Last updated on October 9, 2020
Diamonds are expensive gemstones and no wonder they do not fit every budget. That is why people consider potential alternatives and buy stones that look similar to diamonds. Moissanite is one of these gems. Let’s see if moissanite is a good diamond alternative and if it is really indistinguishable from diamonds.
History of Moissanite
Moissanite (pronounced moy-san-ite) is a naturally occurring mineral that was first discovered in 1893 by a French scientist Dr Henri Moissan in Meteor Crater, Arizona.
The chemist was studying rocks from a fallen meteorite when he came across a crystal that he initially thought to be a diamond because of the similarity in appearance. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that after inspecting the stones in the laboratory he found out they were composed of an extremely rare naturally-occurring mineral silicon carbide (a combination of silicone and carbon) while diamonds are made up of 100% carbon.
The discovered material was called “moissanite” in the honour of Dr Henri Moissan. In addition to its official name, a slang name “moissy” is used which is becoming more and more popular nowadays.
Natural moissanites are extremely rare and are found in tiny quantities, mainly in meteorites. This made it practically impossible to use natural gems in jewellery which is why in the 1980s a company named CREE started working on growing moissanites in a laboratory.
In 1995, after many trial and error, the crystals Moissan discovered were successfully synthesized to produce one of the world’s most scintillating gemstones. In the late 1990s, a team of cutters and scientists from CREE and Charles & Colvard introduced to the world of jewellery an alternative to a diamond at a fraction of the cost.
In 1998, Charles & Colvard was awarded patents for production of lab-grown silicone carbide gemstones. The only grade of moissanite available was in I-J-K colour range which was marketed as “Forever Classic”. In 2012, Charles & Colvard developed a whiter form of moissanite (G-H colour) and called it “Forever Brilliant”. Finally, in 2015 the company released colourless “Forever One” which is the whitest moissanite available. The same year with the patent expiration many new producer companies entered the moissanite market.
Moissanite vs Diamond
Although moissanites are engineered to give the illusion of similarity to diamonds, they are different both compositionally and visually.
Moissanite is one of the hardest substances on earth with a score of 9.25 on the Mohs scale of hardness.
The durability is one of the main reasons why moissanite is linked to diamonds. This makes them scratch-resistant and suitable for everyday wear. The only minerals that can scratch moissanites are diamonds because they are harder (10 on the Mohs scale) or other moissanites.
Although moissanites and diamonds can look similar in colour when viewed from distance, there are major colour differences between them.
The moissanite colour scale is similar to the GIA colour grading scale, however it is not an official grade but a term used to describe a stone’s colour.
All moissanites available on the market are coloured in some way. Silicon carbide is different from diamond, meaning it displays colour differently. Even if graded as “colourless”, moissanites will still project yellow, green or grey hue in certain lights. The larger the stone, the more noticeable the tint.
For comparison, a colourless diamond never contains yellow, grey or brown hues. If a diamond is graded colourless, you will find it in a dazzling, bright white appearance.
Like diamonds, moissanites often come with imperfections visible when they are viewed under magnification. Since all moissanites sold on the market today are synthetic they rarely come with a clarity grade below VS level, meaning their clarity is higher than of average diamonds.
Although moissanites are graded for clarity using the GIA clarity scale, it is important to mention that the Gemological Institute of America does not grade diamond simulants. This means the certificate will be given by the manufacturer or seller of the stone.
Brilliance and Sparkle
It is important to understand that the brilliance of moissanites and diamonds is different.
Moissanite has a refractive index from 2.65 to 2.69, which is higher than a diamond. The rainbow flashes emitted by moissanites are beloved by many people, but others feel that moissanite’s colourful and intense brilliance is too much, especially in sunlight.
Diamond has a refractive index from 2.417 to 2.419 and it reflects light in three different ways. The white light reflected is referred to as brilliance. The colours refracted through the diamond are called dispersion. And the surface sparkle is known as scintillation. The combination of these three gives diamonds their dazzling sparkle.
Price is one of the top reasons why moissanite may be preferred. Moissanite is a lot cheaper and it costs about one-tenth of the price of a similar diamond.
While this factor may seem appealing, it is essential to realize that the appearance, quality and features of diamonds and moissanites are significantly different. Besides, moissanites weight approximately 15% less than diamonds, meaning the accurate comparison of the price is not virtually possible.
|Chemical Name||Silicone carbide|
|Crystal System||6H polytype, hexagonal|
|Colours||Colourless, green, yellow, blue and black|
|Hardness||9.25 on the Mohs scale|
|Refractive Index||2.65 – 2.69|
|Specific Gravity||3.218 – 3.22|
|Lustre||Adamantine to metallic|