Skip to main content


What's White Topaz? The Ultimate Diamond Alternative Guide

Ring Advice

Jewelry shopping can be intimidating. That’s why we started Ask Holden, our blog where we answer your FAQs, break down scary industry lingo, and guide you in finding the perfect piece of jewelry.

Lab-grown diamonds vs. natural diamonds, cubic zirconia vs. lab diamond, cubic zirconia vs. moissanite…wait, you’re telling me there’s white sapphire and white topaz, too?

We get it: choosing the perfect stone for your engagement ring can seem complicated and overwhelming. Luckily, we’re here to help make that decision easy.

Keep reading for a simplified version of everything you need to know when debating natural vs. lab-grown diamonds and their alternatives, so you can get onto the fun part: designing your ring!


Natural Diamonds

Before we start comparing diamond alternatives, let’s go back to the basics. What is a natural diamond, and how is it made?

Diamonds are created from carbon and are the hardest naturally occurring substance we know of. Though the word diamond comes from the Greek word adamas, meaning indestructible, it’s important to note that diamonds aren’t really indestructible (more on this later).

Natural diamonds are formed deep below the Earth’s surface in the mantle, where high pressure and temperatures create the perfect environment for carbon to become solid. The diamonds we have today are super old (like billions of years old) and were brought closer to Earth’s surface via volcanic eruption, which is why we’re able to mine them.

Unfortunately, there are environmental implications to diamond mining, including the destruction of ecosystems. Not only that, but mined diamonds are also often used to fund conflict in war-torn areas.

Luckily, there’s something called the Kimberley Process which makes conflict (or blood) diamonds much less prevalent today through their certification standards. Even still, it can be hard to know for sure if some diamonds are responsibly sourced.

Lab-Grown Diamonds

When comparing lab-grown and natural diamonds, the first thing most people notice is price. That’s pretty much the only difference you’ll notice, since a lab-grown diamond is 100% identical to a natural diamond, with the same exact chemical composition.

You mean I can get the same exact thing for a fraction of the price? Is this a scam? Yes, you can, and no, it’s not a scam! Some jewelers will try to trick you into thinking it is, but they probably have a lot of natural stones to sell. 👀

Our favorite part of lab-grown diamonds? Their ethical implications are much better than natural diamonds overall. One, you never run the risk of accidentally purchasing a blood diamond. Two, they don’t require the clearing of land and the destruction of entire habitats and ecosystems.

Unfortunately, both natural and lab-grown diamonds lead to a significant amount of carbon emissions. However, natural diamonds have been said to emit “five-and-a-half times what it takes to make synthetic diamonds,” according to research done by Stanford Magazine.

At Holden, we’re Climate Neutral Certified, meaning that we’ve committed to measuring, reducing, and compensating for all of our carbon emissions since 2021. So if you purchase a lab diamond from us, you can rest assured that we’ll take action to compensate for your diamond’s carbon footprint.

We have a lot more we could say about natural and lab diamonds, but we already wrote a full blog post on it! Check it out if you’re curious to learn more.

Holden's The Domed Bezel Solitaire (Pear), The Embrace Solitaire Set (Oval), The Arc Solitaire (Pear), The Facade Signet (Princess) rings



Onto our first diamond simulant: moissanite. Moissanite rings are pretty popular today. The stone has been used in jewelry for longer than lab-grown diamonds and is generally less expensive as well.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite as durable and has different light properties, so you’ll have a harder time passing it for a real diamond. Still, it’s the best choice if you’re on a tighter budget and want a similar look, feel, and durability to a diamond.

Rather than pure carbon, moissanite is made from silicon carbide, which can rarely occur in nature but is mostly man-made. It was first discovered by and named after chemist Henri Moissan in 1893, but wasn’t used in jewelry until 1998.

Like diamonds, moissanite has industrial applications, but unlike diamonds, it’s an effective semiconductor due to its higher electrical conductivity and ability to operate at high temperatures and voltages. (Cool, right?)

Both diamonds and moissanite are used to cut, grind, drill, and polish due to their extreme hardness, but diamonds are harder and therefore more durable. To grade stone durability, we use what’s called the Mohs scale, where a diamond boasts the top grade of 10 and moissanite, 9.25.

To be clear, even a diamond isn’t 100% durable and can break, so it’s important to protect any stone type. (Nothing but a diamond can scratch another diamond, though.)

Visually, moissanite can be colorless or near colorless but often has a slight yellow or gray tinge. It also comes in hues of teal, grey, green, yellow, and black. (As you may know, diamond color ranges as well—check out our blog post on the 4 C’s to learn more.)

