Moissanite vs Cubic Zirconia – Which is Best for You?

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Melanie Weir knows a thing or two weddings. The freelance author and contributor to Business Insider has covered numerous weddings and over the years noticed an emerging trend: a desire to cut back on overall wedding costs.  And many of these trends bode well for less conventional gemstone choices like moissanite and cubic zirconia.

According to a global report conducted by Wedding Wire, twenty eight percent of couple worldwide go into some level of debt to pay for their wedding costs, which aligns with rising costs for wedding overall. The price tag for a reception and ceremony and the United States, for instance, is now nearly thirty thousand dollars.

That doesn’t include the classic diamond engagement ring or the honeymoon. And now more and more couples are pushing back. Ms. Weir, the freelance writer and frequenter of many weddings, says now couples save money on weddings in a number of ways, including:

  • Enlisting a friend’s help for everything from photography to decorating needs
  • Making more simple, or even digital invitations
  • Skipping in house catering and sit down meals for more innovative options, or even homemade food
  • Offer alternative desserts to an expensive wedding cake
  • Buying flowers in season and locally
  • Making their own decorations or borrowing from loved ones
  • Shopping sales on attire
  • Marrying on a less popular day (such as a weekday, and avoiding Saturdays)

But one trend that may come as a surprise to many, and an easy way to slash costs is skipping the traditional diamond ring. Ms. Weir has noticed more couples opting for gemstones like moissanite and cubic zirconia for engagement and wedding rings. But what are moissanite and cubic zirconia like? And are they really suitable substitutions?

We’ll compare two of the most popular alternatives to diamonds–moissanite vs cubic zirconia and take a quick but thorough look at the pros and cons of both.

Have diamonds always been the preferred choice for engagement rings?

diamonds

Though engagement rings have been worn likely as far back as Ancient Egypt, it was not until the late 1400’s when the first mention of a diamond ring was noted, most famously by Archduke Maximilian of Austria when he  proposed to Mary of Burgundy.

However, diamonds gained more widespread popularity in the late 1800’s, when they were first mined in South Africa. DeBeers Mining Company at the time controlled an astounding ninety percent of diamond supply, but it was the initiation of the “A diamond is forever” slogan truly solidified the diamond’s place as a prized gemstone.

By the roaring forties, diamond engagement rings were being popularly sold in American department stores and became a standard for engagement rings.

Why are diamonds so popular? 

Diamonds have a long history, as we have seen, of being valued. There are many reasons for that. For one, they present, at their finest, as beautiful appearance, with brilliant white scintillation. They are the hardest gemstone available, with the highest possible rating of ten on the mohs hardness scale.

They also are known to hold up to temperature changes (though not to as extreme of a point as some) and are less vulnerable to chipping or abrasions that softer stones.

Finally, diamonds are valuable. Many like the fact that they are using something of such value to celebrate their love. Diamonds are no doubt timeless and can be passed down as heirlooms as well.

Are diamonds losing popularity?

diamond ring 1

Overall, diamonds are still the most popular choice for engagement and wedding rings. However, there is a trend of searching for alternatives to diamonds, such as gemstones, especially amongst millennials. Gemstones and other alternative engagement rings are being rising in popularity in terms of a more unique way to express style, but even more so, save money.

Younger generations are placing emphasis on saving money for other things, such as down payments on cars or homes.

While the average price spent on engagement rings seems to continue to be on the rise for the most part, at the same time it is becoming more acceptable, and even popular to eschew the typical diamond engagement ring in favor of alternatives.

Is there any stigma associated with cubic zirconia or moissanite?

Of course, regardless of traction that the two gemstones are gaining, there is still a certain degree of skepticism. Some feel that diamonds are symbolic and precious and that alternatives simply do not offer the same vision.

In fact, some high profile celebrities have been particularly sensitive about accusations that their rings were not true diamond rings. Nonetheless, there certainly is more acceptance, and even admiration for selecting stones that do not have ethical concerns some diamonds have, and that are more economical as a whole.

Why are cubic zirconia and moissanite popular alternatives to diamonds? 

 

 

Besides a much cheaper price point, both cubic zirconia and moissanite, to a degree, resemble the appearance of a diamond. Both have the ability to reflect light and have a degree of mild to high brilliance. The very best can mimic diamonds to a degree it’s not easy to discern the difference if you’re not a jewelry expert.

However, there are some differences between cubic zirconia and moissanite even in terms of appearance, which we will be discussing shortly.

What factors should I consider when comparing moissanite vs cubic zirconia?

When comparing these those gemstones, we will see some overlap, but also distinguishing characteristics. For those who do not know as much in terms of different gemstone alternatives, at first glance moissanite and cubic zirconia can seem almost interchangeable, but they are not.

We’ll be considering the following:

Price

When looking at price, it’s very difficult to compare based upon rings themselves, so instead, we’ll be looking at market price per carat to determine how cubic zirconia differs from moissanite. Of course, price isn’t going to be the only factor, and you’ll want to consider the price point in terms of overall value.

