What's the Difference Between Lab Diamonds, Moissanite, and Cubic Zirconia?

Everyone loves a diamond alternative, and why not? It is very appealing to find a gemstone that looks like a diamond for a significantly lower investment. I think the popularity of lab diamonds in the market has created some confusion. So let me clear it up.

There is a misconception that lab diamonds are "fake" diamonds. Since lab diamonds are carbon-based, they are "real" diamonds - unlike cubic zirconia or moissanite.Likewise, these diamond simulants are created in a lab, but they do not contain carbon atoms and are therefore not real diamonds. Mined diamonds and lab-created diamonds are inherently alike in appearance, feel and hardness, but a simulant option like cubic zirconia or moissanite differs in appearance, feel, and hardness noticeably.

Lab Created Diamond vs Moissanite vs Cubic Zirconia | Lisa Robin

Moissanite was discovered at the turn of the nineteenth century by Nobel Prize-winning French chemist, Dr. Henri Moissan. He was looking for crystalline chemical compositions ideal for efficient electrical conductivity and discovered silicon carbide—a remarkable and extremely rare mineral—in a meteorite crater in Arizona. It was then named “moissanite” in his honor. Dr. Moissan spent the remainder of his life trying to recreate his extraordinary finding but never succeeded.

In the late 1990s, researchers in North Carolina developed and patented a process for creating pure silicon carbide (SiC). This was used in the development of diverse products that included semiconductors, LED lighting and extremely hard drilling tools and abrasives.

It was then that the vision and innovation of Charles & Colvard—the original creator of moissanite—to produce moissanite in a laboratory, as a diamond simulant for use in jewelry. 

Cubic zirconia, originally identified in 1937 by German mineralogists, but it wasn't until 1977 when Russian scientists discovered how to actually grow these crystals using a synthetic process. They named their synthetic crystals Djevalite and to market them as simulated diamonds without much success. In the 1980's Swarovski created its own version of cubic zirconia. Swarovski coined the abbreviated term CZ for cubic zirconia. This was the jumpstart this crystal needed. It was nearly 90 years after it was first discovered that CZ became a popular and cheaper substitute for real diamond jewelry. In the mid 80's there were 50 million carats of cubic zirconia being sold for costume jewelry.

Both moissanite and cubic zirconia do not have the same brilliance and sparkle as real diamonds. Diamond refract white light. Cubic zirconia has a lower refractive index than diamonds, 2.22 versus 2.42, and reflects more colored light. Moissanite, however, has a higher refractive index (2.65 – 2.69). Because moissanite has a high refractive index, it reflects vivid colors, which can be too much for some people.

Additionally, there is a difference in hardness. On the Mohs scale of hardness, diamonds score a 10, moissanite between 9 and 9.5, and cubic zirconia 8. That means moissanite and cubic zirconia may show wear over time. 

I offer classic solitaire settings in several shapes of moissanite.


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