“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” sang Ms. Monroe in the 1953 classic, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Of course, by that time, the world’s love affair with the diamond was well underway, with the first recorded diamond engagement ring being crafted all the way back in 1477.
In recent years, however, a rival for our affections has increasingly been tempting us away from our long-time gemstone paramour. Moissanite, it turns out, may just be our new best friend.
As the rivalry of moissanite vs diamond heats up, you may begin to wonder…
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- What Is Moissanite?
- Moissanite VS Diamond
- Is Moissanite As Good As A Diamond?
- Is Moissanite More Ethical Than Diamond?
- Can I Pass Off My Moissanite As A Diamond?
- Does Moissanite Have Resale Value?
- Are Moissanite Engagement Rings Tacky?
What Is Moissanite?
You may never have heard of moissanite, but gemmologists have known about it since 1893. This was when it was first discovered in an Arizona crater by the French scientist from whom the stone would eventually take its name – Henri Moissan.
Moissan initially mistook the mineral, which was deposited in the crater by the meteorite that created it, for diamond. In subsequent research, however, scientists determined that the gem is actually composed of silicon carbide, unlike diamond, which is comprised solely of carbon.
Considering moissanite’s otherworldly origins, it should come as no surprise that it is exceedingly rare. Also, the moissanite crystals that have been unearthed are so tiny that it is impossible to cut even a one-carat stone out of this gem, making it unsuitable for jewellery.
Fortunately, in the 1980s, a team of scientists devised a means to manufacture synthetic moissanite in a laboratory. Thus, moissanite can now be used in jewellery but, unlike diamond, only in its synthetic form.
Moissanite VS Diamond
Despite the striking aesthetic similarity between moissanite and diamonds, the two gemstones differ in several important respects:
The first difference between moissanite vs diamond that you will discover at the jeweller is on the price tag. Moissanite retails for a fraction of the price of a diamond, which partially explains the former’s increasing popularity of late.
Where a diamond of a single carat can fetch upwards of £3670, a one-carat moissanite stone can go for as little as £470.
A gemstone’s brilliance is the manner in which its interior reflects light. Essentially, brilliance refers to how sparkly a gemstone is.
Of course, diamonds are famously sparkly because their refractive index (the speed at which light can travel through them) is between 2.417 and 2.419. To put that into perspective, an ordinary piece of glass has a refraction index of around 1.52.
Amazingly, moissanite has an even greater refractive index – between 2.65 and 2.69 – than that of a standard diamond. In other words, moissanite is much more sparkly than diamond. This is as a result of moissanite’s unique faceting pattern.
When light passes through a gemstone, each of the colors in the light spectrum does so at a different speed. The result is a rainbow of color flashes that jewellers refer to as dispersion or fire. Whilst brilliance refers to white flashes of light reflected off of the stone, dispersion/fire describes colored flashes.
Both diamond and moissanite exhibit this dispersion, but moissanite’s intricately faceted structure generally results in a much greater display of fire in this gem than in diamond. The resultant “disco-ball” dazzle is perhaps moissanite’s defining characteristic.
Aside from stones in fancy colous like purple and blue, Diamonds in your average jewellery store range from completely colorless to lightly colored, with a tinge of brown or yellow. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) diamond color grading scale is the industry standard and ranges from D (completely colorless) to Z (lightly colored). Incidentally, except in the case of the aforementioned fancy colors, diamond value increases as its color diminishes.
Until not that long ago, completely colorless moissanite did not exist. Scientists were only able to manufacture crystals comparable in color to letters J through M on the GIA scale for diamonds.
Nowadays, however, you can also easily obtain moissanite in the “near colorless” (G through I) and “colorless” (D through F) ranges of the GIA scale. In 2015, jewellery manufacturers and original synthetic moissanite patent holders, Charles & Colvard developed Forever One, the whitest moissanite now on the market. Even the clearest moissanite, however, can look yellowish or yellow-greenish under certain lighting.