Like a lab-grown diamond, moissanite stones typically have fewer and less noticeable inclusions than natural diamonds. But their fire (dispersion of colorful light flashes) and brilliance often surpass that of diamonds, which is part of why some find them “fake” looking.

Want to read more on the moissanite vs. diamond debate? We’ve got a whole blog post on it here.

Holden Moissanite, Diamond, and Cubic Zirconia Comparison Visual


Cubic Zirconia

The cheapest synthetic diamond you’ll find? It’s none other than our pal cubic zirconia, or CZ for short.

Chemically known as zirconium dioxide, CZ was first synthesized in the 1970s. Some say it’s so cheap, it’s almost worthless, which is why it tends to be more popular for fashion jewelry and travel rings. You probably already have some CZ in your jewelry collection.

When comparing lab-grown diamonds and cubic zirconia, you’ll find they don’t have much in common in terms of price and durability. The key similarity between diamonds and cubic zirconia is that they can both be made in a lab. Like most moissanite, zirconium dioxide can rarely occur naturally in a form called baddeleyite as well, which was also discovered in the 1890s.

CZ is softer than moissanite and diamonds, ranking at an 8.5 on the Mohs scale, so it’s prone to scratching and losing its luster over time. If you go with CZ, anticipate needing to replace it more frequently, though it won’t cost you very much.

Like moissanite, CZ also has a higher dispersion rate than diamonds, giving it more brilliance and fire, which can make it look “fake.” Though often colorless, larger stones can create a rainbow appearance.

Since most moissanite and CZ are lab-grown, they typically have a lower ecological impact than mined gemstones. Our next two diamond alternatives can be mined from the earth or grown in a lab, so that’s something to keep in mind if environmental impact matters to you.

Holden White Topaz, Diamond, and White Sapphire Comparison Visual


White Sapphire

Though less common, many who want the look of a diamond engagement ring without the high price tag will choose a white sapphire for their center stone. White sapphire pricing is often in a similar range to moissanite, with natural stones being more expensive than lab stones due to their relative rarity.

White sapphire is a part of the corundum family, which includes every color of sapphire and ruby, which is just red corundum. White sapphire can either be a milky or cloudy white or completely colorless if well-cut.

It’s not quite as hard as a diamond or moissanite with a Mohs grade of 9. It looks softer, too. Many will seek out the most transparent stone, but it’s honestly all up to personal preference.

White sapphire can be a great choice if you don’t care as much about sparkle, since it won’t have nearly the same brilliance, fire, dispersion, or scintillation as a diamond. However, it may require more frequent cleaning to maintain its appearance since it’s a softer stone.

If you opt for a natural stone, keep in mind that there is no Kimberley Process for sapphires, although they’re generally easier to trace and less likely to fund conflict due to their lower value. But lab-grown white sapphires are cheaper and less likely to have inclusions, anyway, so there’s really no reason to go for something mined unless it has sentimental value.

White Topaz

Another less popular gemstone choice for engagement rings is white topaz, a silicate gemstone made of aluminum and fluorine. White topaz is pure topaz, meaning that its color is transparent or slightly milky white, though topaz can come in many different colors.

Even natural topaz is less expensive than moissanite and white sapphire, making a great budget-friendly choice that’s more valuable than CZ. A majority of natural white topaz is sourced from Brazil, and there’s a very low likelihood that Brazilian topaz funds conflict.

Topaz is commonly found crevices of rocks, including granite and pegmatite. It appears glassy and clear like a diamond and does have some brilliance when new, but it tends to lose its luster over time.

Topaz has a Mohs hardness of 8 and is the softest and least durable of all the diamond alternatives we’ve mentioned. This makes it quite difficult to clean, since astringent cleaners, steam, and other forms of high heat can cause damage. (For reference, we don’t recommend setting anything graded lower than a 7 in your ring!)

Color and clarity are crucial when it comes to white topaz, as its brilliance fades with wear. Pay extra attention to clarity grades since inclusions can become more visible over time.

Holden Diamond Alternative Hardness and Price Comparison Chart


Holden’s Approach

Now that you know the differences and similarities between natural diamonds, lab diamonds, moissanite, cubic zirconia, white sapphire, and white topaz, we trust that you’ll make the perfect choice for your ring’s center stone based on your lifestyle and preferences.

Ready to go lab-grown? It couldn’t be any easier. Simply start customizing any of our standard diamond ring styles.


We prefer to work with lab-grown diamonds at Holden for their environmental and ethical implications, but we’re happy to work with any stone we’re able to source for you. If you’ve got something in mind, simply submit a fully custom request to get the process started.


Questions? Give us a shout at or a ring (pun intended) at 646.722.6817.