All You Need to Know About Cubic Zirconia

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Most people think of cubic zirconia as a cheap imitation of diamonds. Some even call them “fake diamonds.” They have some similarities, and some dishonest jewelers try to pass off cubic zirconia as diamonds. But they’re gems in their own right. Let’s find out if they should have a place in your collection. 

What is cubic zirconia?

Cubic zirconia (CZ) is a clear sparkly crystal made in the lab from zirconium dioxide (ZrO2). It has a cubic crystalline form similar to diamonds. Jewelers can cut it into different gemstone shapes, such as oval, princess, round, pear, and cushion.

What is 5a cubic zirconia?

Jewelers grade CZ based on its quality. The scale starts from A to 5A, 5A being the highest quality. However, it is worth noting that there is no standard for this comparison, and it is essentially a marketing strategy.

What is cubic zirconia made of?

CZ is made of zirconium dioxide. It is made by melting high purity zirconium oxide powder with stabilizers such as calcium and magnesium. The mixture is removed from heat, where it cools to form crystals and stabilize. After the crystals form, they are cut and polished.

Which color is cubic zirconia?

CZ is usually colorless. However, manufacturers now produce it in a wide range of colors. 

What is cubic zirconia worth?

CZ is the least expensive diamond alternative. It does not have great resell value and is seen as a short-term alternative because it is not durable.

How to Identify Cubic Zirconia 

Cubic zirconia can look like diamonds and other diamond simulants, but it has a few unique features. Here are some ways to spot CZ:

Text Test 

Get a newspaper and place the pointed part of your stone on the part of the newspaper with letters. Now try to view the letter through the stone. If you can see the letters, you’re likely holding cubic zirconia. CZ has a refractive index of 2.15-2.18 and so does not refract the light enough to blur the letters.

Loupe Test

A loupe is a tool jewelers use to inspect small details in stones. You can purchase this tool in jewelry or online retail stores. Make sure to wipe your stone clean before inspecting it with a loupe. 

Use the loupe to check the stone for inclusions that may look like a bubble or needle-like. If you find inclusions, the stone is not CZ, but you’re likely holding cubic zirconia if it is flawless. 

💡Take Note: This test is not definitive as some lab-made diamonds do not also have inclusions.

How Cubic Zirconia Compares With Other Gemstones 

Since CZ is similar to gemstones like diamonds, moissanite, and white sapphire, let’s see how they compare.

FeaturesCubic ZirconiaDiamondMoissaniteWhite Sapphire
CompositionZirconium dioxideCarbonSilicon carbideAluminium oxide
AppearanceUsually colorless but can be made to be colored by the addition of elements such as chromium, copper, and iron during the production processRarely colorless but can have a hint of yellow or brownCan come in different colorsColorless
Cost (1.0ct)About $20About $4000About $269About $980
Hardness (Moh’s scale)8.5109.259
Refractive Index2.1762.4172.65-2.961.77
SparkleRainbow-like sparkleWhite sparkleRainbow-like sparkleLeast sparkly

What is the difference between cubic zirconia and diamond?

CZ is a synthetic gemstone, while diamond is a natural gemstone, although they can now be made in the lab. In natural light, cubic zirconia will give off rainbow colors, while diamond will give off strong white sparkle. Cubic zirconia is less durable than diamond and costs far less. 

What is the difference between cubic zirconia and moissanite?

Although both metals have a rainbow-like sparkle, they’re not the same. Cubic zirconia is more affordable than moissanite. It is also softer than moissanite, which means it is more susceptible to scratches making it less durable.

What is the difference between white sapphire and cubic zirconia?

White sapphire is a precious gemstone that is formed naturally, but it can also be created in the lab. In contrast, the cubic zirconia used in jewelry is exclusively made in the lab. 

White sapphire and CZ are diamond alternatives, but white sapphire is the more expensive option, especially if it is naturally formed. White sapphire is also more durable than cubic zirconia, although it does not sparkle as much.

How to Clean Cubic Zirconia 

Cubic zirconia is not a hard stone to clean at home. A simple method is to use soap and water.

Materials Needed

  • Mild dishwashing liquid
  • Bowl
  • Soft cloth
  • Q-tip or soft-bristled brush


  1. Mix a cup of water with 2-3 drops of mild dishwashing liquid in a bowl.
  2. Dip your cubic zirconia jewelry and shake it in the water. If you notice dirt in small corners, use a q-tip or soft-bristled brush to reach those areas.
  3. Remove from the soapy water and rinse.
  4. Leave to air dry or pat dry with a soft cloth

Frequently Asked Questions

Is cubic zirconia a fake diamond? 

No, cubic zirconia is not a fake diamond. It is a lab-made crystal with some similarities to diamonds, so scammers may try to pass it off as real diamonds.

Does CZ last? 

Cubic zirconia lasts for about two years before it starts to cloud, especially if it is on jewelry that is worn daily, like a ring. Think of it as a short-term alternative to diamonds if you’re considering purchasing it for an engagement. 

Can I shower with cubic zirconia? 

Yes, you can shower while wearing cubic zirconia. However, you may need to consider the metal used for the jewelry. For example, if it is set in a gold-plated band, we don’t recommend exposing it continuously to water.

cubic zirconia ring

How long does cubic zirconia jewelry last?

CZ jewelry can last for about two years. It has a rating of 8.5 on the Moh scale, which is relatively high, but it can still be scratched. If it is set on jewelry not worn regularly, it may last longer as long as it is stored properly. 

Does zirconia turn green?

CZ does not turn green, nor does it turn skin green. If cubic zirconia jewelry has made your skin green, the metal it is set in is the culprit. It most likely contains copper, which oxidizes to form green copper oxide.

Another Way to Sparkle

Although popularly known as a diamond alternative, CZ is a good choice if you’re on a tight budget but still want something sparkly. The downside is that you may need to change it every few years. 

If you plan to choose a CZ engagement ring, select an inexpensive band metal, such as sterling silver or gold-plated metals. That way, you can get more value for your money in the few years it will last.

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