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About Cubic Zirconia (guide)
 

 

 
The most commonly utilized diamond alternative is cubic zirconia . Although no relation to natural zircon , CZ as it is known, makes a very convincing diamond stimulant. So much so that when CZ first entered the jewelry market in the 1970's many in the jewelry and diamond industries said that CZ would ruin the industry, as it was just too difficult for jewelers to tell the difference.

CZ is made by melting zirconium oxide with another metal oxide, usually calcium oxide. The melting temperature is very high--4,982?F. Now, there are no containers that can be heated to that temperature without melting themselves. So, what is one to do? The method used is called "the skull-melt process". The zirconium oxide is heated by radio waves, but the container is water cooled. This results in a layer of the zirconium oxide powder next to the container that keeps it from melting while the zirconium oxide in the center melts. Upon cooling, the zirconium oxide melt forms an irregular crystal in the middle with the unmelted powder all around it. You will never see rough CZ shaped like laser ruby.

The manufacturers have a lot of leeway. They add about 10% calcium oxide to ensure a cubic crystal formation, but the more calcium oxide they add, the lower the melting point, the cheaper the material cost, and the lower the hardness of the CZ. I have felt that the CZ we buy today is not as hard as what we bought ten years ago, but who knows, I may just be more used to faceting CZ now than years ago.

Russian scientists in the mid 1970's learned how to make this mineral in a laboratory. It wasn't until the 1980's when Cubic Zirconia became popular with jewelers. This is when an Austrian company began mass-producing Cubic Zirconia. Since then, with new developments in Cubic Zirconia production, we have been able to produce a new exciting line in many different colors.

Cubic Zirconia is an incredible hard material similar that of a real diamond and with the introduction of color, it has great potential as a gem to fulfill elegant fashion demand at a fraction of the cost. The composition of this man made product is typically a combination of Zirconium Oxide and Yttrium Oxide both of which are opaque by nature. But when melted together under intense heat reaching almost 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit and then cooled under controlled conditions, they produce what we call Cubic Zirconia. Cubic Zirconia is colorless in its pure state. The various colors are achieved by mixing in small quantities of chemical additives.

Great CZ Cuts

The next section features some great CZ designs. Although the diagrams say R.I. 1.54 or so, I have found the angles in the diagrams produce some very bright gems. Of course, feel free to change the angles to your liking. Have some faceting fun!

If you have Data View and GemCad, you can just run them directly from those programs. "Millennium" is the only one not yet in those programs.

Properties

CZ is zirconium dioxide with about 10% yttrium oxide or 10% calcium oxide added. It is cubic with an R.I. of 2.15 to 2.18. It is singly refractive with a hardness of 8 to 8.5. It has a slight anisotropy in hardness. It has a specific gravity of 5.6 to 6.0 and, while somewhat brittle, it has good durability. To me, CZ it is a much better diamond substitute than the newly marketed Moissanite, especially since the Moissanite is not even cubic. So, with Moissanite there is always a direction of facet doubling.

The table below presents some of the comparisons. Check it over and draw your own conclusions. In all optical properties, CZ is closer to diamond than is Moissanite.

  Properties -- Diamond, Moissanite, CZ
   
Material
Hardness
Toughness
R.I.
Birefringence
Dispersion
S.G.
Diamond
10.0
Execelent
2.417
None
0.044
3.52
Moissanite
9.25
Execelent

2.648
2.691

0.043
0.104
3.22
Difference
of diamond
0.75
None
0.28
0.043
0.060
0.30
CZ
8.25
Good
2.165
None
0.062
5.58
Difference
of diamond
1.75
Slight
0.25
None
0.018
2.06


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