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Simulated Diamonds

Also known as diamond simulants, these stones are similar to diamonds in their appearance but different in their physical and chemical properties. You’ve likely heard of a few different kinds of diamond simulants, including cubic zirconia and moissanite. There are also a few gemstones that can fall into this category because of their clear appearance. These include quartz and white sapphire.

Synthetic Diamonds

Synthetic diamonds, on the other hand, are chemically, physically, and optically the same as mined diamonds. They are also known as lab-grown diamonds, man-made diamonds, or cultured diamonds. In all intents and purposes, they are real diamonds. The only difference is where they were created. Although they are synonymous, the Federal Trade Commission has actually ruled it deceptive to classify a lab-grown diamond as ‘synthetic’ since this term can be misleading. For the most part, you will find these diamonds labeled by one of their more appropriate names.


man made classic bridal set

How do you tell the difference?

There are various properties with each type of stone that will allow you to tell if it is a diamond simulant or a synthetic diamond.


Diamonds, and therefore synthetic diamonds are the hardest minerals found on earth. On the Mohs Scale of hardness, they score a perfect 10. This means that the only thing that can scratch a diamond is another diamond.

A moissanite, one of the most popular diamond simulants, is also a fairly hard mineral, but not as hard as a real diamond. On the scale, they score a 9.25, meaning they can be scratched by other elements. A CZ, on the other hand, scores an 8.5. This means it is much softer than a diamond and can easily be scratched.

Refractive Index

In technical terms, the refractive index "describes how fast light propagates through the material" (Wikipedia). In layman’s terms, and when it comes to diamond simulants and synthetics, it basically describes how to stone will reflect light.

The refractive index of a diamond is 2.4. This means that light travels through a diamond at a rate 2.4x slower than it does through air. In comparison, the refractive index of moissanite is anywhere from 2.65-2.69. This can actually cause the stone to give off a ‘disco-ball’ appearance, as the shine can be overbearing at times. Since CZs are lower than diamonds on the index (sitting at 2.15-2.18), they reflect an excess of colored light, resulting in a ‘rainbow effect’.


halo diamond engagement ring in box


Since diamond simulants are not real diamonds, they cost quite a bit less. You could easily find moissanite that resembles the size of a 2-carat diamond for less than $1,500. Cubic Zirconia is even less and can range anywhere from $30-$200 depending on size. Diamond simulants do not have a ton of market value. However, they’re a great option if you’re tight on budget.

Lab-grown diamonds or synthetic diamonds can be anywhere from 20-40% less than mined diamonds. However, since they are chemically, physically, and optically the same as mined diamonds, they still hold high market value. A 1.54 ct round stone with F color, VS2 clarity, and very good cut grade can start around $3,240. For a similar mined diamond, you’re looking to start around $5,900. Clean Origin also offers extremely competitive rates, even in the man-made industry.

It’s important to understand the difference between diamond simulants and synthetic diamonds before you start your engagement ring search. If you have an extremely tight budget, a diamond simulant can be a good starting point or placeholder. Since synthetic diamonds are identical to mined diamonds, these gems are a wonderful mined diamond alternative if you’re conscious about ethically sourced jewelry and eco-friendly products.


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