The Trouble With Moissanite
By Gary La Court
Natural mined diamonds have been coming under a lot of heat recently. Award-winning journalist Cecil Adams sums it up the best in a recent article: "diamonds are a scam, pure and simple." Most people in the new millennium understand that between the DeBeers diamond cartel, the issue of child labor in Third World diamond processing operations, and "blood diamonds used to finance oppression and genocide in Third World African countries, not to mention your snooty and pretentious local jeweler, diamonds are just not worth the hassle, guilt, and let's not forget thousands and thousands of questionably spent dollars.
Lately, new synthetic diamonds have come on the market that have all of the look, appeal, and glittering beauty of natural diamonds, but without the baggage, and at a fraction of the cost.
Since moissanite burst upon the scene in the late 90s, it has created quite a stir. Moissanite is gem-quality silicon carbide. The production of moissanite is a proprietary process and it is available only from C3 Inc, a division of Cree Research.
When moissanite was first introduced to the market it created a great deal of publicity. This was due to the fact that moissanite would often fool a jeweler into thinking it was a natural diamond. Both the Nova and 20/20 TV news shows did segments featuring hidden cameras showing jewelers fooled and embarrassed by moissanite. What was actually happening though was not quite so simple.
Jewelers generally rely on something called a "thermal-probe to detect a fake diamond. Thermal probes work well with cubic zirconia, for instance. Moissanite, however, has a thermal conductivity that is very close to diamond. They were able to fool the older thermal probes. The fact of the matter is though; moissanite really just does not look that much like diamond. The two substances have radically different optical properties. These differences are clearly visible to the naked eye. It was obvious in both the Nova and 20/20 segments that the jewelers were clearly confused. They kept looking at the stone and then testing at and saying things like, "Well, I guess it must be real." What they were really saying is "Well, I guess it must be real, but it sure is a weird looking diamond!"
Problems with Moissanite as a Diamond Stimulant
Unlike natural diamonds, or some of the better quality synthetic diamonds like those available from Diamond Nexus Labs, (http://www.diamondnexuslabs.com) moissanite stones have an optical quality known as "hexagonal polytypic." What this means is that moissanite is doubly-refractive. And because of this they create a strong visual effect known as "birefringence." This is visually seen as a doubling of the stone's back facets that creates a marked "drunk-vision effect.
Moissanite has a dispersive power nearly 2.5 times greater than that of diamond. This creates what's known as the "disco-ball effect. Some think that this excess fire is beautiful; others think it cheap and fake looking.
It is impossible to produce a pure white moissanite. The stones have a quality known as "fluorescence that causes them to appear slightly green or gray. This effect is much greater under natural light. In the jewelry store a moissanite dealer will always show the stones under a pink tinged light, as this tends to cancel out the fluorescence. Many people say they loved their moissanite ring until they got it into the sunlight.
Due to its relatively extensive manufacturing process and the fact that it is only available from one source, moissanite tends to be quite expensive (though still cheap when compared to diamonds) good quality moissanite stones run around $520 per caret.
Better Synthetic Diamond Alternatives
In the last two years there have been almost miraculous breakthroughs in the science of synthetic diamond creation. There are several new processes that create gemstones that are virtually indistinguishable from natural diamonds. One of the best I have found are the gemstones available from www.DiamondNexusLabs.com. I recently did independent research for several synthetic diamond companies and found their products to be among the best.
Diamond Nexus gemstones cut glass, they have brilliance, dispersion and radiance factors that are very close to mined diamond, and best of all, as they are new in the US market, they are priced at an incredible $79 per caret. This is a bargain that probably will not last.
Moissanite stones are beautiful in their own right. They offer great sparkle and flash. However, if you truly are trying to purchase a gemstone that comes as close as possible to the properties of a natural diamond moissanite is not the best choice.
About The Author
Gary LaCourt is an expert in refractive dynamics and a technical consultant who has recently done independent research for a consortium of synthetic and a natural gemstone producers including http://www.DiamondNexusLabs.com.