New Diamond Substitute

ByABC News
February 5, 2001, 6:01 PM

Feb. 8 -- Fashion-minded females from around the country flock to New Yorks Canal Street the Mecca for counterfeit chic to buy knockoffs of the latest designer purses, sunglasses and watches.

No longer regarded as inferior copies, the fakes have become fashionable. Even the glamorous Samantha from HBO's trend-setting Sex in the City endorses them: "Oh who cares," she tells her doubting friend Miranda in one episode, "all that matters is what it looks like."

If fake is in, a lot of men may be asking themselves, "Why buy a woman a real diamond when there are substitute stones that even fool the experts?"

When cubic zirconia first became popular in the early '80s, it fooled a lot of people. And it cost less that $5 per carat. However, cubic zirconia doesn't sparkle quite like a diamond, and over time it gets scratched and loses its luster.

But now there is a new stone called moissanite that is almost as hard as a diamond and even more brilliant. It's a manmade version of a mineral first found in a meteorite 100 ago. At roughly $600 a carat, it's about 1/10 of what diamonds cost. Best of all, it fools a lot of the professionals.

Click here to compare close-up pictures of a diamond, a cubic zirconia and a moissanite. users tried to guess which one was the genuine article.

Nearly 70% of the voters guessed the wrong stone. Ring number three is the real diamond and number two, with 45.7% of the votes, is the moissanite.

But users were not the only ones fooled.

20/20 took a 1-carat moissanite ring to 10 jewelers in the Washington, D.C., area and asked them to examine it and make a rough estimation of its value. Five of them thought the moissanite ring was a real diamond worth thousands of dollars. It even tricked an electronic diamond detector.

The is a visible difference between the two stones under magnification. A moissanite has double refraction lines and a diamond has single lines. But if a jeweler's not looking closely through a microscope, he is is likely to be fooled.