Diamond Stand-ins

A simulant will save a fortune , but not a face
lab-grown diamond's illustration

Diamonds are the stone of choice for engagement rings because they are colorless and durable. They can be worn daily without getting chipped, scratched, or dull (if kept clean). The same reason why engagement rings are usually made with white metal -platinum or white gold. A colorless ring is easy to color-coordinate and can be worn year-round with any outfit and for any occasion, formal or casual. Because of that, there are only a few options to replace a diamond in an engagement ring.

Simulants vs. Substitutes

Simulants or imitation diamonds, faux diamonds, fake diamonds, etc., are synthetic gemstones resembling diamonds such as Moissanite and CZs.  Unlike lab-grown diamonds, simulants have vastly different chemical compositions and physical and optical properties. Simulants were used to trick people in the past, but they are now simply stand-ins for natural diamonds. With lab-grown diamond prices dropping fast, their value practically evaporated. 

Diamond substitutes are natural gemstones – Spinels, Topazes, Sapphires, and Zircons that look different and cannot be mistaken for diamonds. Their use in engagement rings is a personal choice.



Aquamarine’s color is typically lighter than a sapphire’s deep blue but warmer than a spinel’s cold and steely tone. Its color is very calming and subdued, similar to the tone of a fancy blue diamond. Aquamarine is a moderately priced, widely available, well-known gemstone associated with a good marriage. 

Aquamarine’s cool blue color is neutral, radiating a sense of calm and relaxation. That’s why Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter all have blue logos. Aquamarine is a variety of beryl with exceptional luster and clarity and is high on the list of diamond alternatives. It has a rich history predating the Roman Empire, highly prized for thousands of years.


Spinel is a natural gemstone in various colors ranging from red, orange, pink, purple, and lavender to black. Light-blue or light-grey spinels are popular in engagement rings due to their excellent hardness and magnificent fire. Its girdle can be left exposed without worrying about getting chipped. Spinel works well in three-stone engagement rings and solitaires. Precious red spinels have long been mistaken for rubies. Recently spinel was added as August’s second birthstone. 

Colorless Zircon


Zircon was the most common diamond impersonator. Zircon is relatively hard (7.5 on Mohs scale) and has exceptional fire due to its strong dispersion. Naturally tinted yellow-brown zircons look exactly like low-color Brazilian diamonds common until South African diamonds were discovered. Colorless zircon is known for its brilliance and flashes of multicolored light called fire.

Topaz is durable, has a lot of fire and brilliance, and is inexpensive. It looks equally good as a brilliant cut – such as round, oval, cushion, or step-cut emerald. Topaz comes in various natural colors, such as light gray, baby blue, light brown, taupe, or pale yellow. The colorless topazes are nuked to induce the familiar bright-blue color. The irradiation results in a permanent color and leaves no radioactive residue. A deep pink or red variety called Precious or Imperial topaz is costly.

Colorless topaz
Colorless topaz


Trace elements cause corundum to turn blue, yellow, green, orange, pink, purple, and red we call ruby.

Depending on color saturation and origin, sapphires can be extremely expensive. Most people are familiar with blue sapphires, but they also can be colorless, which is the least expensive variety. Few colorless sapphires are left as-is; they are typically heated to produce a more desirable blue color.

Colorless sapphires have a dull, glassy look because corundum is not good at bending light or breaking it into spectral colors because of low dispersion. A colorless sapphire’s luster is inferior to the pure adamantine luster of a diamond. It appears blurry, washed out, and cannot be confused with a diamond.

Colorless sapphire is a poor choice when compared to other gemstones, either natural or synthetic. Light blue sapphires, on the other hand, are very affordable and attractive stones.


Moissanite is an extremely hard mineral – silicon carbide naturally occurring in meteorites. Moissanite has 9.25 hardness on the Mohs hardness scale – by far the hardest mineral except for a diamond. It has minimal cleavage, so it will not chip easily and is very safe to use and wear. It was named Moissanite after Nobel prize winner Henry Moissan who first identified it as a new mineral. Charles & Colvard produced greenish-yellow material until their patent expired in 2016. Asian manufacturers quickly figured out how to make pure white material and flooded the market with inexpensive moissanite better suitable for jewelry. All of it is produced in China.  Because moissanite has strong double refraction (pleochroism), it contrasts with diamond accents.

