As Jewelry Shopping Guide editors, we write about things that we love and we think you’ll like too. We often have affiliate partnerships, and may generate some revenue from these links at no cost to you.
If you’re looking into Swarovski’s catalog, you’ll find two distinct types of jewelry – Swarovski crystals and Swarovski Zirconia. What is the difference between the two, aside from the rather obvious price tag contrast?
Both of these are signs and man-made Swarovski products that carry the original vision of Swarovski’s founder – Daniel Swarovski. However, while crystals are what Daniel Swarovski started with all the way back in 1895, Swarovski Zirconia is a newer iteration of that vision.
What are Swarovski crystals made of?
If we wanted to oversimplify things we could say that Swarovski crystals are made of glass. To be more precise, however, the classic Swarovski crystals are a mixture of quartz sand, sodium carbonate, and red lead. All three of these get heated to their melting temperatures and mixed together with some potash – organic plant ashes that are rich in potassium.
It’s that same potash that revolutionized the glass industry in the late 19th and early 20th century by helping create clearer and easier-to-shape glass.
The rest of the “recipe” for Swarovski crystals isn’t 100% known. The Swarovski family is keeping it a well-guarded secret as their fifth generation is currently running their business. Even if the specifics aren’t clear, however, the main materials are known.
In 2012 Swarovski decided to make the move from lead to lead-free crystals. It was a tricky transition given that it was the lead that made them crystals and not just glass. However, due to various corporate, social, and economic reasons, Swarovski tinkered with the composition of the glass they were using so that their “Advanced crystals” can retain the same visual and optical characteristics of the classical Swarovski crystals without containing any lead.
The only noticeable difference between the Advanced Swarovski crystals and the classic Swarovski crystals is that the newer versions are about 15-20% lighter in weight.
What is a Swarovski crystal worth?
Whatever the exact details of the Swarovski crystal’s recipe, the crystals have been fulfilling Daniel Swarovski’s vision for over a century – they are a gorgeous yet affordable man-made diamond imitation that anyone can own and enjoy.
“A diamond for everyone” was Daniel Swarovski’s dream and his family’s company continues to realize that dream through the Swarovski crystals. Of course, they are not actual diamonds nor can they be mistaken for such by any trained eye – most Swarovski crystals have a surface coating that serves to improve their brilliance and sparkle.
However, even if they are so obviously not diamonds, they are still more than impressed with their beauty and that, together with their affordability, makes them excellent for everyday or costume jewelry.
What is Swarovski Zirconia?
It could be said that Swarovski Zirconia stones are the next step in the evolution of Daniel Swarovski’s vision. Where Swarovski crystals are easily distinguishable from diamonds and are much cheaper, Swarovski Zirconia is often very difficult to tell apart from natural diamonds and is still cheaper than them but not quite as much as the Swarovski crystals.
Swarovski Zirconia is made of natural zirconia rough. It’s an optically flawless material that can be cut in various shapes and cuts, and it can also be colored during the cutting and polishing process. Essentially, Swarovski Zirconia is a man-made gemstone out of natural zirconia rough.
This carves in a unique niche for Swarovski zirconia since it’s a near-perfect imitation of diamonds at a significantly more affordable price. The Pure Brilliance Cut of Swarovski Zirconia is so impressive and beautiful with its 57 facets that it’s much more than just a diamond imitation – it’s a unique product in its own right. The Pure Brilliance Cut reflects light just as a brilliant cut diamond would and with the same brightness as the world-famous Tolkowsky diamond cut. Furthermore, Swarovski Zirconia stones are also cut in adherence to the precise cutting parameters that are “ideal for diamonds” according to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).
What is Swarovski Zirconia worth?
Swarovski Zirconia is noticeably more expensive than the standard Swarovski crystals but it’s also still much cheaper than authentic diamonds. Considering that it’s such a perfect imitation of even the best-cut diamonds, however, one might say that Swarovski Zirconia is not only worth every penny but is also worth more even just for being one of the first man-made diamond imitations to come so close to the real thing.
That, together with the Swarovski brand makes Swarovski Zirconia a prestigious gemstone in and of itself and not just a cheap substitute like all the sub-par diamond imitations on the market.
How do the two compare?
The easiest way to view the differences between Swarovski crystals and Swarovski Zirconia is that the latter is an upgrade of the former. Both materials are made with the intention of offering a budget-friendly substitute for real diamonds and both do a great job of it but Swarovski Zirconia simply does it a tad better.
Swarovski Zirconia has a hardness of 8-8.5 on the Mohs scale (out of 10) whereas Swarovski crystals are in the 6-7 range. Both are softer than diamonds which are at 10/10 and both are still hard enough for jewelry use but Swarovski Zirconia is still sufficiently harder than their crystals.
Swarovski Zirconia has about a 33% higher refraction index than Swarovski crystals and is comparable to the refraction index of high-quality diamonds. Swarovski crystals are also made to offer impressive brilliance and sparkle thanks to their special coating but they are not quite on the zirconia’s level.
Swarovski crystals are cut in various shapes and cuts which give them a great brilliance and look but Swarovski Zirconia is the first man-made diamond simulant on the market to truly reach the diamond-cut quality standards we’re used to. The Swarovski Pure Brilliance Cut is up to par with the most notorious and beautiful diamond cuts out there.
Naturally, Swarovski Zirconia is more expensive than Swarovski crystals. It’s a well worth it price jump, however, given that it’s still cheaper than the authentic diamonds it matches in quality.