Moissanite is sometimes called a diamond simulant, just like cubic zirconia. It's a mineral which rarely occurs in nature and was first discovered in meteor crater at the end of 19th century by French chemist and later Nobel prize winner Ferdinand Frederick Henry Moissan (1852-1907), who, by the way, for full decade believed he found diamonds.
Some people actually call moissanite a fake diamond, but we should know this is chemically completely different kind of substance (silicon carbide or SiC). Well, to be honest, it is really very similar to diamond in many aspects.
It can be so similar even a jeweler can't easily spot a difference and we'll explore the differences between diamond and moissanite, especially the most important ones when jewelry is considered. After all moissanite become a popular choice for engagement and wedding rings in recent years, so many people will probably try to find all the pros and cons of both stones before they choose one.
Location And Price
Diamonds are relatively rare minerals which are mined in several locations in the world. Their high price is caused by control of only few companies in the world, which are major players in the market of synthetic diamonds too. Natural and synthetic diamonds are both used for jewelry but their price is not the same. Synthetic ones achieve approximately half of the price of diamonds mined in nature. Diamond mining is controversial from ethic and environmental point of view. Only about one fourth of naturally mined diamonds is useful for jewellry.
Moissanite is even rarer in nature. It's found near meteorites' impacts and as a by-product of mining and it's in its natural form completely useless for jewelry. It's also produced in laboratories, where beautiful crystals may be formed under controlled conditions.
All moissanite stones, used in jewelry, are synthetic and there is no controversy behind this business, what is important factor for many couples, when they decide to buy moissanite as an alternative for an engagement ring. Another important factor is price, which typically achieves less than ten percent of natural diamond's.
Can you tell the difference?
Price comparison (very very approximate):
- 0.5 carat diamond costs 1.000 dollars, 0.5 carat moissanite costs 100 dollars, 0.5 enhanced moissanite costs 200 dollars
- 1 carat diamond costs 4.000 dollars, 1 carat moissanite costs 250 dollars, 1 carat enhanced moissanite costs 400 dollars
- 1.5 carat diamond costs 10.000 dollars, 1 carat moissanite costs 500 dolars, 1.5 carat enhanced moissanite costs 700 dollars
- 2 carat diamond costs 20.000 dollars, 2 carat moissanite costs 700 dollars, 2 carat enhanced moissanite costs 1.000 dollars
Before we dig into physical and chemical properties of moissanite and diamond, we should note significant portion of moissanites, made in labs, is further enhanced to improve their appearance.
Unenhanced moissanite is known by yellowish, greenish or greyish tones of the stone, when it's exposed to strong light. This effect relies on many factors varies from stone to stone. In general bright sunlight is the most important factor and bigger stones are the most inclined to distribute these additional sparkles.
Sometimes owners of jewelry with such stone love the effect and sometimes they say it's just too showy - it depends on personal taste, really.
Enhanced moissanite, on the other side is a bit more expensive and is even closer to real diamonds by appearance. We'll not go into details of the process, but we can compare the colors of both stones. Classic moissanite has colors graded with characters I, J and K (diamonds with D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, ..., to Z) with lower position in alphabet meaning 'whiter' or less colorful stone.
Untrained eye can only distinguish between D-F and G-K classes but price can be very different (D diamond is typically twice as expensive as one from lower class, which is the color class where original moissanites are positioned). So if you want to save 50 percent, you can get I diamond instead of D, or I moissanite, if you want to save 90-95 percent of money.
With enhanced moissanite your savings would be closer to 85-90 percent, but you will get G color, which is actually more colorless than majority of diamonds used in engagement rings.
Another important characteristic of gemstone is its brilliance (it tells how much light the stone reflects). While diamond's refractive index is 2.42, it's between 2.65 and 2.69 for moissanite. This simply means moissanite gives away more sparkles than any other gemstone of the same size and cut.
Similarly attractive is effect, called fire. All transparent gemstones appear colored under certain conditions (light, cut), what makes them more appealing to the observers who may see all the colors of rainbow in the facets. Diamonds are known by fire, but moissanites produce almost two and half times more of it, so they are even more attractive, but to some people they look just 'too colorful'. Again, this is a matter of personal opinion.
Diamonds are cut exactly for this reason - to shine as much and to produce as many interesting effects as possible, so more of both is not necessary a bad thing. You should try it on for few days, see it and decide for yourself.
There are many other interesting characteristics, but we will focus only on two more, both very important in jewelry. A stone set in in the ring is typically exposed to many stressful situations, so we need to use gemstones which are not only good looking but durable as well.
Diamond is undisputed king in this area because it is so hard and resistant. One of the translations of its name from original Greek is actually unbreakable. It is the hardest known mineral in nature and its hardness on Mohs scale is 10.
Moissanie is not far behind. With 9.25 on Mohs scale it is the second hardest gemstone, used in jewelry and almost as durable as a diamond. In reality this means it is very hard to scratch it. Many jewelers typically offers moissanite rings with several years of guarantee, what is always a good sign of durability. Cubic zirconia rings, on the other hand, typically come with only few months, because the stone is much softer (around 8 on Mohs scale).
Another characteristic to think about is persistence of brilliance. Many diamond substitutes tend to loose shine with time, but moissanite doesn't have this problem. Jewelers are so convinced in quality of their stones they often offer lifetime guarantee for their stones on fire and brilliance.
Of course every piece of jewelry eventually attracts some dirt, which may cover its beauty. Diamonds and moissanites are no exception but moissanite attracts a bit less of grease and for this reason needs less cleaning than diamond.
Untrained eye can't tell the difference between moissanite and diamond. With moissanite you get more brilliance for a friction of cost for a diamond and you don't have to worry about ethical or environmental consequences of diamond mining or other controversies surrounding diamonds.
On the other hand the charisma surrounding diamonds is still something none of other gemstones, natural or synthetic could possibly compare. If you are thinking about the value of the investment, you should know a diamond can be resold (for about 70 percent less then you payed for), while the resell value of synthetic diamonds and moissanites is close to zero. Of course you don't need too much knowledge to calculate if you have lost more if you get three thousand dollars instead of ten thousand or zero instead of four hundred.
Now you know. The beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some love moissanite for its beauty and some hate it just because it's not a diamond. In the end of the day decision is all yours.