Moissanite is a common trade name for the mineral Silicon Carbide. It was originally found in lunar samples and meteorites. In its natural form, it is quite rare. Because moissanite showed commercial potential for becoming a substitute for natural diamonds, a synthetic version of moissanite was created. The moissanite used for engagement rings and other jewelry is grown in a laboratory. When a moissanite stone is properly cut and set, it may fool others into believing it to be a natural diamond, but moissanite is much more affordable than a comparably-sized diamond.
Advantages of Moissanite
Moissanite is very hard and very durable. In this, it is almost comparable to a natural diamond. A diamond scores a perfect 10 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, while moissanite scores between 9 and 9.5. Moissanite is therefore similar to rubies and sapphires in terms of durability, and is well-suited for jewelry which will be worn daily, such as most engagement or wedding rings. Moissanites cost a fraction of the cost of a comparably-sized diamond.
Moissanite can also fool a basic jeweler’s thermal conductivity test. For this test, a jeweler will touch a small wand to the stone; a moissanite stone will read as a “diamond” on this detector. No other diamond substitute can fool this test. Be aware, though, that most trained jewelers will instantly be able to tell that the moissanite is not a real diamond – if not with their eyes, then certainly with the aid of a loupe.
Disadvantages of Moissanite
Moissanite tends to have a greenish hue that becomes more obvious in sizes over half of a carat. Some stones show this hue more strongly than others, so a potential buyer should consider the merits of individual stones and avoid buying a moissanite without seeing it first. Cost is an also an issue with moissanite. A one carat moissanite may cost anywhere from $500-$3000. Cubic zirconia, another fine imitator of natural diamonds – particularly when very well cut – costs only a few dollars per carat, so it may be difficult to justify the added expense when moissanite is no more of a natural product than lab-grown CZs.
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage, though, is that moissanite is doubly refractive, while a natural diamond is singly refractive. In doubly refractive stones, light enters the stone and is then split into two different rays which refract back to the viewer. In practical terms, this means that a person comparing a moissanite to a natural diamond will notice more “fire” or more “sparkles” coming from the piece of moissanite. While this sounds like a good thing, many people are quite familiar with the way a diamond sparkles and the kind of fire a diamond typically produces. Therefore, the double refraction may make the moissanite stone look fake to a knowledgeable viewer. This effect is more noticeable in larger stones.
The Bottom Line
Moissanite is a lab-grown material that may or may not be a good imitator of a natural diamond. Whether a moissanite is a convincing substitute or not depends largely on its purity of color, its size, and the knowledge and experience of its viewer. Moissanite is quite durable and is suitable for daily wear. While it is more expensive than many other diamond substitutes, it is still only a fraction of the cost of a natural diamond, and thus can be a good way for someone to get a sizeable stone which would otherwise be unattainable.