IGS may receive customer referral fees from the companies listed in this page. Learn more.

What’s the Best Diamond Alternative?

There are plenty of great alternatives to mined diamonds available, beautiful white gemstones both natural and lab-made. Learn about different options and choose one that’s right for you.
By Addison Rice 6 minutes read
moissanite diamond alternative
Find this Ring at CustomMadeOnly an expert could tell this ring features moissanite instead of diamond just by looking at it. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

When it comes to a diamond alternative, don’t hesitate to consult an expert. Consider using a custom jeweler like CustomMade to build your perfect jewelry piece. They’ll help you pick a gem based on what’s important to you that will also fit your budget.

In this article, we’ll focus on colorless or white jewelry stones that can mimic mined diamonds. If you prefer colored gemstones, check out our list of the best colored gems for engagement rings.

Why Choose a Mined-Diamond Alternative?

Not everyone wants to pay for mined diamonds. Their high cost and poor investment value are just two reasons you might opt for an alternative.

Those looking for a more eco-friendly or ethical engagement ring might prefer alternative gems, too. However, ethically sourced, natural diamonds are available for those with the budget for it. Check out our guide to ethical engagement rings.

Lab-Made Diamonds

While lab-made diamonds are 100% real diamonds, many consumers prize them as alternatives to mined diamonds. Since they’re more eco-friendly and aren’t conflict diamonds, lab-made diamonds have become quite popular.

lab-made diamond
Find this Ring at James AllenThere’s no way to tell that this is a lab-made diamond — unless you tell first. Check out this ring on the James Allen site.

Although they offer significant savings compared to mined diamonds, lab-made diamonds are still the most expensive alternatives to mined diamonds. Of course, they also offer the same beauty and sparkle as any natural diamond.

lab-made pear diamond
Find this Ring at CustomMadeLab-made diamonds let you choose a larger center stone for less money. © CustomMade. Used with permission.mMade. Used with permission.

Shopping for Diamond Lookalikes

There are many different kinds of natural and lab-made white gems. Since these vary widely in terms of cost, durability, and appearance, you must do your research before you buy.

If you’re interested in a diamond alternative, you understand that you’re looking for a gemstone that looks like a diamond but isn’t really a diamond.

Every gem discussed below can be a diamond simulant or lookalike. Although they can look like diamonds, they have different physical and optical properties. Simulants can be natural, mined gems or synthetic, lab-made gems. For example, both mined white sapphires and synthetic white sapphires can be presented as diamond simulants, but they aren’t real diamonds.

As long as you know what you’re buying and vendors are honest about what they’re selling, there’s nothing wrong or unethical about simulants. However, avoid doing business with anyone who offers a diamond lookalike as a real diamond. A gem may “look like” a diamond, but it must be clear that it’s not.

White Lab-Made Gemstones

Moissanite

Lab-made moissanite is a diamond alternative that offers a very attractive price point with nearly the same beauty and durability as a diamond. While an expert could tell the difference between moissanite and diamond, your friends will never know the difference.

Just like diamonds, moissanites come in many shapes and sizes and look great in any style. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Cubic Zirconia

Currently, lab-made cubic zirconia (CZ) is the most popular diamond lookalike. At a fraction of the price, it can rival diamond in brilliance (the light it reflects) and dispersion or fire (the colorful flashes that seem to come from within the stone). However, CZ has poor durability, making it likely to scratch or even break, and is also somewhat porous. Since it will absorb oils from your skin, it will dull over time.

cubic zirconia
Find this Ring at CustomMadeIf you’re OK with replacing the stones every few years, cubic zirconia can be a great, affordable option. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Glass

Many different kinds of artisanal glass have been cut and polished as gems. Today, some of the most popular are Swarovski’s glass gems. Although glass can look nice, it breaks easily. It’s also so soft that even household dust can scratch it! A glass gem isn’t ideal for a ring stone. Scratches and knocks from everyday wear will make it lose its beauty quickly. Protective ring settings are a must for glass gems.

swarovski glass diamond alternative
This ring features a large leaded-glass gem with a nice sparkle — while it lasts. Photo by Christina Clendenin Tate. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

White Natural Gemstones

White Sapphire

Sapphire is famously associated with blue, but that’s not its only color. White sapphire is actually much cheaper than blue and has become a popular natural alternative to diamond. Keep in mind, though, that lab-made white sapphire is also available.

white sapphire
Find this Ring at CustomMadeThis vintage-inspired ring is perfect for the white sapphire center stone. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Although sapphire has excellent durability, no white sapphire will match a diamond’s sparkle or scintillation. The difference between white sapphire and diamond will be noticeable, so the simulation only goes so far. However, some consumers prefer the softer appearance of a white sapphire to a diamond.

White Topaz

You might associate topaz with the color blue as well as its popular “imperial” yellow to red hues, but topaz actually comes in a variety of colors, including colorless white. This natural gemstone has beautiful sparkle and brilliance but will never rival a diamond’s dispersion. In addition, topaz may chip over time, and its facet edges may wear down. Fortunately, this gemstone is very affordable and easy to replace.

white topaz
Find this Ring at CustomMadeThis white topaz oval in a East-West setting has a dramatic look against its black diamond halo. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

White Zircon

Not to be confused with synthetic cubic zirconia, zircon is a natural mineral. With its excellent brilliance and dispersion, it has a long history as a diamond simulant. In terms of appearance, zircon comes closer to diamond than any other mined gemstone. However, in terms of durability, it’s far more fragile. It will easily chip and abrade with wear. Nevertheless, white zircon is affordable and readily available, making replacement easy.

white zircon
This ring features a white zircon center stone with diamond accents. Photo courtesy of Quinn’s Auction Galleries and liveauctioneers.com.

Quartz

As one of the most common gemstone minerals, quartz or rock crystal makes a very affordable diamond alternative. While its beauty will never rival that of a well-cut diamond, some lapidaries can polish a quartz so that it looks better than a mediocre diamond. However, quartz will accumulate scratches over time, making it a less than ideal alternative.

rock crystal earrings
These quartz earrings resemble asscher-cut diamonds. Photo by Naomi King. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

Goshenite

You’ve heard of emerald and aquamarine. You may have even heard of morganite. But you’re probably unfamiliar with goshenite. These gemstones are actually all related. They’re all different colored varieties of the same mineral: beryl. Goshenite is white or colorless beryl. This durable gemstone doesn’t show much brilliance or fire, so it will never make a very convincing diamond lookalike. On the other hand, if you’re in the market for an affordable, natural, large white stone that will last, goshenite is a great option.

goshenite ring
This ring combines goshenite with rare demantoid garnets. Photo courtesy of Jasper52 and liveauctioneers.com

Which Mined-Diamond Alternative Should I Choose?

No single diamond alternative will be right for everyone. Each option differs in price, appearance, and durability. If you’re looking for something that will last (for example, in an engagement ring), your choices are limited.

For those who’d love a lab-made stone, moissanite will give you the most bang for your buck. For those with a slightly bigger budget, a lab-made diamond also makes a great option.

If your heart is set on a natural, mined stone, no alternative will look quite like a diamond. White sapphire will come the closest in brilliance without compromising durability, but make sure you’re buying a mined white sapphire, not a lab-made stone.

At an even lower price, goshenite can make a nice alternative to diamond, especially if you want an emerald or asscher-cut gemstone, where brilliance isn’t as important.