What Is a Moissanite Diamond? | Jewelry Guide
Moissanite is a rare gem composed of silicon carbide that is used as an alternative for diamonds. Visually, they are almost indistinguishable from diamonds, and even experts often require complex machinery to verify whether a stone is moissanite or a diamond. They are shinier than diamonds, cost less, and are eco-friendly since most moissanite available today is produced in labs. This article explores the origins and nature of moissanite, how it compares to diamonds on various measures, and whether you should consider getting your significant other this gem for their engagement or promise ring.
What Does Moissanite Mean?
The name ‘moissanite’ comes from the person who discovered it, Henri Moissan. A French scientist of the late 19th century, Moissan found what he thought were diamonds near a crater made by a meteorite in Arizona. One can’t blame him since diamonds are known to form as a result of a meteorite impact, but it took Moissan eleven years to discover that his prized possession wasn’t what he thought it was.
This finding was disputed as late as 1986 due to the chance of contamination, which would explain the sudden appearance of naturally occurring silicon carbide. This chemical is incredibly rare, existing only in the most infinitesimal quantities among the corundum deposits found in the earth’s crust. Moissan would go on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on silicon carbide.
What Is Moissanite Made Of?
Moissanite is made of silicon carbide, which has the molecular notation of ‘SiC’. Due to the rarity of this compound, virtually all moissanite sold across the world is produced in labs.
You might have seen silicon carbide as a common ingredient in abrasive solutions used for cleaning purposes, and if this makes you wonder how it’s still considered ‘rare’, we have an answer. Charles & Colvard is a jewelry company that owns the international patent for producing moissanite jewels. The silicon carbide found in abrasive solutions is quite inexpensive to manufacture and is not as valuable as gem-quality moissanite.
What Is the Difference Between Moissanite and Diamonds?
Moissanite and diamonds are similar in many aspects but radically different in others. Here’s a comparison of the two jewels on various measures such as substance, hardness, optical properties, color, price, etc.
1. Substance and Natural Occurrence
The most fundamental difference between the two stones is that they are made of different elements. While diamonds are composed of carbon, moissanite is made of silicon carbide. Diamonds, unlike Moissanite, are widely available in natural deposits deep in the earth’s mantle. Though artificial diamonds are also fairly popular, the billion-year process of diamond formation lends to its image of strength and durability.
2. Diamond Hardness vs Moissanite Hardness
Both moissanite and diamond are incredibly strong compared to other gemstones; Their hardness is derived from a test called the Moh’s scale. This measures the hardness of a gemstone based on how difficult it is to scratch it. Diamonds score a perfect 10 on this test, outscoring most other popular choices for jewelry many times over. Silicon Carbide scores a 9.25 on the same scale, making it almost as hard as a diamond. The durability of these valuable stones make them perfect for everyday wear and therefore perfect options for gorgeous jewelry.
3. Optical Properties
This is one of the major differences between the two stones. Both moissanite and diamonds have three major optical properties: brilliance, dispersion, and scintillation. The former outweighs the latter in all three.
A gem’s brilliance can be determined based on how light appears after reflection and refraction through the gem. The refractive index of moissanite (2.65) is higher than in diamonds (2.42). This means that the dispersion through moissanite creates a more prominent rainbow effect than diamonds. However, many find that this makes the stone appear more artificial.
Sometimes also referred to as fire, the better a stone disperses white light, the more distance will separate each color in the spectrum. These colors will also appear brighter depending on how well a stone splits light. Besides the refractive index, one factor that influences this is the faceting of the stones. These facts combine to give moissanite a fire that is more than two times that of a diamond.
Lastly, scintillation is the flashing of light that is seen as you observe the gem. This is another factor that is more visible in moissanite than diamonds. As mentioned, some believe that the diamond offers a better balance of the three, but that might be because the diamond is the reference point against which both stones are measured. If moissanite was instead the reference, it may have been the other way around.
Diamonds and moissanite are both available in colorless, as well as colored options. Generally, the smaller a stone, the more colorless it seems. However, many moissanite jewels will reflect a greenish-yellowish hue when seen in light under certain angles. This, however, isn’t usually a major factor when choosing between the two.
5. Price and Environmental Friendliness
The price of moissanite tends to be far lower than that of diamonds. A decent diamond ornament will potentially cost you thousands of dollars. Moissanite, on the other hand, only costs around $400-600 USD per carat. This, combined with the fact that moissanite is very environmentally friendly, often makes people opt for moissanite jewelry instead.
Is Moissanite as Good as a Diamond?
If you compare the factors based on the assumption that more is better (except the price), then it’s clear that the moissanite can be considered better than diamonds. However, many hold specific interpretations of diamonds, partly influenced by their usage as heirlooms, ones that have potentially been passed down families for several generations. As such, if you’re considering getting your significant other a moissanite instead of diamond, make sure that her heart isn’t set on a diamond. If it is, no amount of fire, scintillation, or brilliance will be able to win over her satisfaction.
Do Moissanite Rings Last?
Yes, moissanite rings will last you as long as a diamond would. Given that they are both almost equally hard, they can take a fair amount of damage. With proper care, they will both remain brilliant and as shiny as new. Moissanite is also a far better option than cubic zirconia, another stone that looks similar to diamonds. This, among its other advantages, has ensured that the gem has become a popular choice for the current generation.