There is a lot of confusion concerning crystals used in fashion jewelry today. Most crystals used in this kind of jewelry is man-made, but also some natural semi-precious stones are used.
The man-made crystal most resembling natural diamonds is Cubic Zirconia (or CZ) but other crystal types are also emerging.
For a non-professional the difference between CZ and natural diamond is difficult to see. There are a few details a trained person rely on to distinguish the “real” from the “fake”.
- Dispersion – CZ has a greater dispersion than natural diamond. I.e. a more prismatic effect than natural diamond.
- Hardness – CZ is not quite as hard as natural diamond.
- Specific gravity – CZ is more than 1.5 times heavier than natural diamond.
- Flaws – CZ is produced virtually flawless whereas a natural diamond most often has some sort of very slight defect.
- Refractive index – CZ has, typically, an index of 2.176 whereas diamonds has 2.417.
- Cut – CZ is often cut differently from diamonds.
- Color – CZ can be made entirely colorless, whereas only the most rare diamonds are totally colorless.
- Thermal conductivity – CZ is a thermal insulator whilst diamonds are very efficient thermal conductors.
By adding certain metal oxides during the manufacturing process a CZ can be produced in a variety of different colors. The development of CZ is ongoing and a number of new or added features are emerging.
Other man-made crystals are of various quality with regards to shine and lifespan of the crystal’s original look and feel.
Some of these crystals are made with added features like Aurelia Borealis (or AB) and other types of brilliance and shades added to the basic crystal.
AB gives a multi colored shine depending on angle and light.
They come in many colors and shapes and the higher quality types like Swarovski Crystals has a very distinct shine and accuracy in production that retain color, shape and brilliance from one production batch to another and over a longer period of time.
Austria is one center for manufacturing of such crystals and there are other companies producing high quality crystals besides Swarovski, although this is the most well-known.
These types of crystals must be regarded as amongst the highest grade of low-priced lead crystals and very widely regarded as a mark of quality in the fashion jewelry industry.
Another type of lead crystal for fashion jewelry is called Celestial Crystal. It is lower in price and unlike Swarovski it is hand-cut and polished which leads to slightly uneven shape from one crystal to another. The shine is still good and they are also made with added features like AB.
These crystals are, as far as I know, mainly made in China but sold all over the world.
There are also other types of crystal beads for fashion jewelry, like Czech Glass.
These beads does not have quite the brilliance as the Austrian crystal beads but are still widely used in the fashion industry.
They are manufactured by pressing glass in a mold and thereafter roughly faceted by machine. The beads are thereafter put back into a high-temperature oven to give the surface a glazed shimmer. This process is called fire-polishing.
These beads come in a wide variety of colors, shapes and sizes, but it is often difficult to get exactly the same from one batch to another.
We are mainly using Swarovski beads in our products but also, from time to time, some CZ crystals and Czech glass beads in addition to gemstones and pearls.