CZ- Cubic Zirconia

Cubic Zirconia, or CZ, is a hard (8.5 on the Mohs scale), single-refractive mineral. Unlike Moissanite, it does not have pleochroism – the dreaded doubling effect. In 1937 German mineralogists found naturally occurring grains of cubic zirconia, and in the 70s, Soviet scientists working on laser weapon systems accidentally synthesized it. They named the new mineral Fianit an acronym for the Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Science (FIAN). Asian producers seized the opportunity, and soon cheap generic material flooded the markets. Early production was often contaminated with undissolved flux remnants, causing the stones to turn yellow with time. Modern stones will not become yellow or cloudy.

CZs’ high dispersion is responsible for a significant amount of “fire” – a rainbow-like color separation of the light exiting the stone. Because of it, a CZ has more fire than a diamond. But CZs’ lower refractive index results in a substandard brilliance with less contrast resembling a diamond with a strong fluorescence.

However, since step-cuts have less brilliance and sparkle, an emerald- or an Asscher-cut CZ looks very diamond-like. CZs’ tell-tale brightness that makes it unnaturally white can be masked with a thin layer of tinted coating, similar to the coating on a pair of sunglasses. This coat is not stable and scratches off easily.

CZs go by a multitude of names born of creative marketing. “Diamonique,” used by the QVC shopping network, is an example of such deceptive branding. Others, such as Diamond Nexus Labs, Russian Brilliants, Carat.cc, Sona Diamond, Signity Diamonnique, Lannite, Fianit, Van Graff, Zironite, Amora, and many more are vying for a market share with unsubstantiated claims that their material is different.

Blonde moissanite header

Blonde™ Moissanite is a superior brand of Moissanite sold exclusively by Leon Mege jewelers.

Its unmatched beauty is due to the highly selective proprietary manufacturing process. Leon Mege Blonde™ Moissanite cut usually exceeds GIA (Gemological Institute of America) accepted cutting tolerances set for diamonds.

This high standard ensures that Leon Mege Blonde™ Moissanite is the most desirable brand of Moissanite. We employ the most experienced cutters and polishers to unleash the beauty of our Blonde™ Moissanite. Leon Mege Blonde™ Moissanite is not intended to simulate a diamond but is marketed as a diamond stand-in instead.

You can enjoy this beautiful stone at a fraction of a diamond cost and significantly lower prices than any competing brands such as Charles and Colvard, F&B, NEO, and others. Crystal structure, transparency, brilliance, and visual beauty are the pillars of our proprietary manufacturing process. Leon Mege Blonde™ Moissanite will never chip, crack or discolor; it is extremely durable but still demands the same respect as any other gemstone.

Modern moissanite and, in particular, Leon Mege Blonde moissanite does not have a yellow or green overtone; it is absolutely white. There is no grading system similar to a diamond’s 4C’s for moissanite; they are graded solely by color. Each moissanite vendor claims superior cut and clarity. This is a superficial claim due to the low cost of the rough material. Producing an excellent cut is easy when preserving the weight is not an object.
Leon Mege Blonde Moissanite is superior to other Moissanite brands because our cutters have an overwhelmingly better experience and knowledge. Faceting silicon carbide to look like a natural diamond requires slightly different angles. This is due to the difference in the optical properties of moissanite. Collection-color Blonde moissanite is a rough equivalent of GIA D-E color in diamonds. Production grade is F-G, and Commercial grade is H-I.

True Antique cushion moissanite

Blonde™ Moissanite is available in a wide variety of cuts, but the Leon Mege Trie Antique cut remains the most popular and requested. It has the perfect combination of brightness, fire, and enough sparkle to ignite a forest fire. Because of their proportions, Leon Mege’s antique cushion Blonde™ moissanites are brighter and show more fire than any other cushions. Their light return is outstanding, outperforming any competing brands. Kept clean and well cared for, Blonde™ Moissanite will last a lifetime.

True Antique™ cushion
True Antique™ cushion Blonde™ Moissanite
Blonde moissanite

What is Moissanite?

Moissanite is a transparent silicon carbide with an impressive 9.25 hardness on the Mohs scale. It is significantly harder than all other gemstones except diamonds. For comparison, Cubic Zirconia’s (CZ) hardness measures 8-8.5. Moissanite is so durable that you will never have to worry about damaging the stone. It can be scratched only by a diamond.

