How can you tell real diamonds from synthetics?

Do you know the difference between genuine diamonds and synthetics? And can you spot a fake when looking at engagement ring or wedding bands? If not, then you need to read this practical advice from Ruth Donaldson, jewellery concierge at Heirloom London, on what to look for when you go diamond shopping.

Lucky Loop platinum earrings by Atelier Helene Apitzsch, £480


Here are the key things to consider when diamond shopping, along with some of her favourite pieces from the Heirloom London collections:


1. The Cut 

The facets cut on the stone are often a give-away; a diamond can only be polished by another diamond, and therefore its facets usually have much sharper edges than a synthetic.  In addition, there is much more fire reflected from a diamond.  A cubic zirconia doesn’t have a brilliance of its own, but this is often more apparent when light is shone on it.  A good diamond will still have a fire to it, even when not in direct light.

2. The Characteristics
A cubic zirconia will look more perfect.  Naturally occurring cubic zirconias are not large enough to be used in jewellery.  As a result, all stones are synthetic, and they are formed to be perfect.  A diamond is like a snowflake, each one with its own individual cut and personality generated through the microscopic inclusions which makes it unique.


3.The Clarity 

While a cubic zirconia will wear away and in time the stone will look dull, a diamond does not wear and will stay sparkly for the lifetime of the ring.  You’ll quite often see with cubic zirconia jewellery, that after a few years the stones have lost a bit of their original sparkle.
Snowdrop platinum ring by Rachel Galley, £665


4. The Certificate
If you really aren’t sure, the majority of good diamonds carry certification which you can ask to see.  Any reputable retailer is going to offer you a genuine diamond, the cost to their business reputation would be fatal otherwise.

5. The Cost
Finally, if the price seems too good to be true, it may be that the diamond you are buying is not as good as its marketing hype.

Lily Pendant by Heirloom Classics, £950 for platinum set with quarter carat diamond

But what are the alternatives if you simply can’t afford a diamond this time? 

Lab-grown stones
Cubic Zirconia – a clear stone, it has a brilliance sometimes higher than that of a diamond, but they don’t have the same fire. It is mass-produced and a one carat cubic zirconia should not be more than a few pounds! 

Moissanite – promoted as a diamond alternative in many countries and like all gem quality stones, it is synthetically produced. Much harder than cubic zirconia, they also cost a lot more to produce and most stones will have some colour to them.
Fei Liu cascade earrings in silver plate with rose gold vermeil, £395

Natural stones 
Zircon – similar in brilliance and fire to a diamond, although colourless, these stones are more rare. Not recommended for everyday rings as they are quite a soft stone.

Dementoid Garnet – bright green stones, which are very rare, and seldom found in larger sizes than one carat.  They have higher brilliance and fire than diamonds, but again are unfortunately very soft and can blunt the edges of their facets.
Enaki Sun sterling silver ring set with white sapphires by Rachel Galley, £280
Heirloom London is a personalised jewellery buying service which combines the convenience of a concierge, with the support of a personal shopper and the buying advantage of an industry insider. 
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Heirloom London

For more inspiration when looking to buy your wedding rings, read our previous features with beautiful designs from Laings and Aurus here and top tips from Vashi Dominguez here.