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Diamond simulants explained

diamond simulants

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Diamond stimulants (also known as simulated diamonds) are gemstones that resemble natural diamonds but have different chemical compositions and offer a cost-effective alternative to real diamonds.

This article explores how you can make informed decisions about simulated diamonds that can be used to create stunning pieces of jewellery, as well as answering our most frequently asked questions.

What are simulated diamonds?

Diamond simulants are stones that look similar to diamonds but have different physical and chemical properties. They are created to mimic the appearance of a diamond but are not made of the same carbon crystal structure as a real diamond. Common types include cubic zirconia (CZ), moissanite, white sapphire, quartz, glass or crystal. CZ is a popular and affordable option, while moissanite offers superior brilliance and colour dispersion. White Sapphire serves as a natural alternative, and glass and quartz provide low-cost options.

Though all of them may appear similar to diamonds, trained gemologists can differentiate them based on physical and optical characteristics. There are even some techniques that you can use at home to identify if a diamond is real or a simulant. Read How to Tell If A Diamond Is Fake to learn more.

The main types of diamond simulants

Simulated diamonds are crafted from various materials to imitate the appearance of diamonds, though they lack the same physical and chemical attributes. The most common materials used for simulated diamonds are:

  1. Cubic Zirconia (CZ): A lab-created crystalline form of zirconium dioxide, CZ is colourless, hard, and cost-effective, making it the most prevalent and affordable diamond simulant available.
  2. Moissanite: Made from silicon carbide, moissanite is nearly as hard as a diamond and boasts a higher refractive index, resulting in exceptional brilliance and sparkle.
  3. White Sapphire: This gemstone, composed of corundum without the trace elements found in coloured sapphires, is a naturally occurring or lab-created alternative to diamonds, offering durability and reasonable affordability.
  4. Glass or Crystal: Used for low-cost diamond simulants, these materials lack the hardness and brilliance of real diamonds, making them more susceptible to scratches and dullness.

Each of these materials can be cut and polished to resemble a diamond. However, they all have different physical and optical properties that set them apart from real diamonds, and professional gemologists can easily distinguish between them and real diamonds.

Are diamond simulants considered real diamonds?

Simulated diamonds are not real diamonds; they only resemble them visually. Real diamonds are composed of crystallised carbon, whereas simulated diamonds are made of various other materials and lack the same hardness and optical properties as real diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds, however, distinct from simulants, are real diamonds with identical physical and chemical properties to mined ones. If you'd like to learn more, read our article on lab-grown diamonds vs mined diamonds.

Diamond simulants vs lab-grown diamonds

Simulated diamonds and lab-grown diamonds differ significantly in composition and properties. Simulated diamonds are made from various materials and have different physical and chemical attributes to real diamonds. Although they can visually resemble real diamonds, professionals can distinguish them based on optical properties. On the other hand, lab-grown diamonds are chemically identical to natural diamonds, being composed entirely of carbon. They are indistinguishable from natural diamonds to the naked eye and share the same durability and hardness. While lab-grown diamonds have better resale value than simulated diamonds, they are generally less expensive than mined diamonds.

In summary, simulated diamonds differ from lab-grown diamonds in the same ways that they differ from mined diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds with the same chemical and physical properties as mined diamonds, while simulated diamonds merely mimic the appearance of a diamond.

Pros and cons of diamond simulants

Diamond simulants offer both advantages and disadvantages as alternatives to real diamonds. Here's a breakdown that can help you understand these better:

Pros of Diamond SimulantsCons of Diamond Simulants
Affordability: Simulated diamonds are notably budget-friendly, providing a cost-effective option for those seeking diamond-like beauty without the high price tag.Durability: While some simulants like moissanite exhibit good hardness, others like cubic zirconia may experience scratching and dulling over time.
Ethical Sourcing: As lab-created gems, simulated diamonds eliminate concerns about ethical and environmental issues associated with mining, ensuring a guilt-free choice.Value: Simulated diamonds lack the same value and resale potential as genuine diamonds, and they lack the prestige and status associated with authentic diamonds.
Variety: With options like cubic zirconia and moissanite, simulated diamonds present a diverse array of colours, shapes, and sizes to suit individual preferences.Appearance: Though visually akin to real diamonds, differences in brilliance and fire can become noticeable, particularly with cubic zirconia, leading to a dull, glass-like appearance.
Low Maintenance: Simulated diamonds, such as cubic zirconia, demand less upkeep than real diamonds, offering ease of cleaning and maintaining their lustrous appearance.Longevity: Simulated diamonds are generally less durable and enduring compared to authentic diamonds. Over time, especially with cubic zirconia, sparkle can diminish, resulting in a cloudy look.
Pros and cons of simulated diamonds

In conclusion, while simulated diamonds offer affordability, ethical sourcing, and versatility, they fall short in terms of durability, value, and long-term aesthetics when compared to genuine diamonds. Choose wisely based on your preferences and priorities when considering these diamond alternatives.

If you would like further guidance about what is the best choice for you, book an appointment, and someone from the Ingle & Rhode team would be happy to help.

Should I buy a simulated diamond?

Whether or not simulated diamonds are right for you really depends on your personal preferences and circumstances. If you're looking for a more affordable alternative and are not concerned with value or longevity, simulated diamonds can be a great choice. But if you're looking for something that will hold its value and last a lifetime, lab-grown diamonds can be a great alternative for you.


Is a diamond simulant considered a fake?

Simulated diamonds are considered ‘fake’ if there is an attempt to deceive by "passing them off as real diamonds. However, there is no problem if they are marketed and sold as simulants, not real diamonds. They offer a similar aesthetic to real diamonds at a more affordable price, making them a valuable alternative without misleading intentions.

Do simulated diamonds have any resale value?

Diamond simulants like cubic zirconia or moissanite generally have minimal to no resale value due to their low production cost and widespread availability.
It's worth mentioning that diamonds, in general (whether mined or lab-grown), are not a good investment if you're planning to resell them. While they might hold sentimental value, the resale market for diamonds is notoriously difficult for individual sellers. This is partly because retail markups on diamonds are high, so the price you pay at the store is far above the ‘wholesale’ price that professionals pay. 
As always, if you're buying a diamond or diamond simulant, it's important to make the decision based on what you value and can afford rather than potential resale value.

Are diamond simulants less expensive than real diamonds? 

Yes, simulated diamonds like cubic zirconia and moissanite are significantly less expensive than real diamonds. They are made from cheaper materials and produced through faster, less resource-intensive processes compared to mining or creating lab-grown diamonds. It's also important to note that while simulated diamonds can look similar to natural diamonds, they do not have the same physical and chemical properties. A diamond simulant will not have the same hardness, brilliance, or fire as a natural or lab-created diamond.


Diamond simulants, also known as simulated diamonds, closely resemble real diamonds in appearance but are made from materials like cubic zirconia, moissanite, and high-quality glass, offering a more affordable alternative to real diamonds. However, while simulated diamonds may look superficially similar to real diamonds, they do not have the same optical properties, hardness, or value as real diamonds.

If you are interested in learning more about simulated diamonds and have any questions, please feel free to get in touch.

David Rhode
Together with Tim Ingle, David created Ingle & Rhode to offer a better alternative to the traditional luxury brands. Since 2007, we’ve provided our customers with genuinely ethical engagement rings, wedding rings and fine jewellery – free from conflict diamonds, dirty gold and child labour. With more than 16 years experience in the jewellery industry, David has deep expertise in diamonds, gemstones and jewellery design and manufacturing.