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Diamond Alternatives: A Comprehensive Guide

by Clean Origin
Last updated on October 9, 2023

Learn about four popular mined-diamond alternatives: lab grown diamonds, moissanite, cubic zirconia, and white sapphire.

What is a Diamond Alternative?

Diamond alternatives are types of gemstones, such as lab created diamonds, moissanite, white sapphire, or cubic zirconia, that one might choose instead of a mined diamond alternative for their wedding or engagement ring, or other types of fine jewelry. There are plenty of alternatives that are environmentally responsible, often less expensive, and more ethically sourced to choose from. Check out diamond alternatives if you are looking for an engagement ring you can feel good about now and forever.

Pros of Choosing a Diamond Alternative

There are plenty of wonderful reasons to opt for a diamond alternative, such as lab-grown diamonds or other gemstones, for your engagement ring. Stunning diamond alternatives are often less expensive than mined diamonds and are great for creating stunning engagement rings on a budget. They are also more unique and vibrant in color if you’re considering colored gemstones for your engagement ring. When you choose an alternative rather than a mined diamond for your center stone, you’ll be sure to have an engagement ring that is entirely unique. 

1. Lab Grown Diamonds

The best diamond alternatives are lab grown diamonds. What makes lab-grown the best diamond alternative? The fact is that it’s actually a real diamond, making it the ideal alternative to a natural diamond for everyday wear. Lab grown diamonds are an ideal choice over other diamond simulants (such as cubic zirconia) for your diamond alternative jewelry, mostly because they are the most durable diamond alternative. This is especially true when you are shopping for a diamond engagement ring, as we tend to be really hard on the jewelry we wear on our hands.

A lab created diamond is chemically, physically, and optically the same as a natural diamond that comes from the earth. However, they’re an eco-friendly diamond alternative that provides couples with peace of mind knowing that their diamond was 100% ethically sourced.

When it comes to high-quality diamond alternatives, there is simply nothing else on the same level as lab created diamonds. A lab created diamond will have the same mineral strength as natural diamonds. This makes them the best choice for the everyday wear engagement rings endure.

History of Lab Grown Diamonds

Although it may seem that lab grown diamonds were only recently discovered, a variation of these diamond alternatives has actually been around since the 1950s, when General Electric discovered the technology to create them. There are many industrial uses for diamonds beyond their iconic role as the star of the show in engagement rings.

Thirty years later, gem-quality man-made diamonds became much more widely available. However, it wasn’t until just a few years ago that the quality, craftsmanship, and precision arose into what it is today. In terms of cut, color, clarity, and carat, lab grown diamonds are indistinguishable compared to mined diamonds, as they’re cut, polished, and graded at the same caliber as their mined counterparts — making them an increasingly popular choice for engaged couples shopping diamond alternatives.


Although lab-created diamonds are the same as mined diamonds in regards to their look, chemical makeup, and visual characteristics, the steps it takes to move the stones from production to customer are slightly shorter. This is part of the reason that lab-grown diamonds can be a 20-40% less expensive mined diamond alternative. The end result? A diamond alternative that’s actually better than the original (at least to your wallet). Clean Origin is also a direct-to-consumer brand, meaning there are no middlemen between our products and our customers. This is how we’re able to offer such competitive pricing on all of our diamonds — even when compared to other man-made gemstones.


Among the pros and cons, there are three main benefits to lab-grown diamonds as alternatives to mined diamonds: their affordable price, their sourcing, and their effect (or lack thereof) on the environment.

As mentioned above, this diamond alternative can save couples large sums of money by reducing by 20-40% compared to a mined diamond of similar quality. There are a few ways to look at these savings:

1. You can pocket that 20-40% and save your money for future expenses, such as your wedding.

2. You can upgrade your engagement ring with those savings. For example, you could get an ethical engagement ring with real diamonds that’s 20-40% larger in carat size. Or you can improve the engagement ring’s cut, color, or clarity.

3. You can purchase your wedding diamond jewelry, such as diamond stud earrings, or a lab grown diamond tennis bracelet.

The origin of man-made diamonds is what often sways an individual to buy or not to buy one of these stones. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand that lab-grown diamonds are the same as mined diamonds and see them instead as something ‘less than.’ By not doing any research, an individual might purchase a mined diamond without fully grasping the potential impact it can have. Many diamonds come from regions that are politically unstable. When you purchase a mined diamond, it’s extremely hard, if not impossible, to trace it with any sort of accuracy from its country of origin. In fact, the only way to be absolutely 100% sure that a diamond was ethically sourced is to buy a lab-grown diamond.

Finally, it’s important to look at the benefits lab-created diamonds have on our environment. Although energy is still used to make a man-made stone, it’s far less than the energy used in the excavation of mined diamonds. In fact, a study showedthat mined diamonds use 538.5 million joules per carat, while grown ones use 250 million — that’s less than half. Mined diamonds also lead to more carbon emissions and produce more waste.

