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How cubic zirconia became a competitor to diamonds and changed the jewelry market
How cubic zirconia became a competitor to diamonds and changed the jewelry market

In the early seventies, the jewelry market was agitated by a large number of diamonds - no new deposits were discovered, and there was no talk of an increase in jewelry production. Only after some time did it become clear that they were not diamonds, but cubic zirconia. This mineral still plays into the hands of scammers - after all, it is not at all easy to distinguish it from a real diamond. But thanks to cubic zirconia, now many have the opportunity to wear spectacular and noble (albeit only in appearance) jewelry.

Almost a diamond?

The chemical formula of cubic zirconia is ZrO2, it is zirconium oxide. It is extremely difficult to find it in its natural form. In 1892, a mineral was discovered in Sri Lanka, called baddeleyite, after the geologist George Baddeley, to whose merits the find belongs. In Russia, baddeleyite is mined in the Murmansk region, on the territory of the Kovdor deposit, which is famous for the fact that it contains several unique minerals, like rednovite and enaite that are not found anywhere else. Another variant of zirconium oxide of natural origin is called tazheranite; it was found in the Tazheran gorge of the Baikal region. A substance with the same chemical formula is also found in rocks of extraterrestrial origin - lunar or meteorite. But in all the decorations that have been created during the existence of cubic zirconia, the stone is artificial, synthesized.

The naked eye will most likely not be able to distinguish cubic zirconia from diamond

For the naked eye, there are no differences between cubic zirconia and diamond - the artificial stone has a slightly lower refractive index, hardness, strength and chemical resistance close to diamond. To make an accurate conclusion about which of the stones decorates the ring - cubic zirconia or diamond - can only be a specialist who has the necessary devices with him. There is a significant difference only between the two density indicators - cubic zirconia is one and a half times heavier. But, since we are talking about a stone in a setting, if you do not remove it, it is impossible to draw an exact conclusion. At the same time, cubic zirconia is extremely affordable - its use in creating jewelry practically does not increase the total cost, the main part of which is the price of metal (gold or silver) and the work of a jeweler.

Cubic zirconia has been produced since the seventies of the last century

It seems that humanity has purposefully created an almost ideal substitute for diamond for jewelry at "democratic" prices, but cubic zirconia owes its origin to the desire to synthesize material for the production of lasers. And the scientists who succeeded worked in the Soviet research institute and did not know that they were changing the world jewelry market forever.

How cubic zirconia was first obtained and what happened next

The beautiful word "cubic zirconia" is nothing more than a derivative from the name of the development institution - the Physics Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences, or FIAN. In 1970, under the leadership of V.V. Osiko, in one of the laboratories working on the creation of a laser, synthesized this mineral by crystallization from a melt. In the process, the substance is heated to temperatures above 2700 degrees Celsius. Crystals grow upon gradual cooling of the melt; the whole process takes about ten hours.

Vyacheslav Osiko, whose group was able to synthesize cubic zirconia. Photo: nanometer / ru

Apparently, in the process of working on the manufacture of cubic zirconia, a lot of "scrap" was synthesized - stones that did not meet the technical requirements for laser equipment, but differed in purity, brilliance, comparable to diamond ones. It is not known how many such samples were in the hands of the employees of the research institute, but not all stones remained to decorate living rooms as souvenirs from work - something may have gone into circulation. Before it was established what kind of stones are so skillfully passed off as precious, a lot of jewelry with cubic zirconia was sold at the price of diamonds.


In 1977, foreign corporations began mass production of cubic zirconia for jewelry, based on Soviet technology. One of the companies that also took advantage of the achievements of scientists from the USSR was Swarovski. By 1980, the world had already produced up to 12 tons of cubic zirconia per year, and by 1998 this figure had reached 400 tons. Cubic zirconia could be colorless and have different shades, which were achieved by adding appropriate substances to the melt, and therefore imitations of not only diamond, but also sapphire, topaz, garnet, aquamarine and other precious and semiprecious stones were made.

The further fate of cubic zirconia and diamond

At some point, a sharp decline in the level of prices for polished diamonds was expected - after all, cheap cubic zirconia, which was almost as good as expensive diamonds in its aesthetic properties, could not but influence the state of affairs that had developed by the second half of the 20th century in the jewelry market. But this did not happen - the diamond continued to rise in price, and various explanations for this process are offered. Some relate to the exceptional characteristics of this world's hardest mineral, while others attribute the main reason for maintaining high diamond prices to the influence of monopolies and questionable ways of doing business in the extraction and sale of diamonds. Cubic zirconia in this sense has become not only cheaper, but also a much more environmentally friendly material for the production of jewelry: it is not associated with any oppression of workers or criminal showdowns.

Methods of cutting cubic zirconia - the same as used when processing a diamond

Cubic zirconia is used not only as one of the laser elements, but also goes into the manufacture of medical instruments, in particular, scalpels, as well as lenses and filters. But the vast majority of crystals become part of the jewelry. According to some reports, cubic zirconia is now a tool in dishonest play: evil tongues say that if there are several diamonds in a ring or necklace, perhaps not all of them are "real" - some of them are actually cubic zirconias.

Different shades of cubic zirkonia are achieved by adding different types of substances to the melt

What to do to distinguish one stone from another, how to make sure that the jewelry contains a precious diamond, and not a democratic cubic zirconia? There are several ways that, however, will not give complete confidence to the owner of the jewelry. For example, drop vegetable oil on a stone and see if the drop spreads or not. In the first case, we are talking about cubic zirconia, while the second result is a diamond. Another way is to try to make the scratch on the stone a real diamond. If this fails, then the researcher is facing a diamond.

Abroad, the name "cubic zirconia" did not take root, usually this stone is called zirconite, sometimes zirconium or zircon, which creates some confusion. But those who want to buy for themselves or donate a product with cubic zirconia are not decreasing.

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