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Betterthandiamond Simulant Vs Synthetic?


SusanS
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We're in the market for an engagement ring.  I am of the opinion that my fiancé shouldn't drop a load of money on a ring (we need a tractor more!).  I am not adverse to getting a lab grown diamond.  But I'm confused as the what the difference in a simulant vs a synthetic is.  I saw on the website "betterthandiamond" that they offer something that looks just like a diamond for a much better price.  But I also saw on gemesis, d.neadiamonds and takara labs that they make a synthetic, but it looks to be almost the same price as a diamond!  I'm sooooo confused, I really want to save my fiancé money but I don't want to get taken in the process with something that won't last.  Any views would be very appreciated. Thanks

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Synthetic diamonds are real diamonds that are manufactured in a lab instead of mined in the ground.  Simulants are completely different materials that look like diamonds but aren't.  You're correct, 'colorless' synthetic diamonds are about the same price as similar mined stones.  Simulants can be a whole bunch cheaper although deceptive marketing abounds because people seem to find the issue so confusing.

 

Betterthandiamond is a brand of coated cubic zirconia.  No, they're not diamonds but yes, the do look pretty good.  Are they better than diamonds?  Well, they're cheaper. I guess it depends on what the objective is.   A more important question in my mind is if they're betterthancz.  I have my doubts.  They're 20x the price of a well cut stone from the likes of Signity and I'm not convinced they're actually either more durable or more beautiful.  The coating isn't detectible even with a microscope.  That is to say, they're easy to distinguish from diamond, and they're impossible to distinguish from CZ. 

 

If you're trying to save money, and I certainly understand, my suggestions are:

1) Buy a Cubic Zirconia, aka CZ. MOst jewelers sell them.

2) Buy a different natural stone.  Sapphires can be very reasonably priced for example.

3) Consider a design that doesn't involve gemstones at all.  A plain gold or silver band works just fine and you can always upgrade later when your finances improve.

4) Buy designs with groups of smaller stones rather than single big ones.  Little diamonds are much cheaper.

5) Consider the secondary market through sources like pawn shops or thrift stores. 

 

Remember that, as cool as they are, diamonds are completely unnecessary.  Your success or failure at marriage will have nothing whatsoever to do with them.  Stick to your budget, buy what you like and can afford, and concentrate your energy on areas that are actually important.

Edited by denverappraiser
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CZ and other simulants are softer materials than diamonds (natural or synthetic).  The word "synthetic" means man made.  As Neil points out, synthetic or lab-grown diamonds are diamonds that are chemically and structurally identical (there are actually minor differences which labs use to tell them apart) to naturally occurring diamonds. What this means to you is that over time - and this is relative to your personal lifestyle - CZs will become worn and dull.  The edges and rib lines between facets will wear down and turn whitish and the general appearance of the stone will become white or milky.  I have seen this happen in as little as a few weeks and I have seen some simulants last years and retain their good looks.  If you are in need of a tractor, I would venture to guess that a simulant would not give you the durability you may be hoping for.  Diamonds have a hardness of 10 (max) on the Mohs hardness scale.  CZ is down around 8 (corrected from mistype).  Ruby and sapphire are at 9.  These might be good gem alternatives for you to consider as they are less expensive than diamonds.   There is a simulant out there called the Asha which claims to have a hardness of 9.7.  We have set a few of these for our customers and the are quite beautiful but I cannot speak to their durability as I have had very limited time to work with them.

 

I hope this helps.

Edited by GeorgeDI
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I missed the implications of the part about the tractor and I agree, if your lifestyle involves one and you're less than extremely careful, you're going to wear out a CZ fairly quickly.  I probably wouldn't recommend one in a daily wear ring, coated or not, for that reason. 

 

I'll try to explain a little more on the whole coating thing:

 

Imagine a rubber balloon.  Under 'normal' usage they hold up pretty well but I think all would agree that one of the problems is that they're fairly fragile.  Would it help to paint it?  With the right paint, yes it would, but that now depends on the paint used, right?  Some would help more than others and none would  be the same as a solid sphere like, say, a bowling ball. What you would want is something that's hard enough to resist piercing and cutting but flexible enough that it won't chip away.

