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.