When Charles & Colvard brought moissanite to the market in 1998, the company faced an ethical dilemma over whether it should immediately start a campaign positioning moissanite as an alternative to diamonds, or first educate dealers on knowing how to tell the difference between the two. Moissanite was the first laboratory-made gemstone that came so close in physical characteristics to diamonds that only professional testing can verify the difference. In fact, the company’s 1999 annual report relates how a high-end New York City jeweler told Charles & Colvard he believed he could sell a handful of the stones in the New York City diamond district for $30,000 — more than 100 times their worth. Charles & Colvard decided to delay its campaign launch and instead focused on beginning a comprehensive education and awareness program — so began moissanite’s history in the jewelry industry.
Brief History of Moissanite
In 1893, Henri Moissan discovered silicon carbon, SiC, crystals in an iron meteorite found in the Canyon Diablo in Arizona, initially mistaking them as diamonds. He later concluded he’d made a new mineral discovery instead and the crystals were subsequently named after him. Moissanite found its way to the jewelry industry after Cree Research discovered how to scientifically create the stone. Prior to this, moissanite could only be found as tiny dark crystals in meteorites. In 1998, C3 Inc., now known as Charles & Colvard, obtained a patent and trademark as the sole and exclusive manufacturer and marketer of laboratory-created moissanite.
Brief History of Diamonds
Even before the Roman naturalist Pliny called diamonds “the most valuable, not only of precious stones, but of all things in this world” in 1 A.D., Indians were gathering diamonds from their country’s riverbeds and trading them as early as the 4th century B.C. As the Gemological Institute of America notes, only India’s very wealthy classes could afford them, until growing trade led to diamonds as accoutrements of Europe’s elite in the 1400s. Fast-forward many centuries to the infamous De Beers 1940s marketing campaign, which cemented the perception of diamonds as a symbol of love and convinced the world “A diamond is forever.”
Diamonds Compared with Moissanites
Moissanite bears such a close resemblance to diamonds that most jewelers often can’t tell the difference without testing, concluded Kurt Nassau in his report “Synthetic Moissanite: A New Diamond Substitute.” Moissanites can have inclusions, just like diamonds, and have the same off-white color as VS1- and VS2-rated diamonds. Although not as hard as diamonds, which rate a 10 on the Mohs scale, moissanites are harder than most natural gems, with a 9.25 rating. Both diamonds and moissanites have a brilliance, or high index of light refraction, and fire, or light dispersion, but moissanites retain their brilliance and fire better when the stone gets dirty. Diamonds must be kept clean to do the same. Moissanites rate between 116 and 119 on a reflectivity meter, while diamonds rate 100. For the price-conscious shopper, moissanites are about one-eighth the price of diamonds.
A Diamond Is Forever
If you expect diamonds, however, moissanites will never do. Unlike a diamond, moissanite has some size restrictions — the larger the stone, the more visible a yellowish or greenish tint that is common to the mineral. Also, the stronger fire exhibited by moissanites can be a sign to most jewelry aficionados that the stone isn’t a diamond. And unlike diamonds, moissanites are a poor investment — because they’re artificially manufactured, they hold no long-term value. Above all, moissanite lacks the emotional pull of diamonds, both as a status symbol and a symbol of love. Let’s face it — no cinema icon has ever danced around in a gorgeous pink dress proclaiming moissanites are a girl’s best friend.
References and ResourcesProfessional Jeweler: Unmasking Synthetic Moissanite
Handbook of Mineralogy: Moissanite
SSEF Swiss Gemmological Institute: Update on Moissanite Identification
Gems and Gemology: Synthetic Moissanite: A New Diamond Substitute
Professional Jeweler Magazine: Moissanite Rights
GIA: Diamond History and Lore
Business Insider: The Incredible Story Of How De Beers Created And Lost The Most Powerful Monopoly Ever
Charles & Colvard: C3 Annual Report 1999