Types of Fake Diamonds: Diamond Simulants, Substitutes, & Alternatives

Types of Fake Diamonds

Diamond simulants are fake diamonds that have been around for ages. How can you really tell the difference between a real sparkly diamond and an imitation diamond? What kinds of fake diamonds are out there?

The most popular types of fake diamonds are: 

  1. Cubic Zirconia
  2. Moissanite
  3. White Sapphire
  4. Rhinestone
  5. Zircon
  6. White Spinel
  7. Rutile
  8. Synthetic Garnet
  9. Yttrium Aluminum Garnet (YAG)
  10. Gadolinium Gallium Garnet (GGG)
  11. Strontium Titanate
  12. White Topaz
  13. Glass

All fake diamonds have a completely different chemical makeup from true diamonds. Keep reading to learn more about the different types of fake diamonds.

The Most Popular Fake Diamonds used in Jewelry Today.

Cubic Zirconia

The most popular diamond substitute out there is cubic zirconia. The cubic zirconia although having a lesser refractive index than a diamond still gives off a lot of shine, especially in the sun. Zirconias can’t compare to the solidity of a true diamond but are still fairly sturdy and long-lasting.


Next, we have moissanite which is a very special mineral that is exceptionally rare and discovered in nature. You will often find this type of stone to be man-made because they just can’t be found on earth anymore. This diamond replacement is one of the very best because it closely mimics a real diamond’s hardness and clarity. See also: Diamonds vs Moissanite: Which is the better choice?

White Sapphire

Of course, we have to list the stunning white sapphire because of its colorless opacity and hardness level. These make a popular choice because they are much cheaper than diamonds but still appear expensive. The only thing to be wary of is that they can appear almost cloudy or white but then again some would say that adds to their beauty after all they are called white sapphire.


Rhinestones are super shiny and you’ve probably noticed them at one time or another as they are very popular. They are used to add sparkle to many different accessories such as handbags, clothes, and shoes.

They do resemble diamonds but certainly, come nowhere close. Basically, a rhinestone is an imitation diamond that is used in low-cost jewelry or to add flair to clothes. They can be made from quartz, a gem, paste, or glass.


Zircon is a common mineral found around the world and is in fact an earth-made gemstone.  Zircon is a historical gem and has been used for almost 2000 years now and comes in many different colors and shades.

Zircon can be looked on as an inferior diamond stimulant, but it is actually a precious natural gemstone. Did you know that some zircons can even have elements from the earth that are radioactive inside them? They also are much rarer than diamonds but come with a lower price tag.

White Spinel

White spinel has been used for many years and dates back to ancient times. White spinel is a gemstone and only recently has been gaining in popularity.

They used to be classified as corundum as they were often found in the same gem mines. However, with closer examination and study these minerals are chemically different. Synthetic spinel is fairly cheap and used in other gems as a stimulant.

Natural earth-grown spinel is rare however they can be found in almost every color!


Rutile is a natural mineral that is most often used as an industrial abrasive. However, in recent years it has been appearing more and more in jewelry as a diamond substitute.

Rutile is a titanium dioxide and is very similar in crystal structure to diamonds. It is a lot harder than cubic zirconia but not quite as hard as moissanite or diamond. Rutile does have a high refractive index and it also has dispersion which means that it does not give off a lot of sparkle.

Synthetic Garnet

Synthetic garnet makes a great diamond simulant. The reason being is that it has a high refractive index and is very hard. The only downside to synthetic garnet is that it does not have the same fire or dispersion as diamonds. However, it still makes a great choice for those on a budget.

Yttrium Aluminum Garnet (YAG) is a man-made gemstone that has a very similar appearance to diamonds. It is often used in laser optics and is also used in jewelry as a diamond substitute.

YAG is not as hard as diamonds but it is still pretty durable. It also has a high refractive index which means that it sparkles a lot. The only downside is that YAG can appear yellowish in color.

Gadolinium Gallium Garnet (GGG) is another man-made gemstone that is often used as a diamond simulant. It has a high refractive index and is also pretty hard. However, GGG can appear yellowish or greenish in color.