Color and Clarity

What colors and hues is moissanite and cubic zirconia available in? We’ll also consider saturation, which refers to the overall intensity of the gemstone’s color. When discussing clarity, we are looking at how ‘cloudy’ versus translucent the gemstone is. If you’re looking for a classic diamond replacement, you likely will be interested in a gemstone with a high degree of clarity.

Cut:

Cut refers to the way the gemstone has been cut, and has a degree of importance when it comes to overall brilliance and appearance. Depending on the gemstone, there may be an emphasis on certain types of cuts, while some gemstones cannot be cut in the same way as diamonds.

  • Round cuts tend to produce the highest degree of brilliance and also tend to be the most expensive.
  • Emerald and Asscher cuts are known for lower levels of brilliance but more subtle shine.
  • Fancy cuts, which include pear, marquise and oval, tend to exhibit what is called a ‘bow tie’ effect.

Durability:

Often when we discuss gemstones we worry about the durability, but durability is actually determined not by one factor, but in fact several.

  • Temperature resistance may or may not be an important factor depending on your environment, but generally there is some concern with some gemstones that there may be a possibility of fractures or cracks forming when exposed to extreme temperature fluctuations.
  • Chemical resistance is a concern not only for those who work in industrial settings, but also for everyday exposure. Even chemicals as seemingly innocuous as makeup, perfume or cologne, hair spray, and household cleaning supplies can cause possible decay or erosion, depending on the gemstone.
  • Scratch resistance is measured by the Mohs hardness scale, from one to ten, with tend being the softest and most prone to scratches and abrasions. For reference, diamonds are rated at a ten and considered the hardest gemstone.
  • Chip resistance is not always a one to one translation with hardness, and is instead measured by fracture abrasion scale.
  • Brilliance: When we discuss diamonds, we are often concerned with the degree of brilliance. Brilliance refers to the degree, and how, light is reflected from the surfaces of a gemstone. This is determined by both the cut and composition of the gemstone. Brilliance is simply the level of shine and sparkle you notice in light.
  • Resemblance to diamonds: This factor can work both ways. Some look into gemstones as a direct alternative to diamonds and thus would prefer something that most closely resembles diamonds, while others actually are looking for an option that appears distinct.

What do moissanite and cubic zirconia have in common? 

 

 

While you’ll see a little overlap in terms of features and characteristics in other categories, one factor that closely connects moissanite with cubic zirconia is that they are both simulants.

Simulants are different from natural gemstones, which, as the name implies, occur naturally and can be found in water or mined from land. They are also different from synthetic. The name synthetic applies to gems that are lab grown. Many actually prefer synthetic diamonds because a lab can control conditions, resulting in fewer inconsistencies and imperfections than you’d see in naturally occurring gems.

Moissanite and cubic zirconia, however, are simulants. That means they do not share the same composition or properties of natural gemstones, the way lab grown gemstones do.

  • Moissanite is comprised of silicon carbide, which is actually used in a range of products we use everyday, including but not limited to ceramic plates, car parts, and even bulletproof vests.
  • Cubic zirconia is made from zirconium dioxide, which is mostly found in crystallized form and thus, cubic zirconium itself.

How does moissanite compare with cubic zirconia?

moissanite brilliant earth

Now that we’ve set some basic standards and methods for comparison, let’s take a look at how cubic zirconia vs moissanite compares for engagement and wedding rings.

How expensive is moissanite vs cubic zirconia?

Moissanite is, first of all, far more affordable than diamonds. In fact, some moissanite can cost up to ninety percent less than diamonds. The average price of upper-quality moissanite per carat is six hundred dollars per carat.

Cubic zirconia is also known as an affordable option. But in fact, cubic zirconia is even more affordable, and by a good deal. Cubic zirconia costs an average of just twenty dollars per carat.

What colors does moissanite vs cubic zirconia come in?

Colors are subjective based on taste. With diamonds, generally clear is the most valuable, though some especially rare diamonds, such as the Blue Hope diamond, is especially valuable. In terms of synthetics such as moissanite and cubic zirconia, it’s mostly up to your personal preference.

  • Moissanite comes in nearly all colors diamonds do, which includes blue, purple, yellow, pink, clear, black, brown, gray, and gold.
  • Cubic zirconia also comes in a wide array of colors, though some include colors you won’t likely find in diamonds. Yellow, orange, red, green, lilac-violet-blue, yellow, aqua, pink, brown, purple, amber, golden brown, amber and Champagne are common colors.

How does cubic zirconia compare with moissanite in terms of clarity?

cubic zirconia

Clarity refers to the level of transparency and lack of clouded characteristics that make it harder to see through. In general, the higher clarity, the more attractive it is to most.

  • Cubic zirconia has a reputation for nearly always having a high level of clarity, and in this way resembles diamonds.
  • Moissanite is also known to have a high level of clarity. Though infractions can be detected under a microscope, most moissanite is graded better than ninety percent of diamonds in terms of clarity.
  • While both have high levels of clarity, moissanite is more regularly officially rated at an exceptional level.

