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You’ve heard it all before, getting married is one of the most important life events. But it comes at a price. You don’t need us to tell you, weddings cost a lot of money.
Did you know that the average cost of a wedding in the US is more than $30,000? Some couples spend even more than that. It’s understandable given the hefty price tags that come with some venues and caterers.
Every couple wants their wedding day to be both memorable and unique. However, couples can spend less on their big day by economizing on their wedding rings. As you’re reading this, you might be breathing a sigh of relief…esepcially, if your budget’s already stretched to the max. You may have already blown a hefty chunk of your funds on a stunning engagement ring, for example. Or, you’ve decided to dispense with the engagement ring altogether for now and go ahead with a wedding ring that has a small diamond in it. Either way rings cost money.
Typically wedding rings and engagement rings are made of silver, gold or platinum. And, if they have a stone or stones set in them, then the prices go up and up. There is no average price we can give you, but a reasonable diamond engagement ring for someone on a budget will start at around $1500 and prices shoot up after that.
However, help’s out there in the form of cubic zirconia wedding and engagement rings. Never heard of it? Here’s what it is:
What’s cubic zirconia?
It’s also known as CZ. It is an affordable synthetic stone alternative to diamonds. It’s as sparkly and bright as a diamond, but entirely man-made out of crystalline material. It’s hard and flawless and without color, although it can be made in different colors too, using mixed oxides during the production process.
Initially discovered in the 1800s, but it wasn’t produced in any mass form until 1976 because it’s cheap, it lasts and, best of all, it looks like a diamond! Most people find it hard to tell the difference between these and the real thing unless they’re experts or have the right equipment to hand.
Sometimes, cubic zirconia is called cubic zirconium by mistake. The latter is actually an element that’s a metal, which, in its powdered form, is combined with zirconium dioxide to make cubic zirconia. The two are heated up to 4982F, and the result is a hard man-made stone worthy of any couple planning their big day.
Colored stones can be created by adding different elements when the rocks are being made. For example, adding cerium in different quantities can turn a stone orange, red, or yellow. Using chromium in the mix will give you a green stone, while titanium will produce a golden brownstone. Feels like magic right?
But are these stones just fake diamonds? It’s probably easier to leave that thought behind. Such stones are often compared to diamonds because, well, they look so much like them, except that unlike diamonds, CZ stones are flawless. But, they are a man-made lab-created stone in their own right.
They offer an ethical and cheaper alternative to diamonds (more about that later). So, yes, it looks like a diamond, but that’s all. That is where the similarity ends. You may also read elsewhere about synthetic diamonds.
These stones are NOT the same as CZ stones. There’s still that hurdle to overcome with diamonds because so many people won’t consider anything else, simply because of the romance of diamonds!
Diamonds are so closely associated with love, romance, engagements, weddings, class and wealth, that, put simply, consumers want a piece of that. People can worry about being judged for buying something cheaper. In other words, it’s all about perception. Instead of thinking that a diamond reflects how much someone loves you, think about how else it’s possible to show love and commitment. It doesn’t have to be through money alone.
Do you can about where your stone came from? If you are reasonably clued up, you will know that the diamond industry comes in for some heavy criticism about the origins of some of its diamonds. Why? Because some diamonds are mined in desperately poor countries where workers are exploited and treated appallingly. Some of those workers are children. That’s just for starters.
Also, when they’ve been mined, diamonds are often passed through many hands before they reach your finger. Some of those hands may well be unscrupulous, so unless your diamond has been mined ethically and the store you’re purchasing from can evidence that, then think twice. Canada may seem like an unlikely choice, but diamonds have been mined there since the 1990s. Canada has strict labor and environmental laws too.
Alternatively, give diamonds the big swerve and choose cubic zirconia. It’s lab-grown, so it’s sustainable, ethical, and there’s no chance it comes from a conflict-free zone.
Tell me about the prices
When compared to diamonds, they are cheaper. However, the quality of cubic zirconia has improved many folds since it first hit the mass market because their condition has improved so much.
