Teaching Students About Cubic Zirconia
Cubic zirconia, known as CZ, is a lab-created gemstone that has gained popularity for its brilliance, affordability, and its striking similarity to diamonds. It is essential that students understand the properties and uses of cubic zirconia to make informed decisions about gemstones in both personal and professional settings.
The Properties of Cubic Zirconia
1. Composition: In a classroom setting, it is crucial to discuss the fundamental composition differences between cubic zirconia and natural diamonds. While diamonds are made of pure carbon atoms arranged in a crystalline structure, cubic zirconia is comprised of zirconium dioxide.
2. Hardness: Explain to students the scale used for measuring gemstone hardness – the Mohs scale. Diamonds hold the top spot on the scale with a hardness rating of 10, while cubic zirconia holds an impressive 8.5 hardness rating. This quality makes CZ resilient and durable enough for regular wear.
3. Reflective Index: Teaching students about the refractive index (RI) is necessary for understanding how brilliantly a gemstone can reflect light. Draw attention to the fact that cubic zirconia has a higher refractive index than diamonds (2.15-2.18 vs. 2.42), which means that it shines brighter when well-cut.
4. Color: Address the color spectrum found in cubic zirconia compared to diamonds. While high-quality diamonds display a colorless appearance, lower quality diamonds have an apparent yellowish tinge. CZ stones appear much more colorless as they do not contain any organic material or natural impurities.
Uses and Applications
1. Jewelry: Due to its affordability and visual similarity to diamonds, cubic zirconia can be introduced as an attractive alternative for creating elegant jewelry designs that are budget-friendly.
2. Science and Technology: Educate students about how cubic zirconia finds applications within science and technology, such as using it for laser components and producing materials with high thermal conductivity.
Discuss the ethical concerns regarding conflict diamonds. Contrast this with the production of cubic zirconia, which is widely accepted as an eco-friendly and conflict-free alternative. Encourage students to make more informed decisions when selecting gemstones.