There’s a great debate in the engagement ring world on buying actual diamonds vs. buying a diamond simulant. Of all the diamond simulants, cubic zirconia (CZ) is the most popular and among the most affordable.
The question becomes:
Should I buy a cubic zirconia engagement ring, or should I avoid it?
Let’s take a look at cubic zirconia engagement rings.
- What is Cubic Zirconia?
- How to Add Value to a CZ Engagement Ring
- Cubic Zirconia Engagement Rings – the Pros and Cons
- Cubic Zirconia vs. Other Colorless Stones
- Should I Choose a Cubic Zirconia Engagement Ring?
- Is a Cubic Zirconia Engagement Ring Fake and Tacky?
- Where to Find Quality Cubic Zirconia Engagement Rings
What is Cubic Zirconia?
2 carat cubic zirconia engagement ring with matching diamond wedding band.
Cubic zirconia found on the market today is the synthetic version of genuine cubic zirconia discovered in the 1930s. Because the material in its genuine state is so rare, you can only find the synthetic version today.
Cubic zirconia is durable, affordable and probably the most look-alike diamond simulant out there. In fact, it’s so hard to distinguish cubic zirconia from diamonds that often celebrities wear CZ replicas instead of their expensive diamond jewelry and no one is any wiser!
This similarity to diamonds makes it the perfect affordable substitute for an expensive diamond. Here’s what people say about cubic zirconia engagement rings:
Carla: It depends on you. If you’ve always wanted a large expensive diamond, a cubic zirconia engagement ring will be a real and constant disappointment. But if you’re more concerned with the look and not the actual material it’s an awesome choice.
HoneyMNA: If you get a good quality CZ, most people won’t be able to tell that it’s not a diamond. If it doesn’t bother you, then it’s fine. It’s also great if you’re all about saving money.
Summer: My engagement ring is a diamond, but I bought a CZ that looks exactly like it. I use the CZ one when I go swimming or travelling. I just don’t want to lose my expensive diamond ring!
Erin: Diamonds are worthless and so expensive. CZ is a much more practical, sensible choice.
How to Add Value to a CZ Engagement Ring
Although cubic zirconia is affordable, when mounted in a high-quality setting, it’s value as a piece of jewelry increases. Just because the stone isn’t worth thousands of dollars, doesn’t mean that the ring should look cheap.
Here’s how to add value to your CZ engagement ring:
- Choose quality materials to accompany the stone. Precious metals like platinum or gold immediately add value to the ring and also provides durability. You’d be able to wear the ring on a regular basis and still have it looking shining and reflective.
The ring below features a 4 carat CZ stone set in a white gold ring solitaire ring setting. The white gold compensates for the lack of monetary worth of the CZ, making the ring valuable.
This CZ ring is set in 14k white gold.
- Consider the size of the stone. A very large CZ can look fake and will also exhibit what’s known as the ‘rainbow effect’. This refers to the flashes of color that emanate from cubic zirconia making it sparkle colorfully. While some people love this look, others want to avoid it. The larger the cubic zirconia, the more pronounced the rainbow effect, so opt for a smaller sized stone for the best look.
Surprise Proposals and Cubic Zirconia Rings
Cubic zirconia engagement rings are an excellent choice if you’re planning a surprise proposal but aren’t quite sure about the ring to purchase.
This is a common scenario where you know how you want the proposal to go but you’re not sure you know your future fiance’s taste in rings or her ring size. In this case, the safest option is to go for a cubic zirconia ring similar to a more expensive option you wish to buy for her.
After the proposal, you can let her know that the ring is a cubic zirconia and ask if she would like it in a diamond. Don’t be hurt if she isn’t too keen on the style, after all, that’s the whole point isn’t it? To get her the exact ring she likes.
And who knows, she just might fall in love with the idea of a cubic zirconia engagement ring and stick with that instead.
Cubic Zirconia Engagement Rings – the Pros and Cons
Not everyone will love the idea of a cubic zirconia engagement ring, but there are pros to this choice.
- Affordability – Needless to say, the price tag of a CZ engagement ring can be less than 10% of a similar looking diamond ring.
- Flawlessness – A CZ stone is almost always perfect, with no inclusions or tints of color. Natural diamonds, on the other hand, always have some level of flaws.
- Durability – This is an important consideration for an engagement ring as you’ll likely be wearing this every day. A CZ is a strong, hard stone that can withstand daily exposure, but it may get cloudy and scratched over time (more on this below).
- Brilliance and Fire – CZ has excellent fire and sparkle (sometimes too much!) when touched by light. A well-cut CZ is beautiful to look at.
- Versatility – Cubic zirconia is versatile and suits a range of ring designs and styles.
- Maintenance – CZ is easy to maintain and keep clean. It doesn’t require any special consideration but it can become cloudy and less brilliant over time.
However, there are downsides to any choice. Here are the cons:
- Not a diamond – If your fiancé has her heart set on a diamond, no simulant, however beautiful, will staunch the disappointment she feels on receiving a CZ. She may even think that you’re being ‘cheap’ and don’t value your relationship enough. Unfortunately, modern marketing has instilled in us the view that love has a price. In the case of diamonds, it’s two month’s salary. It’s best to talk with her about this before you ‘unpleasantly’ surprise her with a CZ ring.
- Not expensive – This might seem like an oxymoron. Isn’t the very inexpensiveness of cubic zirconia a benefit? Not always and not to everyone. For some, the value in something lies in how much was spent on it. It gives us bragging rights and the ring becomes a symbol of wealth, status and prestige. CZ isn’t going to give you that.