Durability, Hardness & Toughness
Gemmologists perform tests on each type of gem to determine its ability to withstand a variety of stressors. This gem’s performance in these tests indicates its levels of hardness, toughness and stability/ durability. Here is how moissanite vs diamond stacks up in each of these areas:
In this category, diamond is the hands-down winner. It is the hardest known mineral, with a ranking of 10 on the famed Mohs hardness scale. Only another diamond can scratch a diamond. Moissanite, with a Mohs rating of 9.25-9.5, comes in at a close second. Only moissanite and diamond can scratch moissanite.
Although diamond is harder than moissanite, some believe that it is not quite as tough. (In this context, toughness refers to a gem’s ability to withstand pressure, remain whole, and resist chipping or breaking.)
This is because a diamond’s atomic structure is such that it has a direction of cleavage, whilst moissanite does not. If a direction of cleavage is regarded as an area of structural weakness, then diamond may be more primed to collapse than moissanite is.
Although not all scientists are in agreement on which is the toughest, suffice it to say that both diamond and moissanite are extremely tough.
A gemstone’s stability or durability refers to its capacity to withstand, among others, heat and chemicals.
While both moissanite and diamond both have exceptionally high heat thresholds, moissanite takes the lead in terms of heat resistance. Diamonds usually begin to change state at around 1562°F (850°C), roughly the temperature of a household fire. Moissanite, meanwhile, can endure up to 2000°F (1093°C).
When it comes to chemical resistance, it is a pretty close call of moissanite vs diamond, too. While household (like bleach, chlorine and ammonia) and many industrial chemicals can do nothing to alter the state of moissanite, diamond is impervious to virtually all acids.
Is Moissanite As Good As A Diamond?
There really is not a definitive answer to this question. Like all things that we value for their aesthetic appeal, the beauty of moissanite vs diamond is truly in the eye of the beholder.
It is up to you to consider the characteristics of each gem and choose the one that best suits your needs and tastes. If you’re all about conservation, working on a tight budget, or like a lot of fire in your gems, then moissanite is your best bet. Alternatively, if you are the traditional type, the diamond will warm your old-fashioned heart.
Is Moissanite More Ethical Than Diamond?
Although a great deal of work has gone into making the diamond trade more ethical in recent years, it is still very difficult to be sure that your diamond has a conflict-free source. Most often, you simply have to rely on the word of the trader.
Because all moissanite used in jewellery is man-made, you can be sure that it has been sourced ethically. If you are still desperate for a diamond, however, you might opt for a lab-grown diamond.
Can I Pass Off My Moissanite As A Diamond?
Unless you mix with gemologists and professional diamond buyers, you will easily be able to pass off your moissanite as a diamond to your friends and family. As we have seen, the differences between moissanite vs diamond are very hard to detect by the untrained eye. In fact, the majority of people outside of the industry have not even heard of moissanite, even though it is unquestionably the gemstone that most resembles a diamond.
The difference between moissanite and diamond becomes more obvious the larger the stone gets. So it is best to stay under one carat or find a truly talented jeweller if you want to maintain the illusion that you are wearing a diamond.
Does Moissanite Have Resale Value?
Only the rarest gems, like alexandrite and Paraiba tourmaline, have any kind of resale value. Because moissanite is man made, it is certainly not rare. If you are lucky, you will be able to resell your moissanite for between 50% and 60% of its original purchase price.
Are Moissanite Engagement Rings Tacky?
Since Moissanite can so easily pass for and has so many of the same great properties as diamond, there is no reason why you should wear one rather than the other on your ring finger. In fact, the old hard line that an engagement ring must have a diamond in it is fast disintegrating.
Even A-List celebrities are increasingly ditching the diamonds in favour of other gemstones to mark their engagements. Moissanite looks the part and is made of quality materials so it won’t lose its lustre as the years go by. Just be sure to purchase from a reputable jeweller and remember to keep it small if you want people to think you are actually wearing a diamond.