There may be times when purchasing a diamond may not be practical for you, but you may still wish for a diamond-lookalike. If you want the look but not the cost, you may consider a gemstone that can stand in as a diamond substitute.
While there are many such gemstones on the market, it must be noted that no other gemstone (save for moissanites) has a sparkle that can rival diamonds. However, diamond lookalikes make up for this by their affordability. Some diamond lookalikes are natural, and others are synthetic. However, they are all gemstones in their own right, with specific pros and cons.
When searching for a diamond look-alike, consider the durability, brilliance, clarity and color of the gemstone. Also note that the larger the gemstone, the less it looks like a diamond.
White sapphires are made of pure corundum with no trace elements that give it color. However, white sapphires are often not entirely colorless and may appear cloudy or milky. This is not very noticeable in small white sapphires but becomes noticeable in large carat sizes.
If choosing a white sapphire, opt for the highest quality stone which is AAA which have better brilliance and appearance. Among natural gemstones, white sapphires are second only to diamonds in terms of durability, ranking at 9 on the Mohs scale.
They are also relatively very affordable, with a high-quality stone costing about 80% less than a similar looking diamond. White sapphires are also the only other white gemstone (along with diamonds) that are considered a precious stone.
One disadvantage of white sapphires is that they can tend to get dirty quickly and requires regular cleaning to keep them sparkling. Diamonds, on the other hand, tend to sparkle brighter for longer.
Topaz in nature is colorless or white, making this the most abundantly found variety of topaz. As a result, it is also the most affordable. White topaz is quite brilliant and is often mistaken for diamonds, but it is important to choose an inclusion-free stone with good transparency. The Refractive Index (RI) of a white topaz is only 1.64 compared to a diamond’s 2.4. While it is nowhere near as bright as diamonds, it does have an attractive luster.
White topaz ranks 8 and has good durability. If you’re buying a white topaz for every day wear, choose a protective setting as the stone is prone to scratches and damage. Scratches can cloud the beauty of the stone over time, requiring polishing.
While white topaz prices vary based on the quality of the stone and setting, a high quality stone will only set you back about a hundred dollars per carat.
Zircon has the prestige of being the oldest mineral found on earth. It is the only natural gemstone that can imitate the appearance of diamonds and has been used as a diamond substitute for a long time. Zircon has very high dispersion, refraction and luster and is a brilliant stone that interacts with light beautifully.
It is interesting to note that white zircon is much rarer than diamonds but is not as valuable. It is also about 50% heavier than diamonds, meaning that if you compared the weight of two same sized stones, you would find that the zircon is 1.5 times heavier than the diamond.
Most zircons have excellent clarity and few visible inclusions. In terms of durability, zircon only ranks 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale and is a brittle stone. It acquires scratches easily and is prone to cracking and chipping which doesn’t make it ideal for daily wear.
A high-quality zircon can cost you around a few hundred dollars per carat. But generally, you can find good quality white zircon jewelry at very reasonable prices.
Zircon is often confused for cubic zirconia due to the similarity in names. However, zircon is a natural gemstone (unless synthesized) whereas CZ is always lab-created.
White quartz is a clear gemstone that can easily be mistaken for a diamond. Although it is not highly brilliant, faceting the stone maximizes its light reflection and makes it appear sparkly.
White quartz is commonly cut into brilliant cuts or other popular diamond shapes to enhances its shine. However, larger white quartz gemstones can fairly easily be told apart from diamonds as they can appear glass-like.
Ranking at 7 on the Mohs scale, white quartz is easily damaged with exposure. As it is abundantly found, white quartz is not considered valuable, with a carat costing you about $10.
Goshenite is a little-known gemstone that has been used as a natural diamond alternative for a long time. This gemstone is a member of the beryl family, along with aquamarine, morganite and emerald. It has excellent clarity and is highly transparent.
It is easy to confuse goshenite with diamonds, but on closer observation, you’ll notice that goshenite has very little fire or brilliance compared to diamonds.
While it is not as durable as diamonds, only ranking at 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale, goshenite is very tough and hard enough to be used in all types of jewelry.
Natural moissanite is believed to have come from a meteor thousands of years ago. This has earned moissanite the intriguing nicknames of star dust and space diamond. Because natural moissanite is so rare, all moissanites on the market are lab-created.
Moissanite is an exceptional gemstone: it is brighter than a diamond and harder than sapphires (at 9.25 Mohs). It’s high RI and exceptional brilliance can cause moissanite stones to display the ‘rainbow effect’ where the stone gives off a fiery flash of colors noticeable under natural light. The larger the stone, the more pronounced this effect and the easier to distinguish from diamonds.
Moissanite is only costs about 10% the price of a diamond but this can still be costly in some cases, with a good quality stone costing about $400 per carat.
Cubic zirconia is the most commonly used diamond simulant and is used by famous jewelry brands such as Swarovski. It is extremely affordable, with a high-quality carat costing around $20 each.
Like moissanites, natural cubic zirconia is also extremely rare and therefore, all cubic zirconia on the market is lab-created. CZ is very hard (8 to 8.5 Mohs ranking) and doesn’t scratch easily but it is not very tough and can chip or break. Over time, CZ jewelry gets cloudy and may require polishing or replacing.
CZ can sometimes display a bright flash of colors which is prominent in large stones. While this brilliance is eye-catching, it lacks the depth that diamond brilliance has.
Which Diamond-Like Gemstone is Best?
It is difficult to point out which gemstone you should choose. This will depend on how often you plant to wear the stone as well as your overall budget.
If you want a stone that looks nearly identical to diamonds but are the cheapest, choose cubic zirconia. These don’t have the associations of prestige that diamonds have (obviously!) and because they are synthetic, they may be considered inferior to natural gemstones. However, they look stunning when set in jewelry. Did you know that many celebrities wear cubic zirconia imitations of their expensive diamond jewelry for peace of mind?
If you’re willing to expand your budget, then white sapphire may be your best natural gemstone option as it is highly durable and also valuable as a sapphire. For a synthetic stone, a moissanite is a very sensible choice and offers durability, brilliance and beauty (and, you could argue, also the mystery of space) at a reasonable price.
Where Do I Buy Diamond and Diamond Lookalikes?
Almost every jewelry shop will carry diamonds or diamond simulants. If shopping for diamonds online, we recommend choosing James Allen as they provide high quality images and videos of the actual diamond as opposed to drawings or diagrams. They also provide the grading report for the stone from reputable gradings labs such as the GIA or AGS and offer reasonable prices on their diamonds.
For the most brilliant diamond cut to exacting precision, check Brian Gavin Diamonds and Whiteflash.
For moissanites, check out Brilliant Earth’s stunning range of moissanite jewelry.
Amazon has an excellent range of gemstones that look like diamonds. However, you will have to use your judgement and vet the authenticity of the stones on offer.
For more details on diamond / engagement ring retailers, read our article comparing the diamond giants in the online industry.