Every once in a while we like to bring a little learning to our dedicated readers. Not to worry, though, tomorrow we’ll have more diamond dribble for you to drool over. In the meantime, here are some important facts about the popular diamond substitute, moissanite.
This diamond imitation was introduced into the market causing waves of panic among concerned dealers. How could they identify it? What would be the impact on consumer confidence? What would this new gems presence and affordability do to the established diamond market? Moissanite was not though a newly discovered diamond substitute. The first Moissanite stones were discovered in 1893 by a French chemist named Henri Moissan while investigating a meteorite that had landed in Diablo Canyon. After conducting research on the stone, he concluded that the mineral was made of silicon carbide.
For over a hundred years the stone was little more than a footnote in research books. Then, in 1995, Cree Inc. a US based company that manufactures silicon carbide devices, developed a synthetic Moissanite from silicon carbide crystals.
Naturally occurring Moissanite, from which the jewels are made, is dark green or black, found in very limited quantities and is not commercially viable. Cree discovered a process of taking the minerals silicon and carbon, evaporating them into one compound, then growing them into a crystal. This crystal is cut into the final Moissanite jewel, either nearly colorless, like a diamond, or in various shades of green.
In 1995, one of the principals involved with Cree founded a company, C3, which was to be later renamed Charles and Colvard. It was this company that for three years developed the process of creating synthetic Moissanite and the following manufacturing of the stones, before hitting the consumer market with the latest “diamond substitute” in 1998. During that first year, Charles and Colvard recorded Moissanite sales of some $4 million. This more than tripled in the second year to over $12.2 million in 1999, continuing to increase in 2000 to stand at $12.7 million. Moissanite though hasn’t been exempt from the drop in jewelry sales in 2001, as sales tumbled by a quarter.
Near colorless Moissanite has very similar physical properties to those of diamond; for example, Moissanite tests positive for diamond on conventional thermal probes. Almost all diamond simulants share one property with diamonds: they are singly refractive. A ray of light passing through the gem is slowed but otherwise unaffected by the medium. Synthetic Moissanite is doubly refractive. This means that a ray of light passing through the stone is slowed, bent and split in two as it passes through it.
To the average eye Moissanite seems virtually as beautiful as a diamond, though its color is lower. At first sight, both inside and on the surface, Moissanite’ s brilliance seems to be softer and cloudier. The sharp effects of the color spectrum in a regular diamond are enticing and the human eye easily registers the stone’s distinct nuances. On the other hand the color spectrum effects in Moissanite are more spread out. On the hardness scale, Moissanite is only slightly softer than diamond, registering 9+ on the Moh’s scale, as opposed to a diamond’s 10.
Moissanite, along with other synthetic and treated stones now account for about US$500 million out of the U.S$22 billion diamond jewelry market. Moissanite for example costs about one-tenth of its diamond counterpart. A one-carat Moissanite stone set in 14-karat gold would retail for somewhere around the $700 market, compared to a one-carat diamond in an identical setting, which, depending on the quality of the stone, would retail from $4,500 to $6,000. Mercifully for the diamond market, since the first introduction of the stone to consumers, marketing of the stone has been focused away from promoting it as a diamond imitation, rather as a gem in its own right. In fact many of the stores and online sites selling Moissanite jewelry don’t even mention diamond or diamond substitute.
Some source material reprinted with permission from IDEX Magazine.