Diamonds are great, no question about it, but they are also very expensive. That’s why so many people opt for diamond imitations. But how should you go about choosing one? What makes one diamond imitation better than another, and which are the best simulated diamonds?
The Characteristics of the Best Imitation Diamond
The best imitation diamond is a stone that looks like the real thing and whose physical properties are as close as possible to those of diamond.
So, an imitation diamond should be primarily evaluated on two dimensions: appearance and physical structure.
When evaluating appearance, you should focus on the color, clarity, and brilliance of the imitation – the same characteristics commonly used to assess real diamonds.
When it comes to structure, there are a lot of physical and chemical characteristics on which imitation diamonds differ from each other, as well as from real diamond, and there is no point in analyzing all of them.
You should focus mainly on the stone’s hardness.
Choosing a Good Imitation Diamond
Evaluating the Color of Imitation Diamonds
Color is one of the major diamond quality characteristics, and stones that are colorless are considered the most valuable.
So, when choosing a diamond imitation, you should look for simulants that have as little color as possible.
There are a number of stones that are pretty much colorless and can be used as imitations: moissanite, cubic zirconia, white sapphire, zircon, spinel, rutile, and synthetic garnet, to name the most common ones.
Not all of these stones are perfectly colorless, though. For example, most moissanite stones have yellowish tints, which can be more or less visible depending on the stone.
If you are looking for a whiter simulant, cubic zirconia or white sapphire would be a better choice.
Assessing the Clarity of Diamond Imitations
Diamond clarity refers to the absence of internal or surface flaws in a stone.
You should be aware that most naturally occurring stones have some imperfections, even if they are only visible with a loupe.
What you should be looking for are imitations that don’t have flaws easily visible with the naked eye – i.e., eye-clean stones.
The clearest diamond imitations are those that are synthetic. These stones have been created in a controlled process that minimizes the occurrence of flaws.
Cubic zirconia is a good example – it is lab-created and doesn’t have visible imperfections inside.
Moissanite also rarely has visible inclusions – although it is a naturally occurring mineral, it is very rare, and most of the moissanite sold today is actually synthetic.
Synthetic rutile and synthetic garnet are two other lab-created imitations that are less likely to have flaws compared with real diamond.
Evaluating the Brilliance of Diamond Imitations
Brilliance is another characteristic of diamonds that you should look for in an imitation.
At the same time, keep in mind that due to the differences in physical properties between simulants and diamonds, they reflect light differently.
For that reason, the brilliance of imitations is not exactly the same as that of diamonds.
One stone whose brilliance is very similar to a diamond’s is moissanite, which is actually even more brilliant than the real thing. In addition, moissanite’s sparkle is more colorful than that of diamond.
Cubic zirconia also does not lack in brilliance. Like moissanite, cubic zirconia also sparkles in more colors compared with real diamond.
As you can see, you won’t be able to find an imitation that looks exactly like diamond in terms of brilliance, but stones such as cubic zirconia and moissanite can come pretty close.
The Hardness of Imitation Diamonds
Hardness is an important characteristic for gemstones, and considering that diamond is the hardest of all, it is not easy to find an imitation that is close to the original in this respect.
The hardest diamond imitation is perhaps moissanite – its rating on the Mohs scale of hardness is 9.5 out of 10, while diamond is rated 10.
White sapphire is a bit softer – a 9 on the Mohs scale. Cubic zirconia is even less durable, with a hardness rating in the 8-8.5 range.
Most other diamond imitations, such as zircon, spinel, synthetic garnet, and rutile, are no harder than 8.5.
Hardness is important because it is related to durability.
Imitations that are softer will scratch more easily – for example, cubic zirconia will accumulate scratches over time, and the edges of its facets will gradually become smoother due to wear.
So, if durability is important to you, one of the hardest imitations you can pick is moissanite.
Additional reading: Choosing the right simulated diamond jewelry.
Where to Buy Diamond Imitations?
If you're looking to buy jewelry with cubic zirconia or other simulated diamonds, we recommend that you check out the great selection of diamond imitations available at Amazon as well as Ross-Simons and Reeds Jewelers.