If you are looking for the cheapest alternatives to diamonds but also wish to invest in high-quality sparkling jewelry pieces that look just as good as the real thing, we recommend cubic zirconia.
It is a stunning alternative to diamonds and other expensive gemstones, picture perfect, and you can have it in any color you prefer.
But then, will it last as long as the diamonds, moissanite, sapphires, etc.?
Well, this article addresses all the matters relating to the durability of cubic zirconia. So, let’s jump right into it!
About Cubic Zirconia
Cubic zirconia, aka CZ, is the most inexpensive diamond alternative, and it can also be used in place of other stones with similar qualities to those of diamonds.
It is structurally crystalline, and it’s worth noting that while the crystal called zircon dioxide can be mined, it is quite rare, so the crystalline CZ used in jewelry making is made in the laboratory.
The demand for CZ has always been on the rise, but the first huge spike in its demand happened in the 70s, which was also when commercial production of CZ started.
Essentially, CZ mimics diamonds, but it’s an entirely different metal, which is why it’s often described using words like simulant, imitation, fake, or faux.
That said, this faux diamond is quite beautiful on its right, and the only challenge comes when sellers misrepresent it as an actual diamond or any other valuable gemstone.
It’s also important that you don’t confuse CZ with lab-grown diamonds because in the same way that CZ can be grown in the lab, so can diamonds.
Lab-grown diamonds are diamonds that are manufactured and designed in the laboratory. They boast the same chemical and physical characteristics as natural or mined diamonds because they are both made of pure carbon.
CZs, like most diamonds in their natural mined or lab-created forms, are colorless and look just like diamonds, especially to untrained eyes. However, CZ’s chemical structure or make up differs from that of diamonds.
What is cubic zirconia made of?
CZ is made of a manmade mineral called zirconium dioxide. This is completely different from the materials that make up diamonds – carbon. Diamonds are wholly made of carbon atoms, and they have no zirconium dioxide incorporated.
So, while CZ can be mined from the earth, it exists in very small amounts, and because of the many uses of CZ and also its high demand, CZ is primarily made in the lab. Cubic zirconia is as real CZ as it can be, but it will never be a real diamond.
The making process of cubic zirconia
Like any laboratory process, making CZ is a highly specialized process that takes place under specific conditions and in unique chambers depending on the process’s stage. The CZ creation process starts with the melting of the seed.
It takes place in the skull, a hollow-walled cup made of copper through which water is circulated, hence cooling the walls. This copper cup is filled with powdered ingredients and heated using a process called radio frequency induction, which runs until the powder melts.
With the wearer cooling the cup’s wall, the powdered ingredients on the walls don’t melt, but the molten material stays within this shell created by the unmelted powder. In other words, the high-temperature melting process is all contained within itself.
After some time, the heat source’s removal initiates cooling, and the rather fast cooling results in crystal formation through nucleation.
Cooling and nucleation continue until all the melt is in solid form. The growth process leads to crystals in varying sizes, often depending on the total number of nucleations.
After melting and nucleation, the crystals are cut by skilled cutters. But this is not a one-step process – cutting takes place in a number of steps, starting with the marking of the CZ crystals to indicate the cleavage planes from which cleaving of the crystals takes place, giving the stones their initial shapes.
The first direction of the cleaving in CZ is in an order that is parallel to the crystal’s octahedral face. This is often done using tools that have diamond powder impregnated on them, although they may also be sawed for easy removal of all areas with flaws.
To reduce the risk of improper or inaccurate cuts, high-precision programmable machines are employed today in stone-cutting because they guarantee crystals of the same size, depth, and shape.
After the initial cutting, the CZ stones undergo bruting, also called rounding up, which, as the name suggests, represents the rounding of the sharp corners of the cleaved stone edges.
Bruting is made possible by a machine called the sharp – this is also a diamond tool.
After bruting, the CZ stones are then faceted with a cast iron cutting wheel. This is followed by a secondary faceting step before polishing. And finally, the cut and polished stones are cleaned in boiling acid, which gets rid of all the traces of diamond powder, dirt, and oil; then, they are inspected under the microscope before they are packaged in foam package.
