Real Diamonds vs Synthetic - What You Need to Know.

Real Diamonds vs Lab Grown Diamonds, Crystals, Moissanite and Cubic Zirconia - What You Need to Know. 

Your choice of gemstones can significantly impact the overall aesthetic, value and longevity of a piece of jewellery you buy or commission. However, sometimes, as we know, the aesthetic you are after can outweigh your budget. The competitive eye of the Jones’s on at the tennis club will quickly try to weigh up the carats on your ring finger, but rest assured size is not the only measure for a great stone. The rule of thumb is ultimately the 4 Cs: Carat, Cut, Colour and Clarity. You can’t really have just one without considering the others.

Sometimes you just become obsessed with something you want but the price tag on the real diamond version is completely out of reach. Take the not-at-all humble, but quite delicious, Tennis Bracelet, let’s stick with the theme.

A popular choice on the tennis court, of course, and the golf course,also of course. A must have at the polo, and definitely one for the ladies lunch.  

You can read more about the classic Tennis Bracelet, its origins and how to wear it here.

But for now, let’s drool a little over this one - our top-of-the range Tennis Bracelet is an 18k white gold Tennis Bracelet featuring 10 carats worth of diamonds. The price? $26,000


The round-cut diamonds are H-I / I-J in colour with a clarity rating of Si

At the slightly more affordable end of genuine diamond Tennis Bracelets, available in white gold or yellow gold both 9k with 1.5 carats of diamonds.



Such a diamond beauty is quite simply out of budget for so many and there are often concerns about wearing something of such high value, particularly perhaps when you are travelling, so it is a well known fact, that celebrities and the uber wealthy will sometimes keep their expensive jewellery locked away in their safety deposit boxes and wear a replica piece instead.  A piece that was once known as “Costume Jewellery” but thanks to the investment in replica diamond products by brandsbrand such as Thomas Sabo and Swarovski, we have a range of high quality, excellent value look-a-like pieces to satisfy all customers wishes and whims. 


Let’s take a look at 4 synthetic diamond options: 

Cubic Zirconia, Swarovski Crystals, Moissanite and Lab-Grown Diamonds.

While they may all share a sparkling appearance, each gemstone possesses unique characteristics that set them apart. Let's delve a little deeper into the differences between these gemstones to help you make an informed decision when selecting your next piece of jewellery.

The Cubic Zirconia:

At John Franich Jewellers, our range of Cubic Zirconia sits under the Thomas Sabo brand of gorgeously stylish, on trend, and often quite fun, range of charm bracelets, charms and other everyday jewellery. 

The Cubic Zirconia (CZ) was the original diamond look-a-like to enter the market and gained its fame in the 80’s. Dazzling and brilliant, this synthesised crystalline substance was created to mimic the brilliance of diamonds and offer an affordable alternative. The name is derived from the stone’s chemical composition - zirconium dioxide which is what gives it the optically flawless, brilliance and exceptional clarity. 

To the untrained eye, a CZ stone will give the wearer the look and feel of diamonds, without most people knowing for sure whether they are real or not.


CZs comecomes in a variety of colors and cuts, which means that they canthat can add a sparkly touch to a wide range of jewellery, particularly popular in the Charmista range by Thomas Sabo for those collecting charms. Even though CZ may lack the prestige, hardness rating and durability of natural diamonds, its affordability and brilliance make it a desirable option for everyday wear and special occasions alike.  CZs have stood the test of time and continue to offer an affordable and reliable diamond substitute.

View more in the Thomas Sabo Cubic Zirconia Range


Swarovski Crystals:

What Swarovski has done so smartly is to enable consumers to afford the look of high end, dazzling, luxury jewellery, at a fraction of the cost. Daniel Swarovski’s vision back at the start of Swarovski in 1891 was to create “a diamond for everyone”. 



