as the better diamond simulant of the two, owing to its durability, brilliance and value.
In terms of prestige and class, nothing can take the place of a diamond, but moissanite comes close. CZ, unfortunately, will always be considered inexpensive and of little value.
When deciding between the two, lay down your budget and your priorities. And chances are no one would ever know the difference. At a glance, diamonds, moissanite and cubic zirconia all look alike.