What cuts are common for cubic zirconia vs moissanite?

As we mentioned before, gemstone cuts impact both brilliance and overall appearance.

  • Cubic zirconia comes in a range of cuts you’d see for diamonds, most commonly: ascher; marquise; oval; pear; emerald; round; princess; triangle; cushion; heart and radiant.
  • Moissanite is most favored in heart, square, oval, emerald, cushion, pear and radiant cuts.

How durable is moissanite vs cubic zirconia?

Now let’s discuss a very important factor: overall durability. As we’ve already mentioned durability is in fact not predicated on a single factor, but multi-faceted.

Temperature resistance

  • Moissanite is known to be able to withstand both extreme temperatures and temperature fluctuations. In fact, moissanite can endure temperatures as high as two thousand degrees fahrenheit.
  • Cubic zirconia is actually also highly heat resistant, with temperatures exceeding four thousand degrees fahrenheit, and not vulnerable to cracking with temperature fluctuations.

Chemical resistance

Moissanite and cubic zirconia are both considered resistant to everyday chemical and do not easily tarnish.

Chip resistance

Chip resistance is another concern. Moissanite is considered fairly chip resistant, though it can be more prone to chipping than diamonds. Cubic zirconia, on the other hand is considered more brittle, and thus more vulnerable to chipping. Another issue with cubic zirconia is that there are regularly occurring imperfections, including dislocations and various mechanical stresses.

Hardness

Hardness with tell you overall durability, but more specifically how prone or resistance gems are to scratches and abrasions.

  • Moissanite is rated at a nine and a quarter on the Mohs hardness scale, which is just a bit below the highest possible (a diamond is a ten).
  • Cubic zirconia is thought by some to be a soft gemstone, though this is not true. While cubic zirconia is noticeably softer than both a diamond and moissanite, an eight and a half rating means it ranks above a gem like emeralds.

Attraction to dirt is a concern unique to cubic zirconia compared with moissanite. Cubic zirconia is notorious for picking up dirt and oils, requires more cleaning, and can even become discolored.

How brilliant is moissanite vs cubic zirconia?

blue ring

Brillance, perceived by the degree of light reflected, is only perceived truly through clear moissanite and cubic zirconia. However, there are some differences between the two gemstones.

Moissanite is high in brilliance, but the sparkle you’ll notice is multi-colored in nature, in contrast with the pure white shine to diamonds. This is the same with cubic zirconia, so what is the difference in brilliance between the two?

In many ways, the brilliance of moissanite is preferable. Unlike zirconia, which tends to have rounded, more smooth edges, moissanite’s composition makes for brilliance and light reflection more similar to a diamond.  Some say too high of brilliance, especially for cubic zirconia, can actually draw attention to the fact that it’s not a diamond but an alternative gemstone.

How closely does moissanite vs cubic zirconia resemble diamonds?

Of course, not everyone is shopping for moissanite or cubic zirconia in hopes of finding a substitute for diamond rings. Some want an unique, while others are not looking for wedding or engagement rings but jewelry for other purposes and occasions. Still, this yet another category where there’s a clear distinction between moissanite vs cubic zirconia.

  • Cubic zirconia is different in appearance from diamonds in a number of ways. For one, the smooth edges are an immediate contrast to the sharper edges of a diamond. For another, it is purely white, while diamonds actually have a slight yellow tint.
  • Moissanite is less noticeably different than a diamond. The sharper edges and angles, more colored appearance, and more similar brilliance make them a closer match as a diamond replacement.

Is moissanite or cubic zirconia a better investment?

rings together

In terms of investment, moissanite overall is a much better bet. While cubic zirconia is fine if you’re on a budget and just want a small gift for bridesmaids or casual jewelry, consider the benefits of moissanite over cubic zirconia:

  • Closer resemblance to diamonds
  • Harder on the Mohs scale, which means it’s less prone to scratches and abrasions
  • More resistant to everyday dirt and grime
  • More valuable
  • More durable overall

Especially if you’re shopping for fine jewelry, moissanite is the superior pick over cubic zirconia. While cubic zirconia will save you money in the short term, you may find that it’s not as wise of a long term investment.

Where can I find cubic zirconia and moissanite? 

bride with rings

You can find cubic zirconia nearly everywhere. If you are buying cubic zirconia, you do not necessarily need to go through a jeweler. With moissanite, however, you should shop as you would for a diamond, doing your research in terms of cut, color, clarity but also the reputation of the jeweler.

Online outlets for moissanite include Brilliant Earth, Charles & Colvard, and less conventional options, such as Etsy.  However, if you do want to buy higher-end cubic zirconia, there are specialty online retailers such as Birkat Elyon.

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Erin Jamieson

Erin has always loved wedding-related planning and fashion, and regularly follows bridal fashion in the news. She has also worked for a bridal boutique and is passionate about helping couples plan and budget so they can enjoy their wedding day with as little stress as possible. She is an accomplished writer who writes on many subjects, but she has a special place in her heart for new brides and is here to make their day extra special with great recommendations and ideas you can't find anywhere else. 

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