Swarovski crystals are renowned for their unparalleled brilliance and precision-cut facets. Unlike cubic zirconia, Swarovski crystals are not meant to replicate diamonds but rather to create dazzling accents in jewellery and accessories. Swarovski crystals are made from a combination of quartz sand and minerals, which are then heated to high temperatures and infused with metal oxides to achieve their vibrant colors. 

Swarovski’s main focus has been on the precision cutting techniques where the Swarovski artisans have created a sparkle intensity, often outshining natural gemstones under certain lighting conditions.  The ultimate “bling-bling”.



Even though Swarovski crystals may lack the durability of diamonds, they offer a highly fashionable and affordable way to incorporate brilliance and sophistication into your jewellery collection. From delicate earrings to statement necklaces, Swarovski crystals add a touch of glamour to any ensemble, making them a favorite among fashion-conscious individuals. They have almost copied the luxe market model in the look and feel of not just their products, but also their end-to-end brand experience from their product, to their stand-alone stores and visual merchandising solutions to add an extra touch of glam.

So what’s the big deal with lab grown diamonds then?

Diamonds, as you know, are not just loved for their jewellery fame, but also by industry for their integral value as the hardest stone substance known to mankind - well until mankind discovered extraterrestrial galaxy rocks which were thrown down to earth - but we’re talking about stones formed on planet earth.  Diamonds have been used in drills for large, and fine, cutting processes, so the challenge to science and industry was to recreate something equally as hard as a diamond to ensure both the longevity and cost effectiveness of industry.  So it is for this reason that scientists have for over 100 years been experimenting with the concept of creating diamond-like rocks through powerful forces in their laboratories.  Of course their successes had to be trialed in the jewellery world and so we have two contenders for “faux-diamond” jewellery: Moissanite and what is just generally called “Lab-Grown” diamonds. Technically they are both lab grown, but they are not the same.


Moissanite is a lesser known, and not widely available, diamond substitute. It is, in fact, in its original form, a rare mineral which was discovered by the French chemist Henri Moissan in 1893 when he was investigating a meteorite strike in Arizona.  So yes, this is a diamond competitor derived from an extraterrestrial nature.  Due to its meteorite origin, Moissanite is naturally extremely rare, however Moissan worked out that it is a mix of silicon and carbon and so began the exploration of recreating Moissanite in a laboratory to grow copycat diamonds.  What is particularly interesting about both Moissanite and Lab-Grown diamonds is that they are almost as hard as a real earth-made diamonds (they get around a 9.5 on the MOHS scale of hardness rating vs a 10 for diamond) - so indeed they have proven to be useful in industry, and yes, crept into the jewellery world too as a hard, durable and very sparkly everyday competitor to the diamond.  Moissanite in particular has a very high light refraction capability which means depending on the cut you will start to see the colourful rainbow refractions of light through these stones more so than diamonds. This gives Moissanite a distinctively colourful bling on your ring.

Lab-Grown Diamonds:

In 1954, GE researcher H. Tracy Hall and three colleagues built a machine that squeezed carbon so hard it turned into nature’s hardest substance: a diamond. [source: GE Website]

Believe it or not, the first lab-grown diamonds were produced by General Electric (GE) back in the 1950s who planned to use the stones for industrial machinery involved in cutting and polishing metals, glass and even teeth. 

Lab-grown diamonds, also known as synthetic or cultured diamonds, are created in controlled laboratory environments using advanced technology that replicates the natural diamond-growing process. These diamonds exhibit the same physical, chemical, and optical properties as natural diamonds, making them virtually indistinguishable to the naked eye. Even a highly experienced jeweller will sometimes employ a gemological test to check whether a diamond is lab-grown or an authentic mined diamond from planet earth. 

John Franich Jewellers will never leave this to the naked eye, or tests, as they are certified Antwerp Diamond Brokers and only trade in graded and certified diamonds through the city of Antwerp in Belgium and its multitude of diamond dealers and cutters..

