What is cubic zirconia?
Is cubic zircona a poor mans substitute for diamonds?What is cubic zirconia (CZ)? CZ is a well-known substitute for diamonds, due to its high hardness. Yet it has also established itself as a gorgeous gem in its own right. CZ is a beautiful synthetic gemstone that is durable and inexpensive - and now even comes in any color of the rainbow, making it even more desirable.
CZ is a cubic form of zirconium oxide that is created in a laboratory - it is not a mineral. However, it was found naturally occurring once at a site in the 1930s, but has yet to be discovered since then. The mineral with the same chemical composition as CZ is baddeleyite.
What is Cubic Zarconia – How to Make it
Diamonds occur in nature, but CZ is a laboratory product. To produce CZ, baddeleyite is heated to about 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This causes the mineral to take on a specific geometry. However, this change is not permanent, because it reverses upon cooling. A stabilizer is added to prevent transformation upon cooling. If too much stabilizer is added, it results in a softer, less brilliant product. This is CZ.
When zirconia melts, it leaves behind a thin shell that remains solid because it is cooled by the water in the copper fingers. As this occurs, the zirconia and the stabilizing oxide are added to fill the skull to the desired level. To gurantee uniformity, the contents are kept molten for several hours. Then to produce colors, oxides of other elements are added, like cerium, copper, titanium, iron, and nickel.
CZ was discovered in 1937 by two German mineralogists, von Stackelberg and Chudoba. The zircon contained tiny crystals that were determined to be the cubic form of zirconium oxide. But the two mineralogists were not impressed with their discovery; they did not even give it a name, which is why it is still known by its scientific name, cubic zirconia.
By the 1970s, Soviet scientists learned how to grow the crystals in the laboratory. It was first marketed in 1977 under the trade name Djevalite. But CZ really took off in the 1980s when Swarovski&Co., an Australian producer of leaded crystal, began producing CZ for mass consumption.
Caring for Cubic Zirconia
It is easy to clean and care for CZ. Any conventional jewelry cleaner or detergent can be used. You can use a brush to clean off dirt or oil. When using soaps or detergents to clean CZ, one should wipe the jewelry dry thoroughly to avoid residue from the soap leaving a film that will dull the brilliance of the stone. CZ should be cleaned frequently to remove oils from skin that also dull the brilliance of the gem. Ultra sonic jewelry cleaners can also be used and it will not damage the stone.
Some Features Compared to Diamonds
To the untrained eye, cubic zirconia looks identical to a good-quality diamond, but CZ has slightly less brilliance or sparkle than a diamond and more fire or flashes of color. But the overall effect is so similar that it can even fool a trained gemologist on occasion. But one great difference between CZ and diamonds is weight. CZ are heavier by almost 75 percent than a comparable diamond.CZ are also more brittle and softer than diamonds. Whereas diamonds usually contains impurities and inclusions, CZ are flawless.