At the beginning of 2020, nobody could have foreseen the economic devastation that Covid-19 would wreak. In South Africa, a weak rand-dollar exchange rate has seen local customers looking to stretch their buying power, and one example of this in the jewellery industry is the growing popularity of moissanite. Over the last few months we’ve seen an increase in enquiries about moissanite vs diamond in South Africa, with customers wanting to know what the differences are, which one is better and more importantly, what the price of moissanite is.
To be honest, with our background in geology and love for all that the natural world has to offer, we’ve always been a little wary of lab-grown and man-made gemstones like moissanite. There is nothing wrong with them, we’re just natural science geeks.
We also know that we’re here to help you, our valued customer, by giving you the best options for you, together with enough information and practical education for you to make the decision that suits you best. With that in mind, we bring you a complete guide to all things moissanite, packed full of everything you need to know about this up-and-coming gemstone.
What is moissanite?
The discovery of moissanite as a mineral can be traced back to 1893, when French chemist Henri Moissan was examining rock samples from a meteorite impact crater in Arizona, USA. He initially thought the tiny colourless crystals embedded in the rock were diamonds, but in 1904 he discovered that the crystals were, in fact, silicon carbide (SiC). Two years before the discovery of natural moissanite in the Canyon Diablo meteorite crater, another scientist, Edward Acheson, had chemically manufactured silicon carbide in his laboratory.
Today, naturally occurring moissanite is exceptionally rare and all moissanite available in both industrial and jewellery markets is all laboratory-grown and man-made. Moissanite was initially marketed as a diamond simulant in 1988 when Charles & Colvard obtained patents to create and market moissanite as a laboratory-grown gemstone. Thirty years later, in 2018, the world-wide patents expired and now, there are numerous laboratories around the world manufacturing gem-quality moissanite.
The increased availability of moissanite, the drop in moissanite manufacturing prices and a Millennial and Gen Z driven trend towards traditional engagement ring alternatives have all contributed to the increasing demand for this man-made gemstone.
Diamond vs Moissanite: What’s the difference?
Diamond and moissanite are very similar to each other with regards to physical properties, hence the extensive marketing of moissanite as an alternative to diamond. Diamond is well known as the hardest mineral known to man, with a hardness of 10/10 on Moh’s mineral hardness scale. Moissanite has a hardness of 9.25/10, making it slightly harder than sapphire and ruby, which are graded at 9 on the hardness scale. Thus, moissanite is a practical option for wearing everyday in an engagement or wedding ring.
A trade-mark of diamonds is their remarkable fire and brilliance, a result of the three different ways that diamonds react to light. A combination of reflection, refraction and dispersion unite to give the recognisable diamond sparkle. Diamonds have a refractive index of 2.417 – 2.419, whereas the refractive index of moissanite is 2.65 – 2.69. Moissanite exhibits a different kind of brilliance to diamonds, and for larger moissanites, some people feel that the mirror ball effect you’ll see in direct sunlight is a little too over the top.
When it comes to comparing the sizes of diamonds vs moissanites, there is one key factor to consider. Diamonds have a specific gravity of 3.52, whereas the value for moissanite is 3.22. That means that moissanite is lighter than diamond and a 1ct round diamond will have a slightly smaller diameter than a 1ct round moissanite. But, to keep things simple, moissanites are sold according to millimeter diameters, with an equivalent diamond weight guideline alongside it. An ideal diameter for a 1ct diamond is 6.5mm, so if you were buying a 6.5mm round moissanite, it would be sold as such, stating the diameter and that it is equivalent in size (diameter) to a 1ct diamond. If you see the abbreviation “EDW” next to a moissanite, that’s what it’s referring to – the “equivalent diamond weight”.
How much is moissanite in South Africa?
This is where things start to get really interesting, when consumers start to compare relative price points. Because moissanite is man-made, prices have come down as technology has progressed (the same thing is happening with the price of laboratory-grown diamonds). Like diamonds, the price of moissanite varies with size and colour. The larger the moissanite, the more expensive it is. The colours of “white” moissanite are similar to those of diamonds and again, the whiter the colour (compared to more tinted, yellow stones), the more expensive it is. Currently, the price of a 1ct GH colour moissanite is approximately R5,000. A natural 1ct diamond of H colour and SI1 clarity could sent you back around R95,000, depending on cut, fluorescence and a few other factors.
A 2ct GH colour moissanite would cost you approximately R12,000 whereas a 2ct H colour diamond will make a +R260,000 dent in your pocket. Sadly, not too many couples looking to get engaged can afford that kind of money in 2020.
Does moissanite come in different colours?
Yes, moissanite can be grown in a variety of different colours. Many of the colours will mimic common diamond colours like yellow, brown, grey and cognac, but you can also get moissanite in colours that are exceptionally rare in natural diamonds, like blue and green.
What quality factors should I look for when buying moissanite?
Some companies are selling moissanites with certificates, and grading moissanites according to the same 4C’s as diamonds. There are no standards in place for grading of moissanite, so be wary of putting too much emphasis on the certification. Independent laboratory certificates for diamonds are considered essential, so that you know you’re not buying a synthetic stone or fake gem. If you think about it, moissanite is a synthetic, lab-grown gem – and you know that. With such a low price point, it wouldn’t make sense for somebody to pretend to sell you moissanite when they are not.
That said, you still want to make sure you are getting good quality moissanite and many of the characteristics you are looking for mirror what you would be looking for in a diamond. Make sure that any moissanite you are purchasing is clear and transparent, showing no signs of looking milky or hazy. Have a look at it in the sun and make sure that it shows the sparkle that you associate with moissanite. Look at the moissanite under a loupe and check that all the facets look intact with no chips or surface damage.
Will moissanite hold it’s value?
The quickest answer here is “No”, but you might want to know why. Firstly, moissanite is a man-made substance so there will never be a shortage of it. Secondly, as production capacity increases and technology prices decrease, the cost of manufacture of moissanite is likely to keep coming down. You may want to argue whether moissanite has any value to start with, compared to natural gemstones. Natural gemstones (be they diamonds or any other gems) occur in limited quantities in generally hard-to-access locations and will always have some associated production costs (from exploration, to mining, to extraction and production costs). There will always be more inherent value in natural gemstones than man-made gemstones.
If I’m in South Africa, should I buy moissanite or diamond?
This is a decision that only you can make, after you have carefully weighed up the pros and cons that we’ve discussed above. Many people still associate natural diamonds with the ultimate expression of love and life-long commitment, and for them, a moissanite would be akin to a slap in the face. For others, their concern is not about whether a gem is natural or not, but what’s the most sparkle they can get for their money and in this case, moissanite is probably a no-brainer. If you’re looking for big flash for little cash, moissanite makes sense; but if you are believer in all things natural that the earth has to offer, you’ll want to buy a diamond.
Ultimately, it’s about what works best for your taste, your budget and your relationship. Make sure that if you’re buying a moissanite, your future fiancé is aware of this and doesn’t think that you’ve bought a diamond. Don’t try to fool him or her; the consequences could be disastrous for the levels of trust in your relationship. Katannuta Diamonds has an extensive selection of natural diamonds in all shapes, sizes and qualities at competitive prices. If, however, you decide you want to consider moissanite, we can help you too. Drop us a line via our website, or give us a call (+27 0 83 234 0247) and we can start with a Covid-19- safe WhatsApp call to discuss your unique requirements.