2. Moissanite

In terms of other diamond alternatives, it’s often common for individuals to confuse lab grown diamonds with moissanite. Although both are grown in a lab, they couldn’t be more different. While diamonds are formed when carbon is put under high heat and high pressure (either in the earth or in a lab), moissanite gems are actually made from a completely different element: silicon carbide. This makes moissanite a diamond simulant. Diamond simulants are gemstones that look like diamonds, but are chemically different from diamonds. Here are a few things to help you better understand the differences between diamonds and moissanite.


This diamond alternative was actually discovered over 100 years ago by a French scientist named Henri Moissan. Although he thought he had found diamonds inside of a fallen meteor, it turned out that the crystals were actually silicon carbide and thus was born Moissanite. However, since meteors don’t fall from the sky at a particularly consistent rate, this element is extremely rare, which is why today’s moissanite stones are generated in a lab.


When it comes to price, moissanite gems are dramatically a cheaper alternative to mined or lab grown diamonds. Generally, the price of moissanite diamond alternatives is based simply on their size and color. One-carat moissanite can vary from $250 to $600. This diamond simulant may not be the best diamond alternative, but it is a fraction of the price.


One of the biggest benefits of moissanite stones as diamond alternatives is their durability. Moissanite offers almost the same durability making it one of the best alternative stones if you go the non diamond route. A diamond is the hardest mineral and sits at a 10 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. Moissanites are just below diamonds at 9.25. For a couple looking for an affordable diamond alternative, a moissanite can be a wonderful choice for an engagement ring.

The brilliance of moissanite is often what deters individuals from choosing this stone. With a higher refractive index of 2.65 to 2.69 — compared to diamonds at 2.42 — moissanite can have quite a bit of shine that can be overbearing to some.

For a lot of couples who have a tight budget, a moissanite gemstone is a great placeholder until they can afford a diamond. You may choose a stone with similar optical properties and cut styles, and it is a white stone like a diamond.

3. Cubic Zirconia

Similar to moissanite, cubic zirconia gems are also created in a lab due to their limited supply in nature. Made from the cubic crystalline form of zirconium dioxide, Cubic zirconia is another inexpensive diamond alternative.


The history of CZs actually goes back quite a bit. The mineral that creates these stones, zirconium oxide, was found in 1892, but the potential of the gem had yet to be discovered. Once scientists realized that this mineral was a refractory material (it did not lose any strength when subjected to heat), uses began to emerge. In the late 1930s, two scientists realized that the melted zirconium oxide contained cube-like crystals, but they did not see any use for the find and simply ignored it.

It wasn’t until the 1960s when uses for these crystals in the industrial industry surfaced. Interestingly enough, CZ’s did not really make an impact in the jewelry market until Swarovski designed their own version of the gemstone in the 1980s, making CZ relatively new alternatives to diamonds for engagement rings.


For couples who love a bargain, CZs are the cheapest of these diamond alternatives and can often be purchased anywhere from $30-$200 depending on size. CZs carry very little market value.


Just like moissanite, one of the biggest benefits to CZs is their price. Although nowhere close to a diamond in terms of characteristics, cubic zirconias are a wonderful diamond alternative for a very tight budget.

When it comes to durability, CZs only rate an 8.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness. For this reason, CZs can become scratched and look cloudy over time. They also have a higher dispersion rate and no real visual brilliance. This makes them reflect an excess of colored light, resulting in what’s called a “rainbow effect”.

4. White Sapphire

White Sapphire is another less-expensive diamond alternative. Sapphire is the second-hardest natural gemstone, coming in at a 9 on the Mohs hardness scale. A diamond is a 10, so sapphire is quite scratch and damage-resistant. A white sapphire gem is typically less expensive than yellow, pink, and blue sapphires due to demand, although they are rarer. Here are a few more things to know about White Sapphire.


Sapphires have been used in engagement rings since the 14th century, when royal families would use a “ring of betrothal,” much like a promise ring. During the 18th and 19th centuries, sapphires were more expensive than diamonds due to demand. During that time, there was a flood of diamonds on the market, driving up prices for other stones like sapphires, as they were thought to be rarer. Since then, prices have again returned to normal, and white sapphires have become a common choice for couples who want something different than a traditionally-minded diamond.


White sapphires are about half the price of blue sapphires and much cheaper than mined diamonds. In fact, a mined diamond can be 4 to 5 times more expensive than an all-natural AAA grade white sapphire, making white sapphires an economically feasible alternative to diamonds


The white sapphire vs diamond price difference is drastic, and that is one pro that white sapphire has over diamonds. Another pro is that white sapphire is pretty rare. You won’t find a lot of other people with the same stone as you if you purchase a sapphire ring.

However, that is just about all that white sapphires have over diamonds. Although white sapphires are fairly durable diamond alternatives, diamonds are still much harder, making them more scratch-resistant. Diamonds also have a clearer color and are more brilliant, making them stand out more in the light. When you buy a man-made diamond, you also don’t have to worry about where the stone was sourced from. A white sapphire, just like a mined diamond, could have some unethical practices involved in its sourcing, which you can avoid with Clean Origin.