What’s the Best Diamond Alternative?
If you like the diamond look but want something different, learn the pros and cons of these white gems and find the right mined-diamond alternative for you.
6 Minute Read
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
White Natural Gemstones
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A geologist, environmental engineer and Caltech graduate, Addison’s interest in the mesmerizing and beautiful results of earth’s geological processes began in her elementary school’s environmental club. When she isn’t writing about gems and minerals, Addison spends winters studying ancient climates in Iceland and summers hiking the Colorado Rockies.
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