- Social judgement – There will be social judgement and unsolicited advice about why you should buy a ‘real’ ring. If you’re at all bothered by what people think and say, you’d either have to keep the truth from them or get a diamond ring to make everyone happy.
- Flashes of Color – We’ve said this before, but we’ll say it again. A CZ can give off a disco ball of rainbow hues, especially if it’s large. Avoid that by going a bit smaller on the stone.
Cubic Zirconia vs. Other Colorless Stones
By now you might be wondering how cubic zirconia compares to diamonds and other diamond simulants.
Cubic zirconia vs. natural mined diamonds
Diamonds have exceptional brilliance and greater depth.
Diamonds are the hardest of all gemstones with a perfect 10 on the Mohs scale. These stones don’t tarnish or chip easily and they also have the distinction of being considered the most prestigious, prized and coveted gemstone. They’re the favorite gemstone choice for engagement rings, beating out all other gemstones by far. Diamonds have a longer-lasting shine and beauty as well as a shine with more depth.
CZ cannot compare to a diamond in these regards, but the main differences is that a CZ is typically flawless, has more pronounced fire and is easy on the wallet. A CZ is also an environmentally friendly choice as it’s grown in a lab.
Cubic zirconia vs. synthetic diamonds
A lab-created diamond.
A synthetic diamond is a genuine diamond but created in a lab. Most people tend to call it fake and the natural diamond industry works hard to discredit it, but there’s no question about it: it’s a real diamond.
The only difference is that rather than being mined with huge environmental impact and ethical concerns, it’s simply created in tightly controlled conditions in a lab. It doesn’t have the romance of a stone that takes millions of years to be formed, but it’s an innovation in science.
CZ is different from synthetic diamonds in its physical and chemical properties. It’s also much less expensive than lab diamonds which are still pretty pricey because of all the resources and efforts required to make them.
Both cubic zirconia and synthetic diamonds tend to be flawless in clarity, which is a main difference to natural mined diamonds.
This video shows the differences between cubic zirconia, moissanite and diamonds.
Cubic zirconia vs. moissanite
Moissanite engagement ring by Charles and Colvard.
Another triumph in the diamond simulant market, moissanites are an amazing choice for engagement rings and one of our favorites. They look stunning and although they’re similar to diamonds, there are distinguishing differences.
Moissanite is more expensive than CZ and also more durable. It ranks at a 9.25 on the Mohs scale, making it the second hardest gemstone used in jewelry after diamonds. It’s also more brilliant than a diamond or a CZ, with a refractive index of 2.65. If you’re budget allows, a moissanite is an excellent alternative to diamonds.
Should I Choose a Cubic Zirconia Engagement Ring?
Cubic zirconia or diamond – can you even tell?
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question and it comes down to what you value and prefer. It’s a subjective decision and involves two people, so it’s best you talk with your partner about this before you buy a CZ engagement ring.
According to an article published on Forbes, smart millennials are buying cubic zirconia rings and bypassing the diamond cartel and marketing of the diamond industry. You too can be a ‘smart’ consumer and opt for a practical choice with a cubic zirconia engagement ring.
Having said that, there is a high likelihood that you’ll have to replace the CZ in your ring every so often. Because CZ doesn’t hold up well over time, especially if the quality of the stone is low, some people find that they need to replace the stone every 3 years or so. While diamonds aren’t indestructible, they can last a lifetime whereas CZ may or may not last a lifetime.
Is a Cubic Zirconia Engagement Ring Fake and Tacky?
This question assumes that there is a ‘real’ version of cubic zirconia which is a diamond. But a cubic zirconia isn’t a diamond, it just happens to look like one. It’s a stone in its own right. If you’re wearing a CZ ring and calling it a diamond, that’s a fake diamond but a real CZ. Get it? The difference is quite obvious.
If you’re worried that CZ is tacky, that comes down to what we’ve been conditioned to believe about non-diamond engagement rings. A beautifully set CZ engagement ring is no different in appearance to a diamond. The diamond market has drilled it into social consciousness that a diamond is ‘real’ and ‘forever’ and all other diamond look-alikes are ‘fake’ and ‘tacky’.
Peer pressure is another reason we tend to think that only diamonds will do and everything else is fake. Here’s what one lady says online about her engagement ring. Her use of the word ‘real’ is telling:
My fiancé asked me if I wanted a cubic zirconia engagement ring or if I would wait for a diamond. I waited 5 years for the real thing.
A cubic zirconia ring can look tacky if it’s an extremely large stone masquerading as a diamond. For example, if someone you know is wearing a large diamond-looking stone and yet you know that they couldn’t afford a real diamond of that size, you’d straightaway assume that it’s a fake. The fact that the person is pretending it’s a diamond is what makes it tacky. Also, if the setting is gaudy and not stylish, it makes the stone look tacky as well.
Where to Find Quality Cubic Zirconia Engagement Rings
Most jewelry retailers don’t carry cubic zirconia rings because it’s like shooting themselves in the foot. Diamonds rake in a good amount of their income so showcasing CZ rings isn’t a smart financial move.
However, if you take your search to online platforms like Amazon or Etsy, you’ll find a wide range of cubic zirconia engagement rings. From artisan, hand-crafted designs to less expensive wholesale styles, there’s a lot of options out there.
A point to bear in mind – just because a ring is made of cubic zirconia doesn’t automatically mean it’s going to be cheap, though. Depending on the quality of the stone and other materials used, the price can reach hundreds of dollars. There’s a CZ engagement ring for every budget so setting your budget first will help you to find the right ring for you.