A simulant is an alternative to a real diamond. It is either a natural or synthetic (lab-created) stone, or multiple stones fused together to resemble a diamond. Simulants are not as durable as real diamonds and are less expensive. Popular simulants include moissanite, cubic zirconia and white sapphire.
Moreover, there are two kinds of moissanite: natural and synthetic. The majority of moissanite sold is either synthetic or lab-created because natural moissanite is incredibly rare. It registers 9.5 on the Moh’s scale of hardness, whereas diamonds register as 10. Moissanite has optical properties that exceed a diamond’s properties, but for some, moissanites have too much luster, and their color appears in a yellowish tint. However, you’ll also see colorless synthetic moissanite used in jewelry. Some designers guarantee that created moissanite jewels will maintain their brilliance and fire for the owner’s lifetime.
It’s safe to assume the majority of moissanite is lab created. Synthetic moissanite was introduced in the late 1990s, and you’ll occasionally see this as a diamond substitute. In jewelry, lab-created moissanite starts at about $600 per carat.
The most popular competitor to the diamond is the cubic zirconia (CZ). Its hardness is an 8.5 on the Moh’s scale of hardness. A cubic zirconia can be less durable and can become cloudy over time. Cubic zirconias are colorless and have no visible imperfections. They have more fire than real diamonds. They are completely lab-made and very inexpensive (the price starts around $15 per carat).
Some customers do not want lab-created simulants, so a third alternative to a diamond is a naturally-formed white sapphire. Like moissanite, white sapphires can be natural or manmade. Sapphires score a 9 on the Moh’s scale of hardness. They have scintillation but lack the fire of natural diamonds. Natural stone prices vary depending on the 4 Cs (carat weight, color, clarity and cut). Synthetic white sapphire jewelry can start around $200 per carat and increase depending on their features.
Part 1: Diamonds: Natural, Simulants, and Synthetics
Marissa Holland, AJP (GIA), is a portfolio underwriter for Chubb Personal Risk Services.