 

The coating put on CZ is what's called diamond-like carbon (DLC).  It's a 1 micron thick layer of diamond.  Under the right test that will reduce the resistance to scratching, just like the paint on the balloon will, but it doesn't reduce the tendency to chip, which is the wear problem with CZ.  DLC is a touch brittle, just like 'regular' diamond. Those abrasions around the facet junctions are no more or less than a bunch of tiny chips.  Asha's are a cool product, but they're NOT diamonds, and they don't hold up to serious wear, like a ring worn 24/7 while farming. 

 

Sapphire (hardness 9) has the same problem.  You'll see wear around the facet edges.  The difference is that what makes sapphires beautiful is the color, not really the sparkle.  That doesn't change if you nick it. The same amount of wear doesn't have the same impact on beauty. 

 

About that 9.7 claim.  I don't actually believe it but, more importantly, what mohs is measuring is resistance to scratching, not chipping.  It's a component of durability but it's not the end of the question.

Edited by denverappraiser
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Some more on simulants and synthetics which I wrote a couple of years ago, but no big changes since then: http://www.diamondreview.com/tutorials/simulant-vs-synthetic-diamonds

 

One more thing on durability (and BTW, Neil, I think the OP is the lady in the couple):

 

George and Neil have covered the resistance of the stone; I'd like to say a couple of words about metal: precious metals are relatively soft - silver is by far the softest, gold and platinum (and palladium) are significantly harder and depending on the specific alloy and the method used to work it one or the other may be harder.

 

However, the hardest gold alloys are about as hard as non-heat treated stainless steel (and some platinum alloys look and feel remarkably like good quality stainless, other than in heft), and a fraction of the hardness (and tensile strength) of heat-treated steel, titanium and tungsten carbide - all of which come in nicely polished rings, sometimes with (small!) diamonds inset and for a fraction of the price of traditional precious metal rings.

 

All of which to say that if you (or your to-be-husband) spend a lot of time on the tractor (or worse), getting a "day ring" for use during tough tasks may not be a bad idea, regardless of what stone is set in it, if any at all.

Edited by davidelevi
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Thanks everyone for the responses, very helpful information.  Good pickup on the tractor thing----I'm actually not a farmer by trade, but a flight nurse....when not flying, we have several acres of land and put in a nice garden every year, so a tractor would come in very handy for that and all the other land maintenance we encounter.  But I'm also VERY hard on jewelry during my flight nursing duties, so very good point on the durability issue.  So it looks like back to a diamond, simulant, or possibly another stone (and set it a durable metal).  It's amazing how expensive the simulants are compare to the mined diamonds, makes me wonder why someone would go that route (unless it's the whole "cruelty free" movement).

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People buy colorless synthetic diamonds for two basic reasons.

 

One, they're cool. This isn't just some dirt diamond, someone actually MADE this thing. There's fantastic engineering involved and hardly anyone at the country club has one.

 

Two, they have known provenance. That's the cruelty free thing although there's an environmental component as well. Manufactured products somehow seem 'cleaner' than mined ones.

 

To each their own. They've been on the market for about 10 years now and have yet to approach even a 1% market share so those pitches don't seem to be working all that well. We'll see what happens. One thing they're NOT is significantly cheaper, and I see no reason to expect that to change any time soon.

Edited by denverappraiser
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Interestingly lab-grown diamonds are substantially cheaper than their natural cousins when looking a colored diamonds.  Fancy vivid yellow stones cost less than half of naturally occurring ones and sometimes even less than that. While I apologize for the poor quality of the photo, this 2 carat fancy vivid yellow, VS lab-grown, GIA graded diamond sells for about 9,000 for the stone.  Similar natural stones sell for $40,000 to $90,000.  There is no contest. 

post-109884-0-61058300-1428516733_thumb.jpg

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I guess the difference is that synthetic fancies are relatively common among synthetic stones (and in fact to get synthetic stones to grow much above a carat you need nitrogen, which means yellow), while natural fancy colours - with the exception of brown - are significantly rarer.

 

For some reason, synthetic fancy colours seem to be priced reasonably close to irradiated colour natural diamonds, though on some synthetics the colour origin is the same as the natural stone (i.e. nitrogen in yellows and browns and boron in blues).

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The point of all this being that lab-grown white diamonds are fairly difficult to produce and this is how the price is justified.  The consumer only finds a real price advantage when considering fancy colored stones and really primarily yellows for that matter.  I have seen some lab-grown blues and pinks that are spectacular in color - by spectacular I mean natural looking as opposed to the over coloring of irradiated stones - but their prices are not cheap.

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