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Top 10 colorless gems that are an alternative to Diamonds

Just like durians are king of the fruits and lions are king of the jungle, diamonds are probably considered to be the king of gems. There is a long history (culturally and industrially) behind diamonds and this history became one of the basis for the value of diamonds.

When we think about diamonds, we probably remember the 4C quality grading of diamonds: carat, clarity, colour, cut. And we all know the “colour” grading of diamonds are classified into two categories: colourless and fancy colour. Even in the colourless range, there is a whole lot of different terms to describe the colourless colour (pun intended).

In this article, we will not actually dive into the colour of the colourless gem. Instead, we shall discuss other colourless stones that do not have colour grading and yet can be rare and beautiful as well.

Let’s have a quick look at natural colourless diamonds and its properties:

  1. Historically, the first colourless diamonds were found in India.
  2. The largest colourless diamond found so far is “The Cullinan Diamond”, weighing 3,106.75 carats (or 621.35 grams). It was found in Cullinan, South Africa, Premier Mine II in 26 January 1905.
  3. Main chemical composition is carbon ( C ) with trace elements, nitrogen or boron that may give a tint of yellow, brown, green or blue.
  4. Most natural colourless diamonds are classified under Type Ia, 1b and Type IIa.
  5. Natural colourless diamonds can give a 415nm absorption band under the prism spectroscope, or the UV-VIS absorption spectrum.
  1. It is a single refractive material, classified under the cubic crystal system.
  2. Its lustre is described as “adamantine”. This is due to its hardness of 10 on Moh’s hardness scale.
  3. Natural white diamonds (and other fancy coloured diamonds) are good conductors of heat and blue diamonds (with boron as trace elements) are good conductors of electricity as well.
  4. They are grease loving and can be sorted out using a grease belt.
  5. Natural diamonds have an international price list, Rapaport Report, for traders to have a guideline on trading trends and prices.

From left to right: 1.82ct natural rough diamond with an octahedral crystal shape from Kalimantan, Indonesia; 1.17ct natural rough diamond with a flattened hexa-octahedron crystal shape from Phuket, Thailand; 0.55ct natural polished diamond, J colour and SI1 clarity.

Following are the top 10 colourless gem alternatives to diamonds that we have picked out for the avid jewellery designers, jewellers, and collectors!

To summarise the above…

Here’s a table to summarise the use of the above gems as alternatives to colourless diamonds:

Synthetic Diamond NEW and popular alternative to natural colourless diamonds
Synthetic Moissanite Common alternative to diamonds
Cubic Zirconia Common alternative to diamonds
White zircon Common alternative to diamonds
White sapphire Common alternative to diamonds
White beryl (Goshenite) Good alternative for large sizes
White Topaz Good alternative for large sizes
Rock Crystal (quartz) Not a great replacement, but can be value for money
YAG Not commonly used
GGG Not commonly used

This is not an exhaustive list of colourless gems you can find in the market. However, these are the more commonly known ones.

Bonus Reading

There are four more natural colourless gems that are unique!

Perhaps in time to come, some of these gems will succeed diamonds as diamonds become more of a commodity? Would that be possible? Maybe we will leave this thought with you for now.

Acknowledgments:

Far East Gem Institute for the photos and specimens.

The Gem Museum for the mineral specimens.