There is nothing more alluring than the sparkle of a diamond – the way the light catches the myriad prisms within the stone to create an almost hypnotic effect. Diamonds have been capturing the hearts of people for centuries and have become status symbols not only for their tremendous beauty, but also as a symbol of wealth and fortune.
While diamonds can arguably be described as a ‘girl’s best friend’, they have also been at the center of many conflicts and wars due to their value, thus increasing a worldwide demand for the stones at ever-escalating prices. This global demand has led to the manufacture of ‘fake’ diamonds, or otherwise known as synthetic or simulated diamonds, which are manufactured in a laboratory or factory, rather than mined from the earth. These synthetic or simulated diamonds are made from the same materials as natural diamonds – carbon – however have slight differences in form and composition, as well as aesthetics, such as color and brilliance.
Let’s take a look at the differences between natural (real) diamonds and those that are manufactured.
Natural diamonds form deep within the earth’s crust from carbon that is billions of years old. At a depth of no less than 90 miles beneath the earth’s surface, natural forces such as heat, pressure and gravity bear down on rock containing carbon for millions of years until the carbon eventually turns into diamond. This diamond rock is then brought to the surface through natural causes such as a volcanic eruption or it has to be mined out from the earth at great costs, hence the high value of the material. Natural diamonds have flaws, as opposed to synthetic diamonds, which are often described as being ‘too perfect’. The different flaws in a natural diamond identify its true origin and will more often than not be identified by the expert eye of a gemologist.
Synthetic / Simulated Diamonds
Once it was discovered that diamonds were made of carbon, the quest to manufacture ‘fake’ or synthetic diamonds began and in 1879, the first synthetic diamonds were made. Synthetic or simulated diamonds are any kind of diamond manufactured in a factory by human hands and are mostly used for industrial purposes, such as tools. Only 2% of simulated diamonds are used in jewelry, while over 98% are used for industry.
While synthetic diamonds do not equal natural diamonds in carat weight, color, cut and clarity, synthetic diamonds are ‘flawless’ – they do not have any flaws like natural diamonds do due to being manufactured. They do, however match up to real diamonds in hardness, making them ideal for industrial use.
Cubic Zirconia is a synthetic diamond substitute, made from the cubic crystalline form of zirconium dioxide and is extremely hard, optically flawless and usually colourless, although it can be produced in a variety of colours. Due to its relatively low production costs, high durability and close visual appearance to that of a real diamond, as well as being ‘guilt-free’ and not having any links to conflicts or wars as conflict diamonds do,
synthetic cubic zirconia is the diamond’s most important competitor on the market today.
Moissanite is another type of diamond substitute, which shares many similarities with cubic zirconia, however is much harder, has more color variations and a higher brilliance. While cubic zirconia tends to be almost clear in color, a moissanite has a yellow or green tinge to it and they disperse twice as much light, creating a brighter ‘sparkle’.
Therefore, when next purchasing jewelry of any kind with clear stones, you can choose between natural or simulated diamonds, all of which give the same appearance and varying degrees of brilliance, however will leave a marked difference on your wallet.