Moissanite vs. Diamond January 17, 2018 – Posted in: Jewelry Blog
Moissanite is something of an oddity, as far as natural minerals go. It can be found in only a handful of places on earth and is extremely rare. It is usually found where there have been meteor strikes, and even then only in very small quantities.
Indeed, so rare is moissanite, that all of the moissanite produced today are synthetic.
Visibly, it is very similar to a natural diamond but, chemically, it is very different. Diamonds comes from carbon and moissanite comes from silicon carbide.
Moissanite is one of the hardest known substances, ranking just below diamond on the Mohs Scale. Due to its toughness, it’s the perfect stone to cut all other materials (except diamonds). The relative ease of producing moissanite synthetically makes it very useful in industrial applications.
The history of Mosissanite is fascinating. French scientist Henri Moissan discovered Moissanite in Arizona, in the year 1893. He named the stone after himself. Initially, Moissan believed he had found diamonds, and it was 11 years before he determined that the stones were silicon carbide. Silicon carbide, in fact, had been synthesized in a lab 2 years before Moissan’s initial discovery.
The name moissanite is only given to naturally occurring silicon carbide. Synthetic examples should simply be known as plain old silicon carbide, although it is common for the moissanite name to be used regardless.
Moissanite as a Diamond Substitute
Despite moisannite’s visible similarity to diamonds, it didn’t come into common usage as a direct substitute until recently. It can be difficult for non-experts to tell the difference, and often requires lab testing to establish one from the other. Buyers, hoping that no one could tell, began purchasing diamond substitutes.
For use in jewelry, particularly rings, moissanite will sell “as is”. The seller usually won’t include any cutting or modifications as an option.
One of the key features of a diamond is its brilliance. Diamonds reflect light in many ways, based on the cut of the stone. Some cuts have a real brightness whilst others, mainly antique stones, have a fiery quality. With moissanite, the fiery level is difficult to control. In bigger stones, the refraction will create a rainbow of colors. The lower refraction index of diamonds controls this effect much better.
Due to the nature of refraction, it becomes more noticeable the larger the object. Because of this, the larger the moissanite stone, the more obvious the effect, and the more obvious it is that it isn’t a diamond.
When measured, the fire dispersion properties of moissanite is about 2 1/2 times that of a diamond.
Sellers grade moissanite using the same system as the diamond color scale. Due to its naturally white characteristics, Moissanite will always fall between the D and K colors. Although nominally colorless, moissanite reflects light differently and can appear quite yellow in certain light. At other times, it can appear dull and lifeless, with almost an opaque effect.
The patent for moissanite as a cut stone was granted in 1998, with two classifications used. These are Forever Classic and Forever Brilliant. On the diamond color scale, these would be approximately J-K and G-I, respectively. More recently, the classification of Forever One started going into production, with the equivalent color of D-F.
Although Forever One are the closest equivalent to the properties of an equivalent diamond, it still falls some way short of the real thing.
To determine a diamond’s value one needs to apply the 4Cs of color, clarity, cut and carat weight. The price for Moissanite, in comparison, evaluates the stone weight together with the above-mentioned three grades. The other 4Cs aren’t part of calculation when pricing moissanite.
A 1 carat diamond of I color and VS2 clarity would cost in the region of $4,000 – $5,000. Even the best Forever One moissanite of the same weight would cost less than $600. Unfortunately, it is this large difference which makes passing off moissanite as natural diamonds so attractive to fraudsters.
However, it might also be a good indicator that, if a diamond price seems too good to be true, it probably will be. And it probably will be moissanite, into the bargain.
As an aside to the size of diamonds and moissanite, because of the differing densities, a diamond and an exact replica in moissanite will weigh very differently. It is for this reason that moissanite sells in millimeter sizes. A 1 carat diamond will usually equal 6.5mm.
Advantages of Moissanite
Of course, moissanite will never compete with natural diamonds, but that’s not to say there aren’t positives that come with it.
Because all moissanite is synthetic, it is environmentally and socially responsible. The diamond industry has been blight for decades by the specter of blood diamonds, mainly out of Africa. Diamonds have been funding the many civil wars throughout the diamond-producing countries over the last 60 – 70 years. With Moissanite, there are no such worries. This advantage of moissanite, is one of the big reasons that consumers have been flocking towards vintage diamond rings.
This is another reason why provenance of a diamond is important. Any reputable dealer will never buy a diamond without knowing where it came from or how it arrived on the market. If a dealer can’t show you the history or an appraisal certificate, walk away.
So Why Ultimately Choose Diamond?
The answer is both simple and not so simple.
If you have a tight budget, and there’s simply no way you can get the size of diamond you want, moissanite is a viable substitute. But that’s only true as long as you know the limitations of silicon carbide. It uses light differently, it displays color differently and, probably most of all, it just isn’t a diamond.
It also takes up to 3 million years for the earth to make a natural diamond, and that has to count for something.
There truly is something special about owning a high-quality diamond. It is a symbol of everlasting love and commitment. In sentimental terms, it’s hard to replace. And why have cotton when you can have silk?