What is moissanite?

What is a moissanite? Is that a diamond? These are two common questions asked in the Leonard Joel Jewellery Salon when a large colourless jewel is scintillating enticingly in one of the cabinets!

Moissanite Leonard Joel
Two loose round brilliant cut moissanite of 2.48 carats each, sold for $940 IBP

Synthetic moissanite has been one of the main ‘diamond alternatives’ since 1999 when American company Charles & Colvard started producing sufficiently large amounts of the lab-created stone. It had already been in existence for more than 100 years, commonly known as carborundum and used as an abrasive, however it wasn’t until the mid ‘90s that stones of a viable enough size to be faceted were synthesised and then later marketed as the new diamond imitation.

Moissanite in its natural form is extremely rare on Earth. It was first discovered by Dr. Ferdinand Henri Moissan in 1893, within fragments of an asteroid that fell to earth 50,000 years ago, creating the Barringer Crater in Arizona. Ironically, given the superlative lustre the faceted and polished synthetic version displays, natural moissanite is considered commonplace in space, found as stardust around carbon rich stars.

Synthetic moissanite leads as the best diamond impersonator, surpassing other mimics such as cubic zirconia (CZ) and glass (paste) given its properties most closely resemble those of a diamond.  Moissanite measures 9 ¼ on the scale of mineral hardness to the 10 of a diamond with cubic zirconia trailing behind at 8 and glass a mere 5.5.  In addition to its hardness, the colour and clarity of a synthetic moissanite can be most closely matched to a diamond. With the latest technology, synthetic moissanites can now be graded along par with colourless diamonds right up to a D and to the highest clarity grade of Flawless.

In keeping with its affiliation to the stars, the synthetic moissanite’s brilliance, or ability to ‘sparkle’, is where it exceeds a diamond’s capabilities. The excessive ‘fire’ is the result of its light dispersive power, two and a half times higher than a diamond.

So here we have it, a synthetic moissanite is almost as hard as a diamond, it can be a D in colour and an F in clarity and it upstages a diamond when it come to the coveted rainbow of light it returns to the eye; and the difference in price is considerable! However, as with any jewellery purchase choosing a moissanite over a diamond is a personal choice influenced by many factors. What would you choose?

HANNAH SASS, Jewellery Salon Manager

July 2022

Banner image: Yellow moissanite / Alamy