Daily Wire Tip: What’s a Cubic Zirconia Stone?

By on June 15, 2010
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip


What are CZs, and how are they different from crystals? Where do I find them? How are they different from lab stones?

-Merry in Smithers, B.C.


As I believe you are inquiring about the difference between different cut stone definitions, here is my answer.

Both lab-grown and lab-created stones are those that have been made by man by using the same composition and structure as a natural, earth-grown stone, that can also be labeled “synthetic.” They are most often more vivid in color and rarely have inclusions, as only purified material is used in the process. They are “real” stones, but not from the earth; a stone labeled “simulated” usually means it is of a glass composition. You can find natural gemstones here.

If a cut stone is just called “crystal” it is usually glass. However natural, clear quartz is termed “Rock Crystal” as the piece has more than likely been faceted from a chunk of quartz crystal (as this material rarely forms clear in bulk/matrix).

A Swarovski bead is made of Full Lead Crystal, meaning that the lead oxide content in the glass mixture is a minimum of 32%. The addition of the lead oxide gives this special glass a nice weight as well as extra refractive qualities, making lead crystal sparkle.

Cubic Zirconia, also called “CZ,” is a manmade material that was developed in 1977 to simulate a diamond. Composed of zirconium dioxide, CZs have a hardness of 8, a very high refractive index (giving it the ability to sparkle & shine) and an incredibly high melting point (which is why my PMC friends love this material!). Wire-Sculpture has one of the most amazing selections of loose Cubic Zirconia stones you will find! Follow this link to shop by size or color.

For future reference, the FTC has easily-understood guidelines that can help you when purchasing stones.

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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  1. Pingback: Gemstone Information & Resources | Jewelry Making Instructions

  2. avatar


    November 15, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    what is the difference between cubic ziconia and ziconia
    I have a ziconia bought in 1942
    thank you

    • avatar


      November 16, 2011 at 10:48 am

      Hi Anna, “zirconia” is the same material as “cubic zirconia”, glass. Maybe you have a zircon? Which is a natural mineral that can be used as a gemstone. Follow the link I provided to learn more about the mineral used as a gemstone.

  3. avatar


    November 15, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Oh the beauty of gemstones,rock crystal,and swarovski stones.they are the best to look at and to collect.i love all stone that bling. thank you for the imformation.

  4. avatar


    November 16, 2011 at 12:51 am

    I find it frustrating when people use initials without at least once giving an explanation of what the initials stand for. Case in point? What is FTC? Federal Trade Commission? That’s a guess. What is an RSS feed?

  5. avatar

    Melinda Ager

    November 16, 2011 at 2:01 am

    This is my first time to write a comment, but I really want to thank you for this answer, Dale. It is nice and concise, and will provide me with a simpler answer than I have had for my customers who find confusion in the terms.

    • avatar


      November 16, 2011 at 10:23 am

      Happy to help Melinda! Have an awesome show season!!

  6. avatar

    Kathy Green

    November 16, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Thank you Dale for the great discription of a Swarovski crystal. I am going to use it when I am displaying my jewelry and wedding designs. Customer and other people are always asking what they are and just why they are special. This information along with my comments will really help define the differences.

    Kathy Green

  7. avatar


    March 22, 2012 at 11:46 am

    I have a 2 ct diamond I would like to replicate with a cz, however, it is an old “mine” or European cut diamond. Does anyone make such a shape in a cz or can one be commissioned to be made?

    • avatar


      March 23, 2012 at 6:19 am

      Hello Rhonda, first you have to remember that when speaking of cut stones “2 ct” refers only to the weight and has nothing to do with the “cut”, shape or size of the stone. My suggestion would be to find someone who does custom faceting, bring them your stone and explain what you would like to have done. You can find such a professional by searching on-line, or by visiting your local rock and gem club.
      My great-grandfather had a natural zircon cut to replace a large diamond in a tie pin – when he went on business trips, he would switch the stones out, “just-in-case” and put the original in his safe!

  8. avatar

    Hila Heaps

    July 31, 2012 at 6:12 am

    “Swarovski beads is made of Full Lead Crystal, meaning that the lead oxide”
    Is it dangerous for the health?

    Thank you

    • avatar


      July 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm

      Hi Hila,
      We’ve been watching this issue ever since California created its law on disclosing lead content. Dale is right, the Swarovski beads are fine to wear on the skin. The danger comes from ingesting lead, so to be safe, wash your hands after using Swarovksis and before eating. Make sure the little ones keep the crystals out of their mouths!
      Here’s a link to the California law: http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/LeadInJewelry.cfm

      Swarovski has stated that they believe their product is safe and that their manufacturing process somewhat “locks” the lead inside the crystal, so that the lead won’t escape it and cause harm. You can visit Swarovski’s customer care center here if you have more questions.

  9. avatar

    helen vaslavsky

    February 19, 2013 at 9:54 am

    so… is the differences between a CZ and a Swarovski crystal the lack of 32% lead in the CZ?

    • avatar


      February 19, 2013 at 12:27 pm

      Helen, that is one difference, but Swarovski crystals are made of crystal/glass and CZs are composed of cubic zirconia, which might look like glass but chemically it is very different (zirconium oxide). Also, CZs are “grown,” while I presume that Swarovski’s glass is simply manufactured – but I am not privy to their processes, so that is just a guess :)

  10. avatar

    Pat Klein Gray

    August 6, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Recently I read where Swarovski is going to be making its crystals with no lead content. How will they keep their brilliance? Why did they make this decision?

    • avatar

      Terri Riley

      July 3, 2015 at 7:46 am

      I believe they are already making crystals with no lead. In talking to an online site which sells Swarovski, they implied the crystals would be shipped when the older lead-containing crystals ran out. The girl I talked to also implied we would not know the difference — at least as far as labeling goes. I, too, would be interested in knowing if the non-lead crystals will look as good as the lead-containing ones. If so, we’ll likely never know how they did it as it will be a Swarovski trade secret.

  11. avatar


    September 19, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Thank you, Dale, for all this information. I pretty much only use Swarovski crystals and I love them. The sparkle is like no other stone.

  12. avatar

    Tippy Mueller

    June 15, 2015 at 8:52 am

    This is more of a comment than a question regarding the metaphysical meaning of CZs. As artists and jewelry designers giving meaning to our work, it’s nice to look up the meanings of stones. For CZs think of them as a man made Garnet. So, all the meanings attributed to Garnets can be applied to CZs of the same coloring. Of course, there’s no science to prove it. I’ve been interested and collecting information on the meanings of stones since the early 1990’s. I’ve learned to follow your heart, choose what appeals to you and then look it up. Something in the explanation will resonate and apply to the piece you are making to wear or might even apply to the other person intended to wear it.