With stones in jewelry, you often hear these different terms come along. Gold ring set with zirconia, silver necklace with rhinestones or a piece of jewelry with a real diamond. But what is the difference between rhinestones, zirconia and diamonds?
Diamond is the only true gemstone. Diamond is a natural product and is among the hardest material in the world. Zirconia is a synthetic stone, meaning artificially made. Thus, zirconia is not a natural product, but man-made to imitate diamond.
This is the same with rhinestones. Strass is man-made and therefore artificial. Strass is made of glass. Both zirconia and rhinestone are very similar to diamonds and therefore are often used as cheaper alternatives to incorporate into jewelry.
Of course, in terms of hardness, as well as value, it cannot be compared to a natural diamond.
Zirconia (zirconium oxide) was discovered in 1937 but not used in jewelry until the 1970s. Zirconia is less hard and 75 percent heavier in weight. Strass was discovered by Georg Friedrich Strass (1701-1773). Strass is created from a chemical manufacturing process that makes cut glass look like diamonds. Mr. Strass became enormously famous and rich because of this, even Louis XV had his crown jewels made from it.
Other than rhinestones and zirconia, other gemstones are also imitated and thus artificially imitated. Some synthetic gemstones are almost indistinguishable from the natural gemstone. It is sometimes very difficult to tell the difference between an imitation gemstone and a genuine gemstone. Experts of experience, gold and silversmiths and jewelers often see this, but it is difficult for a layman to see. Therefore, always buy your jewelry from a jeweler who understands this, or get advice first.