And like any other detailed manufacturing process, the stones are then tested to make sure that they meet the set standards of quality, guided by the 4Cs – Color, Clarity, Cut, and Carat weight.
The Mohs scale of cubic zirconia
Did you know that the other reason CZ stones are regarded highly and are great alternatives for diamonds is that they are quite hard and weighty, and they are scaled at between 8 and 8.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness?
At this high hardness level, CZ stones will easily withstand everyday life wear and tear forces, so they will handle a few accidental knocks and scratches.
We should add that even though CZ is an excellent alternative to diamonds for the price, it is not the only one.
And for anyone looking to get the best value for their money, another gemstone may be preferable – moissanite, which is much harder than CZ and is ranked between 9.25 and 9.5 on the Mohs hardness scale.
How long does cubic zirconia last?
Good quality CZ lasts for 2 – 3 years, even when you wear the jewelry daily, but only if you take good care of the jewelry, clean the pieces frequently, and avoid areas or conditions that may harm the jewelry.
If, on the other hand, you wear the jewelry occasionally, the CZ pieces would last for at least 5 years.
Note, however, that your cubic zirconia jewelry won’t always look perfectly bright and sparkly; after some months, you will notice the scratch lines, not to mention the apparent cloudiness spreading throughout the CZ stones.
Can your Cubic Zirconia be scratched easily?
With a hardness of 8-8.5, it is not the hardest substance used for jewelry, which means that anything harder than CZ will scratch it.
But in an ordinary setting where you don’t use your hands in hard areas and where you take off the jewelry often to protect it, it may not get scratched too easily.
However, note that this stone may have several scratch lines after some months, even when you are being very careful with it.
Tips for cleaning your Cubic Zirconia jewelry
As mentioned above, the best way to ensure that your CZ pieces last longer and look good is by cleaning the jewelry often and wearing it occasionally. But cleaning is the most important step. So, how do you do that?
I. Clean your CZ jewelry in an ultrasonic cleaner. Since CZ is a hard stone, you can clean it in an ultrasonic cleaner. But before you do, confirm the other materials used to make the jewelry. The ultrasonic cleaner will be perfect for you if made of stainless steel, platinum, or titanium.
II. Use a gentler cleaning option for softer materials. If the CZ pieces are made of sterling silver or are gold-plated, you’d want to use a gentle method. We recommend using a gentle dishwashing liquid like Daenand, a soft-bristled brush, then wash the jewelry gently to remove all the dirt and gunk from the jewelry.
III. After cleaning, pat dry or air dry the jewelry on soft cotton or microfiber cloth.
IV. Use professional cleaning liquid for jewelry. If you don’t want to risk using the wrong detergent or cleaning liquid, you should opt for the recommended professional jewelry cleaning liquid.
V. Always use ammonia-free cleaners.
How to store your Cubic Zirconia jewelry to last longer
- Store the CZ pieces separately to prevent the pieces from scratching against each other.
- Store your jewelry in the small velvet/ felt/ or cloth jewelry bags or pouches, preferably in a way that keeps the pieces separate.
- For necklaces, re-clasp them before storage.
- Don’t store your CZ jewelry with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, tungsten carbide, alexandrite, Chrysoberyl, watches, etc.,
- Don’t store dirty CZ jewelry.
- Keep the jewelry away from perfumes, dust, or other impurities that may cause buildup.
Before buying CZ jewelry, keep an open mind and be realistic, noting that because of the low price tag of these bright stones, they will not last forever or as long as moissanite or diamonds.
Often, CZ jewelry lasts an average of 3 years, but others may be damaged sooner depending on the metals they are set with and how frequently you wear the jewelry.
Read more jewelry metal posts here or here!
Tiger is a fashion&jewelry lover. He is also a fashion jewelry manufacturer that help thousands of small business to grow and also do business with some big fashion jewelry brands. He is a truly metal expert and he will share some information you are looking for.