Zirconia, crystals, diamonds… all three sparkling stones that give cachet to each jewel. What exactly is the difference between zirconia, crystal and diamond?

The word ‘crystal’ is a term that is used in a wide variety of ways in the world of jewellery. Officially a crystal is a natural gemstone, but there are also artificial crystals. For example, a diamond is a natural crystal and zirconia an artificial one.

What is a diamond?

Natural crystal is formed everywhere in the earth’s crust, deep in the crevices of rock. There are minerals here that will crystallize under the right conditions and if they have enough space. With almost every mineral belongs a crystal that has a certain shape and colour. The more space there is, the bigger the crystal can become. Natural crystals are mined in mines and then cut into different shapes.

There are different types, colors and sizes of natural crystals. Think for example of rhinestone, amethyst, jade or rose quartz. The strongest and most transparent gemstone among the natural crystals is diamond which is characterized by a beautiful brilliance. Diamond is a natural crystal that is not only used for jewellery, but also in industry for cutting, drilling and polishing. Diamonds are quite rare and therefore very valuable.

What are artificial crystals?

Artificial crystals are also called synthetic crystals. These stones are made artificially in laboratories and they have roughly the same chemical and physical properties as natural crystals. So they are very similar to natural crystals, but a lot less valuable as they are less rare. The best known artificial crystals are Swarovksi Crystals and Zirconia.

What is zirconia?

Zirconia (or “cubic zirconia”) is the most popular artificially produced stone. It most resembles a diamond because it has a similar sheen and also sparkles when held up to the light. In addition, just like a diamond, zirconia is a strong and hard stone. On the Mohs scale representing the hardness of a stone, a zirconia has a score of 8.5 and a diamond a score of 10. Although a diamond is slightly stronger, zirconia is also resistant to scratches. With the naked eye, the difference between a diamond and a zirconia is almost indistinguishable.

Zirconia is made by heating and melting zirconium and zirconium oxide up to 5000 degrees. When the stone has cooled down, it is cut into the same shape as a diamond, with many facets that reflect the light.

Swarovski Crystals

In 1892, the Austrian Daniel Swarovski came up with a solution for cutting glass in the same way that diamonds are cut. For this purpose, he invented an automatic polishing machine, which could polish many times more accurately than a manual technique. This extremely precise way of polishing creates a beautiful sparkle in the glass. As a result, the Swarovski Crystals have come to life and turned out to be very well suited for use in jewellery!

Swarovski Crystals are considered to be the best crystals in the world. They sparkle and glisten, capture every shimmer and have beautiful shapes. For Swarovski Crystals, crystal glass and lead are used in combination with natural minerals such as quartz and sand. Instead of 8 facets, Swarovski crystals are cut in 12 or 14 facets, making it even more reflective and sparkling. Swarovski also uses more lead than other manufacturers, namely 32%. As a finishing touch, Swarovski crystals get a coating that gives the stones a nice colour shade and shine.

The difference between artificial and natural crystals

Now that you know what natural crystals and artificial crystals are, we have summed up the biggest differences:

Natural crystals are much rarer than artificial crystals. In addition, every natural crystal is unique. This makes the value and therefore its price a lot higher.
Artificial crystals are generally purer. They are produced flawlessly, while with natural crystals you have no influence on that.
Artificial crystals can be produced in all the colors of the rainbow. Natural crystals can also be colored, but again you have no influence on this because it is a natural product.

Whether you choose a jewel with diamond, zirconia or crystal, you can be sure that all jewellery with a stone will add some sparkle and shine to your outfit! But only diamonds have a real and lasting value, of course.