Strontium Titanate

Compared to diamond and other types of simulated gemstones, Strontium Titanate displays a shocking amount of fire. Strontium titanate’s high dispersion and cubic structure were some of its characteristics that made it a prime candidate for creating a synthetic diamond. Although it was softer than a diamond, it was still closer in terms of its resemblance to the real thing.

White Topaz

White topaz is a beautiful gemstone that can be found in many different colors. It is often used in jewelry as a diamond substitute because it is very hard and has a high refractive index.


Glass diamonds can be quite beautiful but they certainly are not authentic diamonds. They are made from a type of crystal and then cut and polished to make them as shiny as possible.

What is nice about glass diamonds is they come in an array of different colors and look very sparkly under light.

What does Diamond Simulant Mean?

A diamond imitation, or a diamond that is similar to a real diamond, is referred to as a simulant. Unlike synthetic diamonds, which are made up of the same materials as natural ones, these types of imitations are not considered real diamonds.

A combination of natural, artificial, or both types of imitations can be referred to as a diamond simulant. Although their properties do not match those of real diamonds, these types of imitations have certain characteristics that lend themselves to being imitations. Gemologists can usually distinguish between natural and synthetic diamonds by examining the materials.

Among the most common types of imitations are cubic zirconia and high-leaded glass. Other artificial materials, such as synthetic rutile and strontium titanate, were developed during the 1950s. However, these are no longer widely used. At the end of the 20th century, a lab-grown product known as moissanite emerged as an alternative to diamond.

Due to the high prices of natural diamonds and the ethical concerns surrounding the diamond trade, the demand for diamond simulants has increased.

READ MORE>> Simulants vs. Synthetics: A Quick Guide to Manmade Diamonds

How to tell the Difference Between a Cubic Zirconia and a Diamond.

The best way to differentiate between a cubic zirconia and a diamond is to assess the way that they capture light and the reflection produced by the stone when you hold it up to light. Cubic zirconias will flash a rainbow of colors whereas a diamond will be more bright and shine much more.

You can also do the simple fog test which uses the science behind thermal conductivity. If you breathe on the stone you will notice that the fog on a cubic zirconia should remain for a few seconds whereas the fog on the real diamond will quickly fade almost instantly.

Cubic zirconias are actually not a bad buy if you don’t have the money to spend on a diamond but you would like a little sparkle in your life. Since they are manufactured in a lab they are very durable and you can get them in lots of different sizes. Keep in mind they will scratch and scuff much more easily then diamonds but if you keep it somewhere safe and don’t wear it daily it will hold its value longer.

READ MORE>> Cubic Zirconia Versus Diamond: How to Tell Which is Real

Lab Diamonds are NOT Simulants, they are Real but Synthetic.

Lab diamonds are virtually impossible to detect to the regular eye because they are made up of the exact same composition that a natural diamond has. The only way to have it tested is to take it to a professional jeweler who will be able to tell by the inscription under a microscope.

Lab diamonds are not simulated diamonds. The only difference between a lab diamond and a regular diamond is that one was grown in a lab and one was created in the earth. Lab diamonds also cost less which makes them more appealing to customers.

The creation of a lab diamond is very identical to the way a natural diamond is formed with the use of very high temperatures and pressures.  Once a few weeks have passed the diamond seed in its special chamber would have crystallized enough to become the size of a full rough stone.  Of course, after its cut and polished you end up with the same elements of a natural glimmering diamond.

Lab-created diamonds, although synthetic imitations, are not considered fake because they have the exact same chemical makeup as real true diamond stones.

READ MORE>> Are Lab Grown Diamonds the same as Cubic Zirconia?

Final thoughts about Fake Simulated Diamonds

The takeaway from this article is that there are many different simulated diamonds out there. They are not truly real diamonds because they have been chemically altered in some way and manufactured. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t hold any beauty. I still think the old saying holds true diamonds really are a girl’s best friend whether they are synthetic or man-made.

Want to learn more about fake diamonds and how to test for them? Check out these articles:

Carl A. Jones, GIA GG

Carl A. Jones is a GIA Graduate Gemologist with over 20 years of experience in the diamond industry. He is an independent jewelry appraiser. He specializes in determining the value of diamonds and advising consumers on how to buy quality diamond jewelry.

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