Not all cubic zirconia rings come at the same price. The costs vary according to the quality of the stone, so before choosing your wedding or engagement cubic zirconia ring, take a look at our handy tips. Before we get into which particular brands are out there, let’s cover some basics:
Choose the right setting
Choose a durable metal that doesn’t bend or break. It’ll hold your stone for longer. More expensive materials like platinum or gold, will of course last longer namely because they’re harder to damage, bend, or lose color.
This is important because most of us will wear our engagement rings all the time. But, there’s also stainless steel and sterling silver, which are way more affordable and last a long time. The only thing about stainless steel is that it doesn’t like chlorinated water.
When you’re looking at the right setting, check out that the CZ stone is set solidly. By that, we mean, be sure that the prongs securing it in place aren’t loose or that the stone isn’t moving at all. You’re going to wear this ring ALL the time!
The bigger the CZ stone, the cheaper it looks. If it’s big, it can look fake. When you get a diamond, and the light hits it, it can give off rainbow colors inside the diamond. With a CZ stone, especially a big one, they too will give off colorful light, and way more so than diamonds. It’s an easy way to spot the difference between the two stones.
So, if you want a sizeable showy stone, either accept you have to buy the real deal or go for a synthetic diamond.
Grade of your stone
So, if CZ stones are man-made, does that mean they are all the same? Short answer: no.
When you look at jewelry websites selling CZ rings, then you might see them categorized into grades. These are usually A, AAA, and AAAAA. It doesn’t take a genius to work out A is the lowest quality grade. The smallest quality grade stone will chip, change color, and damage more easily. That’s why it is the cheapest on the market.
Rings with AAA or AAAAA stones are of higher quality and look more like diamonds. The AAAAA stones are also usually hand cut and hand polished. This is why they are the best and the most expensive of all cubic zirconia stones.
But, there’s no overall organization that grades these stones and their quality. More often than not, an untrained eye can’t tell the difference between an A, a AAA, or an AAAAA. However, if you’re absolutely sure you’re going down the cubic zirconia route and still want the best, they an AAAAA is the most obvious choice. Whichever grade you choose, be sure the setting is reliable and high-quality.
Do cubic zirconia stones have a carat?
Yes. Cubic Zirconia stones, like diamonds, are measured in carats. That is where the similarity ends. With diamonds, the bigger the carat weight, the bigger the price tag. Not so with CZ stones. The other thing to remember is that CZ stones are denser than diamonds, so they are heavier and smaller than a diamond.
Quality of the stone
Look for a clear stone. Sometimes, the cheaper stones can be a bit cloudy Cubic Zirconia is usually colorless unless something has been added to it, as we’ve already covered above. The stones come in different shapes and are generally cut in the same forms as diamonds. For example, round, heart, pear, marquise, princess, and cushion cuts.
Which brands should you go for?
While we can’t tell you which store to go for, there are plenty to choose from when buying a cubic zirconia engagement or wedding ring. A quick Google search will tell you there’s a big market out there that offers great competitive prices. The market really took off when Swarovski started selling them, so no better place than to start with them.
Generally speaking, a CZ ring from these guys is a safe bet. They’ve been selling them for years and have even got their own Swarovski® Zirconia range. Although we best know these guys for their cut crystal stones, they also cut real and created stones too. In fact, they started to cut zirconia early on in 1976. They were the first company on the market to offer a cut zirconia stone.
Swarovski says that their Pure Brilliance Swarovski Zirconia is the “most diamond-like Zirconia on the market.” You can always go visit a store and test that claim our yourself, or just take their word for it. Your choice!
Here we have a wide range of ZIrconia options, and they are all definitely on the affordable price range. Although some of their designs seem overly fussy and elaborate to us, they are also some lovely plain bands with marquise cut stones for a gorgeous and affordable engagement ring. If you’re looking for a wedding band with a rock or two set in the metal, there are sterling silver options that would work well, depending upon your taste.
