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Simulant vs Synthetic Diamonds: What’s the Difference?

The average diamond shopper isn’t an expert in gemology. So, when they hear terms like “synthetic diamond” or “diamond simulant,” it can be confusing to differentiate between the two. However, if you’re making a diamond purchase, it’s crucial to understand all your options, to ensure that you get the most out of your purchase. That said, here’s everything you need to know about simulant vs synthetic diamonds and the differences between them. Let’s dive in.

What is a Diamond Simulant?

A diamond simulant is a manufactured stone that is meant to mimic the appearance of a diamond. Simulants are made using a wide variety of materials, so they are not chemically identical to mined diamonds. This means that they will not have the same durability, brilliance, or color of a traditional diamond. Simulated diamonds are generally identifiable as fake diamonds, even to the untrained eye.

One of the most popular diamond simulants is cubic zirconia, which can be purchased at a low price in many big box stores. Moissanite, a newer simulant, is also used as a diamond alternative. It’s more durable and brilliant than cubic zirconia, so many couples on a budget are taking advantage of moissanite engagement rings.

What is a Synthetic Diamond?

A synthetic diamond, properly referred to as a lab-grown diamond, is created in a lab-setting utilizing advanced technology to mimic the processes that help form diamonds in nature. This mined diamond alternative is chemically identical to diamonds formed under the earth. Additionally, lab-created diamonds are physically and optically identical to mined diamonds, unlike diamond simulants.

It’s important to note that in 2018, the FTC expanded how they define the word “diamond” by removing the word ‘natural’ from the original definition. This ultimately led to lab-grown diamonds becoming a part of the FTC-defined term for ‘diamond.’ Per the FTC, it is actually strongly recommended that the term ‘synthetic’ is not used interchangeably with lab-grown diamond, lab-created diamond, or man-made diamond, as it can lead consumers to believe that it is not a real diamond.

Simulant vs Synthetic Diamonds Comparison

To put it simply, diamond simulants are not diamonds. They mimic some of the characteristics of diamonds, but more often than not, you are able to tell that they are fake. Synthetic diamonds, on the other hand, are diamonds. The only difference between a mined diamond and a ‘synthetic’ (or man-made) diamond is where they were created.

Though each mined diamond alternative has its distinct benefits, it’s important to know how simulant diamonds differ in many of the most popular characteristics from synthetic diamonds. Check out this comparison of the differences between simulant and synthetic diamonds.


  • Appearance: Less brilliant than mined diamonds and typically colorless. Generally reflects blue and orange flashes or a ‘disco ball’ appearance, as opposed to the whole rainbow.
  • Cost: This will depend on the simulant. A 1 carat cubic zirconia, for example, can be purchased for under $50. A 1 carat moissanite, on the other hand, would cost a bit over $500.
  • Composition: The most popular diamond simulants are made from Zirconium Dioxide (cubic zirconia), Silicone Carbide (moissanite), or white sapphire.


  • Appearance: Identical to mined diamonds. You can expect the same brilliance, sparkle, and reflection of light.
  • Cost: Generally more expensive than diamond simulants, but about 20-40% less expensive than mined diamonds.
  • Composition: Chemically identical to mined diamonds, as they are created by putting carbon under extreme pressure and exposing it to extreme heat.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the differences between diamond simulants and synthetic diamonds can help to ensure that you choose the best diamond or diamond alternative for your needs. If you’re not sure about whether to buy a simulant or synthetic diamond, discuss your needs with an experienced jeweler. Consider price and remember that you can always upgrade!


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