Another collection of little-known facts about jewelry and the gems, precious metals and artisans of the trade.
Remember when those hour-long TV commercials started? You could get any number of exclusive kitchen tools and appliances or exercise equipment by calling the number at the bottom of the screen. If you were born in the 60’s or earlier, you most likely remember one of the most cited items ever showcased on these shows: The Cubic Zirconia.
The name alone is an interesting marketing device. To state that something is cubic implies a defined shape and it implies a perfect shape. Think about it. It is not a Round Zirconia, it is a Cube, a shape that requires precise workmanship, or divine intervention depending on the point of view of the subconscious mind.
Furthermore, it is not a cubic diamond or a cubic gemstone. The name of this gem is not a generic term; it is a word that conjures up science, history and mystery all at once. There is “power” in the name Zirconia. It has a Greek flavor to it; reminiscent of Greek deities or heroes, an image that is very strongly embedded in our culture.
As we have pointed out previously, the pearl is the only gem that is made by an animal. It is made on purpose, but as a result of an irritant, namely, a grain of sand. By comparison, the Cubic Zirconia is one of the first man-made gems, made on purpose, not as a natural response to the environment but as a response to scientific need. This is a bit of an evolutionary stretch, isn’t it? We are a peculiar and fascinating bunch.
Notice that the Zirconia is not entirely man-made. In fact, it was originally discovered in nature, by German mineralogists, in the early 1900’s. It was originally intended for scientific use due to its refractory abilities as well as its imperviousness to chemical or heat injury.
The Cubic Zirconia that is sold as a gem was developed by Soviet scientists and the same technique they used to create the now famous gem is still in use today. In essence, Zirconium is grown into large crystals that are then cut into gem-size stones. The colors are achieved by using different metal oxides during the process.
A telescope is required in order to differentiate a Zirconia from a diamond with certainty.
Another characteristic of the Zirconia is that it does not refract light in the same way as a diamond, even one of similar cut.
A Cubic Zirconia weighs more than a diamond of the same size, but it is not as hard as a diamond.
A diamond retains its inherent color; a Zirconia typically loses its color over time.
The Cubic Zirconia was introduced to the jewelry market in the 1970’s and as been as popular as the diamond since, but for different reasons. Unlike the diamond, however, its surface does not retain its pristine initial luster…. and the most famous marketing phrase of all times, “A diamond is a girl’s best friend,” just does not have quite the right flavor when you say, “A Cubic Zirconia is a girl’s best friend.”