Blonde Moissanite’s remarkable diamond-like appearance easily fools a casual observer. Even an experienced jeweler sometimes needs a loupe to tell the difference. Moissanite has excellent brilliance and a superior dispersion, or “fire.” In particular, Moissanite looks incredibly natural, very diamond-like as an antique cushion – one of our specialties.

In Living Colors

Blonde™ Moissanite is available in many hues, including:

  • Colorless: This is the most popular moissanite color, often used as a substitute for diamonds. It is clear and brilliant, and it has a high refractive index, which means that it bends light very well, producing fiery bliss.
  • Near-colorless: This material has a slightly yellow or grayish tint, barely registering with a casual observer. Near-colorless material is favored by those who want to maximize the resemblance to a natural diamond.
  • Fancy colors:  Blonde™ Moissanite is also produced in a variety of fancy colors, such as pink, blue, green, and yellow. Fancy-colored moissanite is often used in fashion pieces as an affordable substitute for colored gemstones.
Blonde Moissanite colors

The sizes we can supply are virtually unlimited. Realistically speaking, in larger sizes, double refraction is too noticeable, and it should be avoided.

Despite the claims by its producers, there is no difference between all moissanite brands. All moissanite is produced in China in massive industrial vats and imported in quantities to the US. What makes Blonde™ Moissanite different is the superior cutting skills of our cutters. Any claim of superiority by any brand of moissanite is unfounded.

Moissanite is an inexpensive diamond substitute on its way out, to be replaced by lab-grown diamonds. The same goes for natural diamonds.

lab-grown diamonds illustration

Lab-grown diamonds are identical to those found in nature. Both types have the same physical, chemical, and optical properties, so only strenuous gemological testing can tell them apart. Unlike natural diamonds that offer a mysterious cache of rarity and historical significance, lab-grown diamonds offer low prices and unlimited options. Natural diamonds are mined in the wild around the globe, while lab-grown diamonds are cultivated in factories. 

In 1954 Howard Tracy Hall synthesized the first artificial diamond at the GE lab in Schenectady, NY. He was rewarded with a $10 US savings bond for that invention, and GE went on to make a fortune. Forty years later, gem-quality material suitable for jewelry was produced.

We offer IGI and GIA-certified lab-grown diamonds of any size and shape

Leon Mege is your one-stop shop for certified lab-grown diamonds at wholesale prices. A lab-grown option will allow you to choose a better cut, higher grade, and much larger diamond. For over 30 years, Leon Mege has been using and promoting lab-grown diamonds. We are trendsetters pioneering the use of lab-grown diamonds in bespoke hand-forged jewelry. The same relentless technological progress that brought us Gorilla Glass Victus and Peeps eyeglass cleaners gave us the miracle of diamond science that is conflict-free, ethically produced, and 100% recyclable.

Lab grown diamond tester by GIA

How to tell the difference?

The lab-grown diamonds are authentic diamonds even a veteran gemologist cannot identify from those spit out by volcanos. Unlike lab-grown rubies and sapphires, synthetic diamonds don’t have tell-tale inclusions, just like in-vitro children cannot be told apart from children spawn through physical relationships. 

Lab-grown diamonds are NOT “imaginary” diamonds like simulants such as moissanite or CZ’s. Only technologically advanced and costly equipment gem labs use can separate one another. 

Are lab-grown diamonds ecologically clean?

The lab-grown industry perpetuates the myth of lab-grown diamonds being “sustainable” or “eco-friendly” and accuses natural diamonds of polluting the environment. Lab-grown diamonds are not ecologically clean, not to mention that most factories are located in countries with little regard for the environment. The immense heat and diabolical pressure needed to produce a one-carat diamond are compared to the energy of a volcanic eruption. The energy required to synthesize a diamond can go as high as 1,000 kWh per carat, depending on the production method. That does not chime well with false claims about zero carbon footprint. To learn more, watch the 2022 documentary Nothing Lasts Forever.

How Much are Lab-Grown Diamonds?

