I’ve discussed some of the Qualities of Cubic Zirconia (Man-Made Gemstone) and compared them to Diamonds here…
However, I haven’t discussed the Various Grades of Stones that are available.
So, let’s look at the differences between these Grades of Cubic Zirconia (Not to be confused with the Real Gemstone Zircon) and how they compare with each other.
It’s a common misconception that all CZ Stones are the same. Just like Diamonds, there are a number of Quality Levels, and there is a range of Price Points for these beautiful look-alikes.
What Are Cubic Zirconia Grades?
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 Highest Grade, and there’s a market for them all. You should understand the difference to make the proper choice when selecting a CZ stone.
How Are Cubic Zirconia Stones Rated?
The rating system is based on several variables. The same Four Cs that are used to determine the quality of a Diamond are used to rate CZs.
Those four Cs are: Cut, Clarity, Color and Carat.
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 will Cut the Facets to bring out the Best Features of each stone.
Popular Shapes of CZ would be the Brilliant Cut (Standard Round Stone), Princess Cut (Square), Trilliant Cut (Triangular) and the Heart Shaped Stone.
The biggest visual difference between Cubic Zirconia and Diamond would be the Fire in a CZ. When Cut the same was as Diamonds are, a Cubic Zirconia will exhibit much more sparkles of Colored Light (Fire) in the stone than a Diamond will. A Dead give-a-way that the stone is a Simulant!
During the manufacturing process, a stone can develop cloudiness that is a visual imperfection. Just like a diamond, the clearer the stone appears, the greater value it has.
Most CZ stones that you find on the market are pretty clean and you probably won’t see any Flaws in them like you would a Diamond (This is usually one indicator as to the fact that they are fake, and NOT Diamonds).
Trace elements are added during the manufacturing process to create a colored stone. These colored stones are rated on their own for uniformity and intensity of color.
A CZ stone is rated like a Diamond for clearness or lack 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 color.
Most CZ stones are White Stones, and resemble the Colorless Grades of Diamonds.
One color of CZ caught on really well in the past, and that’s Pink Colored CZ’s, or as their trade name is called: Pink Ice. :) But you can also get CZ’s in a variety of colors like: Lavender, Violet, Green, Aqua, Champagne, and Yellow as well.
Just like a Diamond, a Cubic Zirconia is rated by its weight, or Carat Size. Since a CZ is more dense than a Diamond, it is heavier by volume (by as much as 75% heavier). The weight of a CZ is another factor that determines its rating.
Explaining The Cubic Zirconia Rating System
CZ stones are graded A, AA, AAA, AAAA, and AAAAA. Let’s take a closer look at the main grades…
A Grade Stones
The lowest quality grades 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 jewelry grade, but they are very popular in the art world.
AAA Grade Stones
Cubic Zirconia that are rated AAA are usually more highly polished than A grade stones. They tend to have more luster and shine. However, they don’t have the level of finishing and facets of AAAAA grade stones. You may see some Polish Marks or Grain Lines across the surfaces.
These stones are used by mass market manufacturers to create reasonably priced jewelry that is often set in silver, gold filled or gold plated mountings. These products are found on home shopping networks, jewelry departments of national general merchandise chains and many on line retailers.
AAA Grades are the most popular grades on the market for CZ’s because of price and availability.
AAAAA Grade Stones
These stones are the top of the line. They are crafted by the best stone cutters and are polished just like any top rated Diamond would be. These stones are remarkably similar in appearance to diamonds and set in the same type of mountings as their diamond counterparts, it would be difficult to tell them apart. These pieces are high quality, yet affordable, choices for a shopper looking for a stunning piece without the stunning price tag.
A Cubic Zirconia may not be the answer for an engagement ring or for investment buying, but they have a definite position in the marketplace. Understanding the facts about CZs and how they differ will make you a more knowledgeable and successful shopper.
Just be careful when purchasing Cubic Zirconia Gemstones. They are not as durable as Diamonds (CZ is an 8.5 on the Moh’s Scale, while Diamond is a 10), so they will not last as long and may eventually dull up and lose their shine, beauty and sparkle.
Because of this, I would not recommend them for Engagement Rings!
Stick with Diamonds, they’ll last forever! :)
But for all your other fun jewelry… take a look at these! :)
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Author Richard Scott. Certified Diamontologist\Gemologist. 30 years of experience.
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