Diamonds might be a girl’s best friend, but they aren’t exactly an affordable stone. Just a small, authentic diamond can cost several hundred dollars. On the other hand, 1 carat of cubic zirconia can be as little as $20. It was initially discovered in 1892, but commercial production did not begin until the late 1970’s. Not one person is truly responsible for the development of cubic zirconia, so let’s take a look through the decades to see who contributed to this diamond substitute.
At First It Wasn’t Even Important
Back in 1937, Stackelberg and Chudoba were busy studying the elements of the Earth. During their research, they discovered that cubic zirconia was growing naturally within regular old zircon. The German scientists thought their discovery was just a byproduct of the formation process and confirmed the presence of it via x-rays. There was just one problem: they thought it was an unimportant discovery. They didn’t even give it a name.
Fast forward about 25 years and head across the border to France. Under the guidance of Roulin and Collongues, scientists are working on growing cubic zirconium under lab conditions. The process, which is called “cold crucible,” yielded the first small crystals that we think of today in the jewelry that sparkles like a diamond.
It was until later, in the next 10 years, that Soviet scientists were able to begin perfecting the process of growing larger crystals and perfecting them into jewelry. The initial jewels that were made were called “fianit” after the institute that helped to create them. This process, called the “skull crucible,” was a formation process that was named after the shape of the container where the crystals were grown.
Did You Know Cubic Zirconia Grows Naturally?
The natural form of cubic zirconia is actually very rare. It is so rare, in fact, that all of the cubic zirconia jewelry that is on the market today has been synthetically grown. Cubic zirconia actually has more refraction than a diamond, so today’s manufacturers have begun adding new products to the stones to make them appear more real. One of those advancements is a diamond-like carbon that tones down the luster of the stone and makes it harder.
Other additions, including gold, topaz, or quartz have been added as a thin oxide layer to cubic zirconia to give it a unique sheen. The effect is not permanent because abrasions will take off the thin oxide layer, but the invention is another aspect of how this stone has infiltrated all parts of society.
For a stone that has only been sold for about 40 years, there was a lot of work that took place before cubic zirconia could become a commercial success. It may occur naturally, but if you are wearing a piece of this synthesized material, you are wearing something that came from the imagination of one of today’s scientific minds.