Cubic zirconia, often referred to as CZ, is a popular alternative to diamonds due to its brilliant sparkle and affordability. While it may not have the same intrinsic value as a natural diamond, many people cherish cubic zirconia jewelry for its beauty and affordability. However, the market is flooded with both genuine and counterfeit cubic zirconia. To ensure you’re getting what you pay for, it’s essential to know how to tell if cubic zirconia is real. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore various methods and aspects to help you make informed decisions when purchasing cubic zirconia jewelry.
Understanding Cubic Zirconia
Before delving into how to distinguish real from fake cubic zirconia, let’s understand what cubic zirconia is. CZ is a synthetic gemstone made from zirconium dioxide crystals. It’s hard, durable, and exhibits remarkable brilliance, making it an excellent diamond simulant. Genuine cubic zirconia is man-made, but its quality can vary. Here are some key characteristics to consider:
- Clarity: Real cubic zirconia typically has minimal to no visible flaws or inclusions. If you spot obvious imperfections with the naked eye, it might not be authentic.
- Brilliance: CZ is renowned for its sparkle. Authentic cubic zirconia should display a high level of brilliance, with rainbow-like flashes of color as it catches the light.
- Hardness: On the Mohs scale of hardness, cubic zirconia ranks around 8-8.5, which is close to that of a natural diamond. If a supposed CZ gem is easily scratched, it’s likely not genuine.
Methods to Determine Cubic Zirconia Authenticity
- Examine for Flaws: As mentioned, real cubic zirconia should be nearly flawless. Use a jeweler’s loupe or magnifying glass to inspect the gem closely. If you see visible flaws, it may be an imitation.
- Test the Hardness: Since cubic zirconia is relatively hard, it should not easily scratch. Try scratching the gemstone with a known hard material, like a piece of glass. If it gets scratched easily, it’s probably not genuine.
- Conduct Thermal Conductivity Test: Unlike diamonds, cubic zirconia is a poor conductor of heat. If you have access to a thermal conductivity probe, you can test the gemstone’s ability to disperse heat. Authentic CZ will not conduct heat as efficiently as a diamond.
- Seek Professional Appraisal: When in doubt, consult a reputable jeweler or gemologist for a professional appraisal. They have the expertise and tools to accurately identify cubic zirconia and assess its quality.
- Check for Hallmarks and Certifications: Many genuine cubic zirconia jewelry pieces come with hallmarks or certifications that verify their authenticity. Be sure to ask for these documents when making a purchase.