Lab-grown diamonds are priced 70-80% less than a natural equivalent. For example, as of May 2023, a two-carat ideal-cut lab-grown diamond graded D-F/VVS retails for approximately $3,000, while its natural counterpart sells for approximately 25K.  Currently, lab-grown diamonds are priced according to the 4C’s: cut, clarity, color, and carat weight, with rates pegged to the natural price list. Undoubtedly this arrangement will change in the future, and lab diamond prices will become independent. Their prices depend only on the manufacturing cost profit, while natural prices reflect diamonds’ scarcity. While natural diamonds trade in a wide spectrum of colors and clarity grades, the low lab-grown prices narrow the selection to a few top grades. We expect eventually lab-grown diamonds to settle into 2-3 quality categories, where low grades become obsolete. Putting silly superstitions to rest, a lab-grown diamond will save tons of money compared to natural.

Diamonds from Tequila

Researchers at Mexico’s University of Nueva Leon near Monterrey found that Tequila, the country’s national drink,  produced a diamond film when heated under pressure. Google it if you don’t believe it. We can imagine the rigorous scientific effort by the heroic researchers who probably took many shots of  80% proof Tequila Blanco, which requires a short aging process. The late-night tests confirmed that the drink crystallized into a diamond-like structure. On the other hand, a breakthrough cancer drug created in Mexico from Corona beer turned out to be a hoax.

Diamonds do not grow on trees

Growing diamonds

Visually and physically, lab-grown diamonds are identical to diamonds extracted from the ground. The crystal growth is induced by immense heat and pressure, similar to natural conditions and processes inside the earth. Layer by layer, carbon molecules are deposited on a diamond seed, and theoretically, it can grow to any size. For practical purposes, their growth is limited because huge diamonds have no practical purposes. However, in the future, when there will be diamond doorknobs, diamond desk lamps, and even diamond windows, the ginormous lab-grown diamonds might become useful again.

The lab-grown industry despises the term “synthetic.” They insist on the term “lab-grown,” which invokes peaceful green pastures where diamonds are roaming free, fattening up on organically grown graphite. What causes more harm to nature, mining, or synthesizing, is a subject for debate.

Before the 1800s, diamonds were so rare only kings and queens were lucky enough to wear them. But things changed. Despite what the diamond industry says now, the world is not running out of natural diamonds. The price of natural diamonds is kept artificially high by DeBeers. This monopoly has succeeded in controlling the diamond market for over two centuries. DeBeers and Alrosa, the Russian diamond mining monopoly, keep the supply of raw materials scarce and prices artificially high. DeBeers learned that diamonds are forever the hard way because every diamond ever found is still with us.

More and more diamonds are unearthed daily, and they do not age. An old diamond is indistinguishable from a newly found one. The price decline over the last decade is a warning sign of DeBeers losing its grip on the market. The average mine removes 250 tons of earth, wastes 120 gallons of water, and emits 143 pounds of carbon dioxide to produce just one carat of diamonds. There are plenty of natural diamonds to satisfy human vanity until our civilization self-destructs. The only difference between natural and lab-grown diamonds boils down to their cost.

Natural diamonds are naturally pricier, and yet, for that same reason, they offer greater satisfaction than their human-made clones. It is all about how natural diamonds make you feel. Their high price is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you pay very little for a lab-grown diamond, studies suggest, your experience is less enjoyable. When you pay more for a natural diamond, you feel you have something more valuable, giving the feeling of romance and tranquility. 

So-called Blue Nuance diamonds are some HPHT-grown diamonds with faint blue tints. Rarely found in nature, the blue tint results from the element Boron impregnating the crystal structure. The HPHT process uses boron as a catalyst and helps clear the nitrogen. Any noticeable tint, whether yellow, green, brown, or blue, can affect the diamond’s appearance and color grade. But unlike brown, gray, or yellow tints not mentioned in the lab report, the blue tint can be commented as “faint blue.” The bluish undertone typically lowers the color grade, which makes Blue Nuance diamonds more affordable. These stones often appear better because blue cancels out the yellow tint in stones below H in color.

HPHT diamonds are more expensive to produce than CVD diamonds. However, there is absolutely no difference as far as the consumer is concerned.

HPHT is an acronym for High-Pressure High-Temperature, which is a process of subjecting carbon fuel to extreme pressure and temperature to turn it into a diamond crystal. CVD stands for Chemical Vapor Deposition, where superheated gas is used to stimulate and grow a small diamond “seed” crystal into a full-sized diamond.

CVD vs. HPHT lab-grown diamonds

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