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Bling for Less Cha-Ching

Jeanie Ahn
Senior Producer/Reporter

Can’t afford diamonds, but love the look? The difference between the real thing and synthetics are harder to tell than ever before. And jewelry retailers are manufacturing a growing number of stones that can stand in as good, respectable alternatives to diamonds – better in quality than cubic zirconias.

Take the moissanite. Many jewelers consider this lab-made stone a close second to the diamond. In fact, it’s twice as brilliant for a fraction of the price. “The moissanite is a great in-between stone for people who don’t want to have the stigma of saying they have a cubic zirconia.  It has just as much brilliance as a diamond and is just as durable,” says gemologist Travis Lejman.

When measuring the durability of a gemstone from 1 to 10, the diamond measures a 10 on the Mohs Hardness scale, with the moissanite at 9.25 and a cubic zirconia at 8.25.

Price-wise, a one carat diamond can easily cost thousands, while the same sized moissanite typically costs a tenth of that. And shoppers are finally catching on with sales growing about forty-percent two years in a row, driving more retailers to carry moissanite jewelry.

Also see: 5 Questions to Ask Before Buying Your Next Piece of Jewelry

The Diamond Challenge:

We wanted to see if women could tell the difference between diamond alternatives and the real thing. Placing a diamond next to a cubic zirconia and a moissanite, we asked ten women which was the real diamond.

The results were surprising. Half of the group thought the moissanite was the real diamond. Kate, a participant in the challenge said, “It wasn’t too sparkly like a rhinestone or a cubic zirconia.”

And none of the women knew what a moissanite was before the challenge: “To be honest, I thought a moissanite was a religious group,” said Nicole.

The cubic zirconia also fooled quite a few, with four votes. Mandi and Janice chose this synthetic stone because they felt it looked more brilliant and sparkly than the other two gemstones. And they’re right because synthetic stones are designed to have more color and brilliance, with the cubic zirconia being the least durable of the three.

“More retailers are coming out with different diamond alternatives – they are all essentially cubic zirconias, but branded differently such as QVC’s Diamonique and HSN’s Absolute,” Lejman warns. Having appraised hundreds of stones, he says the quality between brands is similar.

Also see: Diamonds – the Best Sparkle You Can Get For Your Budget

So, how many women chose the actual diamond? Out of ten, just one chose the real thing: “I examined it from various angles and it had a special brilliance about it,” said Morgan. And it’s a good thing she picked the right stone, because her heart is set on the real thing. “I don’t care at all about durability. I want a high clarity, big ring. I won’t settle for anything less,” she said.

Very few women were open to moissanite engagement rings. But for other types of jewelry, several expressed interest in alternatives. “If I got moissanite earrings for Valentine’s Day, that would be fine. I lost a diamond stud and it was $600 for one stud, so that was pretty hard to take,” said Mandi.

While these newer gemstones may not have the years of marketing momentum that diamonds have had for decades, they just might be the right choice for someone who’s looking to get the bling for less ‘cha-ching’.

Special thanks to Avianne & Co. for making this video possible.