What do you think when you hear about or see a Cubic Zirconia jewellery item? Thoughts tend to range from cheap, poor quality or costume jewellery. Everyone know it’s various names, CZ, Zirconia, Diamonique etc. What I never see discussed anywhere is the various grades of stones that are available or how to tell top of the range gems from poor quality ones.
So, let’s look at the differences between the different grades. of Cubic Zirconia (Not to be confused with the real gemstone, Zircon) and how they compare with each other.
Cubic Zirconia is the crystalline form of zirconium dioxide, It’s a common misunderstanding that all CZ stones are the same. Just like Diamonds, there are a number of different quality levels and there is a range of price points for these beautiful look-alikes.
Cubic Zirconia stones are rated from A to AAAAA. A is the Lowest Quality, while AAAAA is the Highest Grade available. There’s a difference in the look and the price between the lowest and higher grades, and there’s a market for them all. You should understand the difference to make the proper choice when selecting a CZ stone.
The rating system for cubic zirconia gemstones are based on the same Four Cs (cut, clarity, colour and carat) that are used to determine the quality of a diamond.
Cubic Zirconia are faceted in the same manner as diamonds. There’s a variety of cuts that are used for different shapes, and the skill of the stone cutter is paramount to the final appearance of the stone.
Each stone has its own personality and it’s the stone cutter’s job to evaluate the gem as part of the cutting process. He/she will cut the facets to bring out the best features of each stone. The biggest visual difference between a diamond and a cubic zirconia would be the fire. When cut the same way as diamonds are, a Cubic Zirconia will exhibit much more sparkles of Light or Fire in the stone than a diamond will, a great give-a-way that the stone is simulated.
During the manufacturing process, a Cubic Zirconia stone can develop a cloudiness that is a visual imperfection that affects the clarity, just like a diamond, the clearer the stone appears, the greater value it has. Most Cubic Zirconia stones that you find in jewellery are normally eye clean and you probably won’t see any flaws in them like you would an earth mined diamond. Again this is another indicator that they are fake, and not natural diamonds.
Most cubic zirconias are white stones, and resemble colourless diamonds although trace elements can be added during the manufacturing process to create a colored stone. Some colours of cubic zirconia that have proved popular are
pink and blue due to the rise in popularity of fancy coloured diamonds.These colored stones are rated on their own for uniformity and intensity of color. The quality of the materials used in the manufacturing process can affect the colorless aspect of the stone, so a truly clear gem is rated higher than one that has any tinge of colour.
Cubic Zirconia are measured by weight, or carat size although Cz gemstones are much denser, therefore heavier than a natural diamond (by as much as 75% heavier).
As I have previously said, CZ stones are graded A, AA, AAA, AAAA, and AAAAA.The lowest quality A grade of Cubic Zirconia are used by craftsmen and artists for embellishing their creations. These stones are priced for the craftsman who needs volume, sparkle and the wow factor at an affordable price. These A-rated stones are certainly not fine jewellery grade, but they are very popular in the art world.
Cubic Zirconia that are rated AAA are usually more highly polished than A grade stones and they tend to have more fire and shine although they don’t have the fine level of finishing and facets of AAAAA grade stones. With AAA stones you may see some light polish marks or graining across the surfaces.These stones are used by mass market manufacturers to create reasonably priced jewellery that is often set in gold filled or gold plated mountings. AAA Grades are the most popular grades on the market for CZ’s because of price and availability.These products are often found on home shopping networks, and jewellery departments of national general merchandise chains.