Unlike a diamond which has taken millions of years of earth’s pressure to create, a lab-grown diamond can take as little as two weeks to create a 1 carat diamond, or smaller, and up to three months to grow larger diamonds.

The demand for lab grown diamonds has taken off over the past few years due to a number of reasons.  Affordability being the main reason.  A lab-grown diamond will cost 30-40% less than natural diamonds.  As they carry almost all of the properties of real diamonds, such as clarity, hardness and the ability to refract light so beautifully, they are deemed to be worth the investment compared to their original cousins the Cubic Zirconia.  For some consumers, there is growing interest in the ethical and sustainable environmental impact of lab-grown versus mining. However as with most goods in the market the bulk of the lab-grown factories are operating in India and China which means they are largely reliant on coal for the electricity intensive process of making the stones.  When it comes to communities and fair trade, this too requires a lot more auditing to prove that lab-grown are any more, or possibly even less, ethical and sustainable than mined diamonds. 

Like anything manufactured, there is really no limit to the supply and demand for lab-grown diamonds and this only starts to reduce the uniqueness and value of the product over time. This will create issues for insurance providers when determining the replacement values for jewellery made from lab-grown diamonds.  

Historically, economics will tell you that the proliferation of “fake” luxury items only seems to push the prices of the authentic items even higher, as people seek the exclusivity and are willing to pay for it, and the experience of shopping for it too - evident in the experiential investment the stores of luxe brands like Dior, Louis Vuitton and Hermes in China.  Something Swarovski have introduced to their more affordable brand, but giving their customers a similar luxury experience, through their experiential stores on high streets globally and the Kristallwelten Experiential Brand Museum in their hometown in Austria.

So does John Franich support these diamond look-a-like options?

Currently John Franich takes pride in its beautiful range of over 300 natural, mined, diamond jewellery pieces.  All our diamonds are sourced through strict ethical trading and certification processes managed by the premium diamond capital of the world, Antwerp, under the governance of The Kimberley Process to ensure all diamonds are conflict free. 

View this video to find out more - Video 

At John Franich we also believe that the look of diamonds and luxe jewellery should be accessible to all our Zealand, and particularly those close to our store in West Auckland. Through our brands like Thomas Sabo range we stock a range of jewellery featuring Cubic Zirconia gems to add a sparkle to your accessories and our range of Swarovski Crystals have been selected to give you the option of an affordable diamond-look in desirable jewellery must haves, such as Tennis Bracelets, Solitaire Rings and Diamond Stud Earrings. Swarovski ensures a quality piece with all the detailing you would expect from a luxe jewellery piece at a price you can afford.

Should you be interested in Lab-Grown Diamonds or Moissanite for a custom made piece of jewellery, John Franich can absolutely source these stones for you. Book an appointment to discuss this in more detail with Jenni or John Franich who will be able to show you a range and talk you through the options.

In conclusion, while Cubic Zirconia, Swarovski Crystals, Diamonds, and Lab-Grown Diamonds each offer unique characteristics and advantages, the choice ultimately depends on individual preferences, budget, and values. Whether you're drawn to the timeless elegance of diamonds, the affordability of cubic zirconia, the brilliance of Swarovski crystals, or the possible ‘ethical’ appeal of the true diamond-like lab-grown diamonds, there's a gemstone that perfectly suits your style and values. So, adorn yourself with confidence, knowing that your chosen gemstone reflects your unique personality and beliefs.

Click here for a article on the must-know facts about diamonds

And a Step-by-Step Guide to Custom Made Jewellery at JFJ

PLEASE NOTE: It is important to keep your original receipt of all your jewellery purchases which will detail the provenance of the stone and type of stone. When you are seeking a valuation ie: for insurance purposes, or when you need a repair or alteration done by a jeweller.  

*All items shown in this article were available at the time of print. Please chat to us if there is something specific you are after that you can no longer find on the website - email:

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