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What looks like a Diamond?

My clients, family and friends often ask me about the difference between diamonds and other gemstones that look like them.

Personally, I loved coloured gemstones and the rainbow of colours they are available in. However, I totally understand if you prefer a white or a colourless gem that looks like a diamond.

emerald cut solitaire yellow gold engagement ring in white velvet ring box

When selecting the perfect gift for yourself, a loved one or creating a custom engagement ring featuring a colourless gem, there are some great options to choose from.

round white gold stud earrings

Stones that look like diamonds are also known as "imitations" or "simulants". This means they look like diamonds but do not possess the same physical or chemical properties.

They also don't have the same value.


Technically, any colourless / transparent material including glass and plastic can look like a diamond to an untrained eye.


oval halo white gold necklace

So, what is a good diamond alternative?

Let's take a closer look at five popular options:

  1. Synthetic diamond

  2. Moissanite

  3. Cubic zirconia

  4. Zircon

  5. White sapphire

oval diamond three stone rose gold engagement ring

1. Synthetic diamond

  • Synthetic diamonds have the same crystal structure and chemical composition as natural diamonds

  • Synthetic diamonds are developed by scientists in labs

  • They are also known as man-made diamonds and lab-created diamonds (all the same thing)

  • Like natural diamonds, they are graded based on the 4Cs (clarity, colour, cut and carat weight)

  • Synthetic diamonds typically have less inclusions and are therefore available in higher clarities compared to natural diamonds

loose oval synthetic diamond on woman's hand with light pink nails

Natural and synthetic diamonds are essentially the same thing, however there are slight differences that can only be detected by a trained gemologist (like me) with the use of special equipment.

The main difference being: natural diamonds are grown by nature and are mined out of the ground where as synthetic diamonds are grown in a controlled lab environment.

lab created synthetic oval diamond white gold engagement ring

2. Synthetic Moissanite

Synthetic Moissanite was first introduced to the market in 1998 and has become increasing popular in the last 10 years.

  • The full name for Moissanite is Synthetic Moissanite

  • It is man-made / lab-created stone

  • Natural moissanite does exist in nature and was discovered in 1893 but there was never enough of it to be used commercially

  • All moissanite currently on the market is synthetic but is simply called "Moissanite"

loose synthetic moissanite


To learn more about Moissanite, check out my previous Blog Post:


synthetic moissanite and halo white gold engagement ring

3. Synthetic Cubic Zirconia

Cubic zirconia was introduced to the market in early 1970s.

Some believed it would make the whole diamond market come crashing down but interestingly, it turned out that just because it was cheap, didn't mean that everyone wanted it!

  • All cubic zirconia on the market is synthetic but is simply called "cubic zirconia" or CZ

  • It is a man-made / lab-created stone

  • Does not exist in nature

  • Plentiful and readily available in all sorts of shapes and sizes

  • Available in a rainbow of colours

  • Often used in fashion and costume jewellery, but not so much in engagement rings

cubic zirconia CZ white gold stud earrings

4. Zircon

  • Zircon is available in a variety of colours including greenish-blue, yellow, brown and white (aka colourless)

  • It is a December birthstone

  • Zircon typically has very few inclusions

  • Blue zircon is very popular as an alternative to a blue diamond (which is super rare, expensive and not available in large sizes)

  • Natural stone

blue zircon and diamond halo rose gold cocktail ring on a woman's hand next to pink carnations


People often confuse Zircon and Cubic Zirconia due to their similar sounding names.

Just to clarify...

Zircon is a natural stone found in nature.

Cubic Zirconia is a synthetic / lab created / man-made stone. It has completely different properties and is much less valuable.


zircon three stone white gold engagement ring

5. White sapphire

Did you know that sapphires exist in a rainbow of colours as well as white?

When the word “sapphire” is used alone it refers to BLUE sapphire.

Any colour other than blue falls into the “fancy” sapphire category and is called by its colour, eg. purple sapphire, green sapphire, blue-green sapphire etc.

collection of loose round fancy sapphires

They also exist in a white / colourless form, known as a "white sapphire", which is a great natural alternative to a diamond.

  • Natural stone

  • Available in a variety of shapes and sizes

  • A great diamond alternative if you are looking for a natural stone in larger sizes (this gorgeous white sapphire below is 3 carat)

loose oval white sapphire on a woman's hand with light pink nails


Each stone's hardness refers to its ability to resist scratching and abrasions. It's one of the factors that affects a stone's durability.

Don't confuse hardness with the stone's ability to break and chip. In gemology, that's actually referred to as toughness, which is another factor that contributes to a stone's durability.

Trust me, even diamonds can break if hit hard enough at a specific angle!

oval diamond solitaire yellow gold engagement ring

A stone's hardness is ranked using the Mohs scale, from 1 to 10, with diamond at the top of the list at 10.

Here is how other colourless alternatives score on the same scale:

Synthetic Diamond - 10 / 10

Moissanite - 9.5 / 10

Cubic Zirconia - 8-8.5 / 10

White Sapphire - 9 / 10

Overall, all these options above are great for everyday-wear.

round moissanite rose gold engagement ring


Zircon is a little softer than the other stones mentioned above. It scores a 6.5-7 / 10

I wouldn't recommend it for an engagement ring but it makes a great option for "occasional wear" or cocktail rings and other jewellery such as pendants and earrings.

On the other hand, I know people who wear their zircon engagement rings everyday and are totally happy with them.

So don't shy away from adding this unique gemstone to your collection, just be careful while wearing it.


cushion synthetic diamond halo white gold stud earrings

To sum up...

Synthetic colourless stone:

  • Synthetic Diamond

  • Synthetic Moissanite (aka Moissanite)

  • Cubic Zirconia

Natural colourless stones:

  • Zircon

  • White sapphire

round diamond white gold solitaire necklace

All five colourless gemstone options we looked a today are completely different stones, with different properties and very different values.

When considering a white/colourless gemstone, there are many affordable option compared to a diamond but I have to mention that the difference in value is also significant.


Pro Tip: when buying jewellery and gemstones, always consider the value as well as the cost


radiant cut solitaire yellow gold engagement ring

To learn more about natural diamonds, synthetic diamonds and the 4Cs check out my previous blogs:

round and pear shape diamond white gold drop earrings

Are you looking for a diamond alternative?

Can't decide which colourless gem is right for you?

I'd love to help!

To discuss your options, schedule a complementary, 30 minute connection call with me here

Visit Tsarina Gems Instagram page for more stunning jewellery ideas and styling tips


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