Are diamonds still a girl’s best friend?


Photos via De Beers and Swarovsky

Diamonds have played an essential role in the world of jewellery throughout history. They have adorned Kings and Queens’ crowns, tiaras and parures for centuries. But nowadays, with the synthetic Zirconia, becoming more and more popular, are diamond still a girl’s best friend? 

We all love the way this beautiful precious gemstone sparkles and twinkles as it reflects the light when we move. Many people think that the zirconia, which is a substitute for diamond created artificially in laboratories, is so similar to diamond that it is almost impossible to tell which is which, with the advantage of costing only fractions of the real thing. So the bottom question is: is it worth it spending thousands on a gemstone when you can get zirconia for a few euros instead? Let’s examine both sides:

Why buy a diamond

De Beers magnificent diamond ring

What a diamond symbolises

The sparkling gemstone is the hardest naturally occurring substance in the world, the only thing that can scratch a diamond is another diamond. This resistant and long-lasting stone has long been associated with eternal love and is usually used in engagement rings since we all dream of a romance as durable as the diamond on our finger, right?

Historically, the traditionally mined diamonds were difficult and rare to find. Thus they became a sign of status; power and wealth, and until today, a diamond jewel is THE perfect gift for special occasions and celebrations.

Why diamonds are expensive 

Normally, the cost of a gemstone increases according to its rarity. Comparing the diamond to other much rarer stones such as emeralds, sapphires or rubies, the diamond is way less expensive than these precious stones. Coloured diamonds are now in short supply, but contrary to what you may think, colourless diamonds aren’t that rare anymore. As a matter of fact, in the late1800s, an enormous mine in South Africa was about to flood the market with vast amounts of diamonds. De Beers decided then to buy the mine to control and limit the diamond supply so that the stone wouldn’t lose its value. It was also De Beers that started a strong marketing campaign that put diamond rings as the number one choice for engagement rings, increasing the demand and thus, the cost of the dazzling gem. By the way, the Archduke Maximilian of Austria was famously one of the firsts to innovate with a diamond ring when proposing to his future wife, Mary of Burgundy in 1477.

The value of a diamond is calculated according to the “Four C’s”: clarity, carat, cut and colour, so in this case, size only doesn’t matter. Read here more about the four Cs and how to choose a diamond.

Why buy zirconia

Swarovski Attract Trilogy Round ring

Advantages of the synthetic zirconia

As told before, the zirconia is a human-made substitute for diamonds. Because it is produced in laboratories, some consider it to be more eco-friendly and more ethical ( think of the Blood Diamonds, slave labour and conflicts of not that long ago). Zirconia is produced with different quality levels. The best ones are quite similar to real diamonds, and only a trained eye can tell the difference. It’s becoming a popular and economical choice for fashion jewellery and zirconia is also used in fashion, for clothes, accessories and decoration - did someone say Swarovski

Disadvantages of the man-made zirconia

Although they are both very similar, there are actually quite a few points that differ one from the other. Zirconias aren’t as hard as diamonds, so they are less durable, they can crack and be scratched more easily. Because of its low economic value,  you usually see zirconia in cheap mountings in low-carat gold, or gold plated, you won’t find the synthetic substitute in high-end jewellery. Also, zirconia is not a gem you can pass on to your children and grand-children because it won’t withstand the wear&tear of time.

How to tell zirconia from a diamond

Out of a parcel of 1,102 diamond melee received at GIA’s New York lab for testing, 1,092 were identified as HPHT synthetic melee

Zirconia is made in laboratories, so they have no inclusions whereas the diamond always has some kind of inclusion or imperfection, even when sometimes it's invisible to the naked eye.

The colour of the zirconia is of a perfect diamond with the highest colour grade, which is extremely rare; most diamonds have a hint of yellow or brown. In the light, the zirconia shines with flashes like a rainbow, much more colourful than the natural gem. It is also heavier than a diamond the same size.

If you breathe on a diamond, the fog on the stone disappears almost immediately, if you do the same on zirconia, it will remain foggy longer. You‘ll be able to tell quickly one from the other by looking with a magnifying glass at the edges of your stone; a diamond has very sharp edges, but the zirconia’s facets have smooth rounded corners.

Having said all that, at the end of the day, unless you’re looking for an investment, you should buy something that looks good on you, that you like and makes you happy, and that fits your pocket! When talking about jewellery, the design of the jewel is sometimes more important than the material used!

Christine Schönburg