Etsy and Amazon are both excellent sources of inspirational and affordable cubic zirconia engagement rings. The questions you have to ask are all set out above, such as clarity, cut, carat, and color. Also, what is the refund policy of the trader?
They’ve been around since 1985, and their tagline is that they sell luxurious cubic zirconia stones set in gold and platinum too. The gold is white, yellow, or rose in color. There’s a range of rings including the more bling style designer/celebrity style rings, simple solitaire rings and baguette style solitaires. All look pretty attractive to us.
The prices are less affordable than CZ rings set in silver or stainless steel, but they’re definitely still way more affordable than a diamond ring set in gold or platinum. It’s a great way of combining higher quality metal with a less costly stone. Their stones range in carat size from 1.5 to 5 and still come in at less than $1,000. Worth a look!
Household name stores
Check out Macy’s either online or in their store if you’re in the right place. They sell Swarovski wedding bands and rings, as well as unbranded rings, and all again, at affordable prices. The prices are more mid-range than the ones covered above and tend mostly to be in sterling silver, although there are some in white gold too.
At the other end of the scale, believe it or not, but Walmart does actually sell Cubic Zirconia rings. It’s one of the biggest stores in the US and therefore needs a mention. Their online range features stainless steel, white gold, and sterling silver options. However, most rings don’t have a carat rating and the prices kind of reflect that. However, if you’re on a real budget and think you may be in a financial position to upgrade in the future, then hey, why not? More money to spend on your honeymoon instead, right?
So now you have your beautiful cubic zirconia ring that hasn’t broken the budget! Remember you need to look after it. These stones can dirty and cloud, looking after them more regularly than a diamond is essential.
Avoid chemicals when wearing your ring. So, if you’re washing up or cleaning the house using products, then wear gloves. The same applies if you use hairspray or non-natural soaps and lotions on your hands. At best, these products make your stone less sparkly and at worst, damage it.
When you do clean your stone, don’t use any harsh materials. By this, we mean using a soft brush with little abrasions and a soft cloth. You don’t need to use strong chemicals to clean your stone, just soapy water that’s warm, not hot or boiling. If you do this every couple of weeks or even monthly, it’ll go a long way to maintaining the sparkle of your stone.
If you can stump up the cash, invest in getting your ring professionally cleaned by a reputable jeweler. When you’re buying your ring from your jeweler, ask them if they do cleaning, or if they include the first few cleans within the price of the ring. If you’re already reading this guide too late and your stone’s cloudy, then, unfortunately, it’s too late to undo the damage. However, you can still have the stone replaced instead.
Last, but not least, if you lead an active life and are out and about, especially doing sports or gardening, then try to take your ring off or, if you’re in the garden, then wear gloves. It’d be a great shame if, say, you’re an avid climber or gym-goer, and your ring gets damaged in your pursuit of perfect fitness!
Ready to start shopping for cubic zirconia’s?
When shopping for CZ, ensure you buy at a vendor that has a good returns policy just in case you aren’t entirely satisfied with your purchase.
Check the carat, cut, color, and setting. All these are still important, even if you are spending less. You don’t need to be shy about asking your retailer questions just because you’re spending less. It’s still your money.
There are plenty of places to choose a cubic zirconia wedding band or engagement ring. Because it’s a popular choice, so there’s plenty of demand. You can even buy them in clothes stores! Just remember to ask questions of your retailer and if they don’t know the answer, take your custom elsewhere. You can still buy good quality cubic zirconia rings if you head to the right place.
So hopefully now you’re all set to go shopping and make that all-important and long-lasting purchase! Good luck!
- Nowadays, moissanite and cubic zirconia rings are a popular variant over diamonds, and here you can check some great variants and decide if some of the two will work for you.
- Cubic Zirconia rings are a decent variant over diamonds and here you can check specifically Radiant Cut Cubic Zirconia from Amazon.