Morning Musically-Minded, Medically-Minded, Masticators!
(Today’s post is sponsored by the letter “M”)
Over the past 600+ episodes, The Simpsons has taken us on an amazing journey involving music, science, and food to name a few concepts.
And what better way to start your week, than by discussing some of these concepts Monday morning?
So let’s get started this week by talking about a chemical item.
In the ninety second episode of The Simpsons, Homer the Vigilante (Season 05, Episode 11), a cat burglar is on the prowl. He robs numerous houses in Springfield. He even steals from the Simpsons, taking Bart’s portable TV, Lisa’s saxophone, Marge’s pearls, and Bart’s stamp collection.
Homer decides to start a neighbourhood watch group to protect his family and town. But the group turn into a group of vigilantes and cause more harm than benefit.
When they discover that the burglar’s next robbery will be catching the world’s largest cubic zirconia, Homer plans a stakeout. However, he gets drunk while on the job and passes out while the zirconia is stolen.
Grampa comes to the rescue and informs Homer that the burglar is a fellow Retirement Home resident Molloy. Homer catches Molloy and takes him to prison. Molloy tells everyone where the hidden loot is. But escapes prison while everyone searches.
But have you ever wondered what a cubic zirconia is?
Cubic zirconia is the cubic crystalline form of zirconium dioxide (ZrO2). It should not be confused with zircon, which is a zirconium silicate (ZrSiO4).
The synthesized material is hard and usually colourless, but may be made in a variety of different colors. The cubic part of the name comes from the fact that the stone has a cubic crystalline form. Diamonds also have a cubic crystalline form, so cubic zirconia is a great diamond lookalike. Because of its low cost, durability, and close visual likeness to diamond, synthetic cubic zirconia has remained the most gemologically and economically important competitor for diamonds since commercial production began in 1976.
Often regarded as an inexpensive diamond alternative, cubic zirconia is distinct in its aesthetic qualities and physical structure because it’s lab-grown; whereas natural diamonds are beautiful, naturally occurring gemstones.
Cubic zirconia is made by melting zirconium oxide powder with stabilizers like magnesium and calcium at 4,982ºF. After being removed from hours of heat, crystals form and stabilize. The crystals are then cut and polished. Each lab has its own specific methods for making cubic zirconia.
There are a few key features of cubic zirconia (CZ) which distinguish it from diamond:
Hardness: CZ has a rating of approximately 8 on Mohs hardness scale vs. a rating of 10 for diamond. This causes sharp edges in cut crystals to dull and round off in CZ, while with diamond the edges remain sharp.
Relative density: the density of CZ is about 1.7 times that of diamond. This difference allows skilled gem identifiers to tell the difference between the two by weight. This property can also be exploited by dropping the stones in heavy liquids and comparing their relative sink times (diamond will sink more slowly than CZ).
Refractive index: CZ has a refractive index of 2.15–2.18, compared to a diamond’s 2.42.
Cut: CZ gemstones may be cut differently from diamonds. The facet edges can be rounded or “smooth”.
Colour: only the rarest of diamonds are truly colourless, most having a tinge of yellow or brown to some extent. A CZ is often entirely colourless (equivalent to a perfect “D” on diamond’s colour grading scale).
Thermal conductivity: CZ is a thermal insulator whereas diamond is the most powerful thermal conductor.
Price: CZ is very inexpensive, since it’s synthetic and mass-produced. A cut and polished one carat CZ stone will cost $20 USD and a similar two carat stone will cost about $30 USD. This is far cheaper than diamonds, which start at $1,800 USD for one carat and increase considerably as size goes up.
Now that we’ve learned more about cubic zirconia, be sure to come back next week when we continue our Monday morning musings with the next episode of The Simpsons.
Did you remember the episode? What’s your favourite Grampa to the rescue episode of The Simpsons? What about your favourite episode where a stranger dupes Springfield? Did you remember Molloy’s burglary spree? Have you been to a museum? Have you seen a cubic zirconia? Were you familiar with properties of cubic zirconia? Sound off in the comments below. You know we love hearing from you.