Cubic zirconia is the centerpiece of a fascinating story about ingenuity and resourcefulness. In the quest to simulate the almighty diamond, a new jewel of stunning beauty was discovered. Inexpensive and loaded with attitude, the cubic zirconia is a brilliant synthetic gemstone exhibiting incomparable fire. The marvelous "cz", as it's most commonly known, has revolutionized the costume jewelry industry, making it possible for anyone to own dramatically beautiful jewelry.
Cubic Zirconium vs. Diamonds
Get the look of expensive diamond jewelry for a mere fraction of the price with jewelry featuring cz's. This exquisite diamond look-a-like is truly an affordable alternative. With its flawless perfection and brilliant fire (flashes of rainbow color), a top quality cz is virtually impossible to tell apart from a good quality diamond. So optically close is cubic zirconia to diamond, that gemologists and jewelers have difficulty differentiating between the two, without the use of instruments such as a loupe or microscope. In fact, the cubic zicronia’s impeccable, flawless beauty is one big difference between it and a diamond. Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but they are inherently fraught with imperfections; flaws such as inclusions and impurities are characteristic of all diamonds. Because cubic zirconia is grown in a laboratory-controlled environment, the resulting crystal must be absolutely perfect in clarity, otherwise it is not used. Cubic zirconia is a jewel in its own right, with enough dazzle and style to stand alone in jewelry.
The History of Cubic Zirconia
The cz story began back in 1937 when two German mineralogists, Von Stackelberg and Chudoba, discovered naturally-occurring zirconium oxide in a highly metamict zircon. Only through x-ray defraction were they able to see tiny crystals of the cubic form of zirconium oxide. The two mineralogists were not impressed, and never even named the finding, which is why cubic zirconia still carries its scientific name. They grossly underestimated the rarity of their find. Cubic zirconia has never ever been discovered again in its naturally occurring state.
The Creation of Cubic Zirconia
Thankfully, for us cz fans, Soviet scientists learned how to grow cubic zirconia in a laboratory in the 1970s. Jewelry designers were very excited about this new kid on the block, and by the 1980s, when the renowned Austrian producer of leaded crystal, Swarovski, began producing jewelry made with cubic zirconia, cz's defined the buzz word, "HOT." The rest is history, and today cubic zirconia are beautifully worked into all kinds of fine jewelry. The creation of cubic zirconia is as dramatic, exciting and artful as technology gets! Baddeleyite, a mineral with the same chemical composition as cubic zirconia, but in the monoclinic crystal system, is heated to almost 5,000-degrees-Fahrenheit. Under these extreme temperatures, conventional melting vessels or crucible do not withstand the heat and a "skull crucible" system is employed whereby the melting zirconia powder actually creates its own melting vessel during its manufacture. This skull crucible is an apparatus rather like a cup-shaped circle of copper fingers filled with water and kept cool by internal plumbing. As the zirconia melts, it leaves a thin shell that remains solid, due to the cooling effect of the copper fingers. During this shell-making process, the zirconia and stabilizing oxide is added to the skull crucible to the desired level. The contents are then kept molten for several hours to ensure uniformity of the crystals. This wonderful predestined meeting of science and art gives birth to the clear perfect crystals that are cubic zirconia, the ultimate diamond simulant. Multi-colored oxides are then added to create cubic zirconia in a glorious kaleidoscope of colors from subtle to bold; the varying hues of chartreuse, canary, purple, cognac, peach, amber, red, lavender, green and blue which elegantly capture the essence of emerald, aquamarine, sapphire, ruby, amethyst and other precious gemstones, making cz jewelry the perfect fashion statement.