Moissanite: Far More Than Just a ‘Fake Diamond’
Moissanite is often called a fake diamond, however that doesn’t do this gemstone justice.
Moissanite is an entirely separate gemstone and in many ways it is even better than diamonds, and not just its price!
- What is Moissanite
- Moissanite vs Diamonds
- Moissanite Uses
- Taking Care of Moissanite
- Moissanite Buying Guide
What is Moissanite?
Moissanite is a rare mineral with the chemical formula SiC or silicon carbide. It is named after the discoverer of this mineral in its natural form, Henri Moissan. In 1893 he found several crystals in a meteor crater in Canyon Diablo in Arizona. At first he believed he had found diamonds, it took until 1904 before he identified it as a new mineral.
It usually is transparent though green and yellow moissanite can rarely occur. With its hardness of 9.5 on Mohs hardness scale it is the second hardest natural material known to man, just behind diamonds. Its color is not as colorless as a high quality diamond, usually being graded at I to K on the diamond color grading scale.
Almost always found as inclusions in other minerals or as tiny crystals, large moissanite in its natural form is incredibly rare. So rare in fact that there is not a single natural moissanite large enough to be used in jewelry on the market.
Where Can Moissanite be Found?
Natural moissanite is usually found as inclusions in diamonds and diamond carrying rocks like kimberlite. Another source is meteorites, because of their isotope ratios it is highly likely that they originated from outside our own solar system.
Not a single commercial moissanite mine is in operation, the only mining for this mineral is done for scientific purposes or when they are found as a part of other commercially viable gemstones such as diamonds.
Synthetic moissanite made its way to the gemstone market in 1998 when Charles & Colvard found a way to synthesize it in the required quality. The mineral is grown over several months and unfortunately this makes it quite expensive.
Moissanite vs Diamonds
So exactly how does moissanite match up versus diamonds? I’ll be making a comparison in 6 categories.
Color: Moissanite cannot be bought as a colorless gemstone, usually being made in a I, J or K diamond color grade. Diamonds can be bought to a color grade of D which makes it the winner if you are looking for the best color you can find.
Looks: The looks of a gemstone, the sparkle and shine if you will, is mostly defined by three different properties:
- Fire of a gemstone, measured as dispersion. The higher the number here the better looking it will be. Moissanite has a dispersion of 0.104 while diamond only has 0.044 making moissanite the winner.
- Brilliance or its refractive index. Moissanite has a RI (refractive index) of 2.65 to 2.69 while diamond has a RI of 2.42. Only a slight difference here with moissanite being the winner again.
- Luster, the amount and quality of reflected light, depends on the RI and the hardness of the gemstone among others. Both diamond and moissanite have a adamantine luster, with moissanite as the winner again with a 20% vs. 17% luster.
Clarity: Moissanite is eye clean and can be compared to a VS1 or VS2 diamond. If you want an VVS or better clarity you will have to buy a diamond. Though this better clarity will not be visible in daily use, only when viewed with specialist tools.
Wearability: Defined as how durable a gemstone is when worn daily. Both moissanite and diamond have an extremely high hardness of 9.5 and 10 on Mohs hardness scale respectively. Moissanite has a slightly lower hardness, which in practice does not matter unless you like bumping your moissanite into diamonds.
What does matter is that moissanite has a higher toughness because of its crystal structure. Diamond while extremely hard can chip or shatter when struck by a hard object on its cleavage plane. Moissanite does not have this problem and can take a lot more punishment.
Though at some point of course all materials can be destroyed. Both gemstones will not lose their shine over time, like some diamond simulants such as cubic zirconia. When the above is taken into account it means that moissanite has a higher wearability.
Price: Despite the expensive process needed to create moissanite diamonds are still between 4 to 10 times more expensive. This becomes even more pronounced when dealing with larger carat stones. For example a 1.09 carat grade AAA round brilliant cut loose moissanite can be bought for around $400.
A comparable GIA certified 1.09 carat diamond with an I color, VS1 clarity and a very good cut will be selling for between $5,000 and $7,000!
Ethics: For those that wish to buy an ethical gemstone the choice is very clear. Diamonds have a history of violence, worker exploitation and environmental issues. There are ethical diamonds on the market, though some people feel that while a step in the right direction this is still not enough. In contrast moissanite is a lab created gemstone with none of these issues.
The Verdict: With moissanite winning 4 out of 6 categories, it should be clear that moissanite can not only match themselves with diamonds, they even surpass them in many areas. For everyone that is on a budget, wants a great looking gemstone or doesn’t want to propagate the, in some cases, unethical diamond trade you should buy moissanite gemstones.
Everyone else that simply wants the highest quality gemstone regardless of price. With the best color and clarity (even though the difference between a VS1 and Flawless diamond is usually not noticeable in daily use), should be buying a diamond.
Another reason can of course be that you only want a natural product, in which case moissanite is obviously not the gemstone you should be buying.
Not only used as a gemstone, moissanite has many other uses as well. It is used as a cheaper alternative for (synthetic) diamonds in industrial processes. Often this is done under the name silicon carbide or carborundum.
Its high hardness makes it an excellent abrasive and moissanite composites have been used in cutting tools as well. Not stopping there it’s also used in the auto industry, in electric systems, the nuclear industry and many others.
Moissanite is quite simple to care for. Here are several tips to keep it in top condition:
- Place it in warm water with some soap or a mild detergent and let it soak for a few minutes. Clean it afterwards with a soft brush and use a soft cloth to dry. Moissanite itself won’t be scratched by a hard brush or cloth but your jewelry might be damaged.
- Store it away from other gemstones, moissanite is hard enough to be able to scratch all your other jewelry apart from diamonds.
- Make sure you are not using a cleaner with chlorine, your moissanite will be okay but your jewelry might not be.
- Moissanite can be cleaned with an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner. I would advise against a jewelry steam cleaner, though many people have good experiences with them.
Moissanite Buying Guide
Moissanite is only made by the Charles and Colvard moissanite company and they are not using any gemstone treatments on moissanite. Which makes it pretty easy to buy this gemstone. Almost all you have to do is make sure you are getting the best price possible, so shop around!
I still think that you should only buy from jewelers with a high reputation. While there are no true imitations on the market some dealers still try to pass off certain other diamond simulants as moissanite. The most common being quartz and cubic zirconia.
The way to distinguish between these simulants and moissanite is by its internal structure. Because of the way moissanite is created microscopic tube-like inclusions are present in the material. Both quartz and cubic zirconia do not have these inclusions. Another way is that both of these simulants have a better color, usually in the range of D to F, while moissanite color ranges from I to K.
If you yourself cannot determine these properties you should either bring a friend who can. The easier and better way would of course be to not even go to a store where you think you might be defrauded. There are various colors on the market such as blue moissanite and pink moissanite, usually these sell for roughly the same as the more common colorless or white moissanite.
Because of its wearability you don’t have to settle for moissanite earrings or a necklace. Instead you can easily wear moissanite rings, unlike many other gemstones with a lower hardness.
Hopefully this article showed that moissanite is far more than just a fake diamond. So that when you are ready to pop the question you could think of buying a moissanite engagement ring instead of a diamond one. Not only giving you a better looking ring, but most likely a few thousand dollars to spend on other things!
PS. Just make sure your significant other is aware of it not being a diamond, so there are no nasty surprises later on.