By Markita Reed

Diamonds are a symbol of ultimate luxury, but the cubic zirconia can have its place in your jewelry box. This synthetic gemstone is made of zirconium oxide (ZrO2), an extremely rare mineral in nature. A cubic zirconia may not have the same value as a diamond, but it's almost as reflective and malleable. Usually set in silver or gold, it can be pretty convincing for affordable everyday earrings, pendants, necklaces, bracelets and even engagement and wedding rings.

Gold jewelry.
credit: Faferek/iStock/GettyImages
The Value of Cubic Zirconia

Look for the Four Cs

The cut and size determines the quality of a cubic zirconia. To be more precise, the four Cs used to measure the value of diamonds are also applied to this gemstone: clarity, cut, color and carat. All of these play a role in determining the price and value of a cubic zirconia.

Find It in Unique Colors

Cubic zirconia comes in an impressive array of colors, from classic white to bubbly pink. There's also the unusual color of purple, similar to deep-purple amethyst. Other hues are subdued, like champagne, or more vivid, like emerald green, blue sapphire and orange.

Learn What's Great About CZ

Diamonds and cubic zirconias have similar qualities, and they're almost identical, so it's hard for the average person to tell them apart. CZ is also 75 percent heavier than a diamond, but it's sold at a fraction of the price.

Cubic zirconia has a practically flawless surface without external blemishes or internal inclusions. Its hardness of about 8.5 on the Mohs scale – harder than most natural gems – makes it super resistant to scratching.

Another bonus: CZ is versatile enough to be made into a colorless or colored gemstone.

Just Know: They're Not Diamonds

OK, cubic zirconia might look expensive, but the truth is, it's not a very good investment. As a synthetic gemstone, it does not hold its price, meaning you usually can't resell it for a higher price.

Another downside is that it gives off a more synthetic effect. The colorless or whiteness is less believable when put alongside white diamonds, as the latter are extremely rare. Although cubic zirconia reflects light like a diamond, it has less sparkle and thus, less brilliance.

Cubic zirconia is also brittle and has less durability to resist breakage from impacts and falls.

Unlike diamond jewelry, cubic zirconia does not have the same elite status. If you're trying to exude wealth and timeless elegance, CZ probably won't pass in the eyes of certain people. But if all you're trying to do is feel chic in some eye-catching jewels, go for it!