Moissanite is a jewel-quality crystalline form of silicon carbide, originally discovered by Dr. Henri Moissan in 1893. Moissan discovered it while examining rock samples from a meteor crater located near Winslow, Arizona. Upon his discovery of tiny particles embedded within the meteorite fragments, he concluded that a “superior mineralogical process” must have formed them.
Today, the International Gem Society (IGS) defines moissanite as “a jewel-quality diamond simulant with color, clarity, and hardness on par with the finest diamonds. This is true because a single crystal of moissanite can sparkle with fire and brilliance like a flawless diamond.
Due to its rarity in nature, moissanite was expensive to get. However, it is easy to replicate it in a lab. Therefore, most of the moissanite available today is “laboratory-created” or otherwise “synthetic.”
Moissanite and the 4C’s of Gemstones
Moissanite’s value (and cost) can vary on four factors: color, clarity, cut, and carat weight. The IGS offers some general guidelines for grading moissanite:
- One carat is equal to 6 points. Round moissanite weighs 1.7 carats or 18 points. Therefore, its value per carat is 9 points (18/6).
- The scale for color follows the GIA’s diamond scale
- The clarity grading system uses 10 asperfect clarity with no flaws. This grading system is similar to the GIA’s diamond scale, which offers 10 as flawless.
- The cut is critical in defining moissanite fire and brilliance due to the refractive index created.
Characteristics of Moissanite
Moissanite is a gemstone that, as far as we know, occurs only on Earth. However, Moissan’s discovery of microscopic crystals of the then-new mineral gave a clue to manufacturers. That way, moissanite is today lab-grown under intense heat and pressure. This produces a gemstone with desirable characteristics comparable to the original gem.
Chemically, moissanite comprises silicon carbide. These element compositions have helped a lot in making synthetic moissanite crystals, which are available for jewelry use. Understanding this chemical makeup has helped in the lab growing of this important gem comparable to diamond.
So what defines moissanite? Here are important points to note:
- Lab-grown moissanite crystals have the same chemical makeup as naturally occurring moissanite. However, they tend to be purer than those harvested from meteorites.
- Moissanite is one of those rare gems that is harder than diamond (hardness measures a gemstone’s ability to withstand scratching). Moissanite scores a 9.25 on the Mohs scale of 1 – 10. The lower the number, the harder the mineral. Diamond has a score of 10.
- The refractive index of moissanite is similar to diamond. However, moissanite has a higher value than diamond. For that reason, moissanite can exhibit fire and brilliance in much the same way as diamonds do or even better.
- Moissanites are often compared to white sapphires, which are also relatively expensive. However, moissanite tends to be whiter than white sapphires (even the whitest of sapphires are slightly yellowish).
How does Moissanite compare to a Diamond?
Moissanite is a beautiful gemstone. However, it is understandable why some people would still choose diamonds for their jewelry. Despite their differences, the two gemstones are close alternatives to each other in jewelry making.
Here are a few comparisons between moissanite vs diamond –
1. Moissanite vs Diamond Market Value
Moissanite is less expensive than diamond, but not by much. Naturally, both these gemstones are rare and expensive to acquire. However, lab-grown solutions for moissanite have changed the story.
As a result, moissanite is now readily available in synthetic form and that makes it more affordable than a diamond. The good thing is that the lab-grown chemical composition matches that of naturally occurring moissanite.
In terms of pricing, a one-carat diamond typically costs about $4,000 more than moissanite of a similar size. This is true of 0.85-carat diamonds as well. However, the price difference between a 1.00ct round moissanite and a 1.00ct round diamond may be very marginal, and the price of a 1.25ct moissanite may be slightly more than that of a one-carat diamond.
2. Moissanite weighs slightly less than diamonds
Those who want a large jewelry piece on them would rather go for moissanite than diamond due to weight considerations.
3. Strength and Durability
The durability quality of moissanite makes it a perfect choice for jewelry. It has good strength since it is harder than a diamond. For that reason, moissanite guarantees longevity for its jewelry.
4. Heat Resistant Quality
Moissanite is more temperature and heat-sensitive than diamonds. Therefore, it is important to know how to handle it and not deal with it in a perfectly similar manner to diamonds.
5. Clarity comparisons
Naturally mined diamond has subtle inclusions, which means the stone will never be clear. The case is different for lab-grown moissanite, giving it a pleasant colorless look. Of course, this has improved over time with refined manufacturing methods.
6. Moissanite’s Dispersion Effect
Moissanite has an effect called dispersion, which results in flashes of color within the stone. This effect is more pronounced in moissanite than it is in a diamond.
7. Grading Reports
Like diamonds, moissanite comes with a grading report from the International Gemological Institute (IGI). For natural-mined stones, this report is the only way to know that you are purchasing authentic moissanite. The IGI also grades lab-created stones, which means they will all be consistent in quality.
8. Diamond vs Moissanite Cut
Moissanite gemstones can be cut to perfect proportions. It is possible to have sizeable moissanite cuts of different shapes. This may not be the case for diamonds. You must cut a diamond while looking through the stone, which makes them more prone to flaws.
Moissanites are not carbon-based like diamonds. Therefore, they cannot be laser drilled without breaking. To drill moissanite, you must first heat or expose it to certain chemicals for the diamond drill bit to cut through the material.
Moissanite is a precious gem with proven quality and strength. It compares well with diamonds, especially in the making of jewelry items. Moissanite’s durability, fire, and brilliance are its top admirable characteristics that make them a great alternative to diamonds.