Synthetic cubic zirconia
|Synthetic cubic zirconia|
|Chemical composition||Zirconium dioxide - ZrO2|
|Hardness||8.25 - 8.5|
|Refractive index||2.171 - 2.177|
|Dispersion||High, 0.059 - 0.065|
|Specific gravity||5.65 - 5.95|
Synthetic cubic zirconia entered the market as a gemstone around 1976 and is till present the most wide used diamond simulant. Although cubic zirconia is found in nature (as minute crystals inside zircon), the more stable variant of zirconia crystallizes in the monoclinic system (baddeleyite).
The main means of syntheses is through the "skull crucible" or "skull melting" method.
Zirconia has the chemical formula ZrO2, this material however will not crystallize in the cubic system through syntheses. A stabilizer of yttria or calcium oxide needs to be added to the source powder in order to let it crystallize as isotropic crystals.
As synthetic cubic zirconia (CZ) is mainly used to imitate diamond one can expect the main separation techniques to concentrate on distinguishing between the two.
The optical properties of CZ vary slightly depending on which stabilizer is used (yttria or calcium oxide).
- Yttria stabilized cubic zirconia: RI = 2.171, dispersion = 0.059
- Calcium oxide stabilized cubic zirconia: RI = 2.177, dispersion = 0.065.
The values of CZ are above the limits of the standard gemological refractometer. There are however a few other tests one can perform.
- The "dot test" will show a ring around the culet if the stone is cut to diamond brilliant proportions.
- The "tilt test" will show leakage.