Posted on January 07 2020
What is Moissanite?
Moissanite was discovered by and named for French chemist and Nobel prize winner Ferdinand Frederick Henri Moissan (September 28th, 1852 - February 20th, 1907). Also known as Silicon Carbide (SiC) or carborundum, moissanite is basically star dust. Originating in space as a by-product of star formation small quantities eventually hitched a ride on meteorites and found their way to earth. Very small quantities of Moissanite is found naturally in kimberlite and in meteoric iron but is extremely rare. So rare in fact, that there isn't enough of the naturally occurring mineral to produce even a single pair of moissanite earrings.
Instead of mining for it, fine gem quality moissanite is meticulously manufactured to perfect detail and in many ways even surpass the optical properties and beauty of a diamond. Cut and polished moissanite looks like a cut and polished diamond, and although it is less expensive, moissanite is tougher, more brilliant, has more sparkle, can have consistently perfect cuts, and does not support mining (which is ecologically damaging) or human suffering.
Moissanite is tougher than a diamond.
Lets differentiate toughness from hardness (two commonly misunderstood labels when it comes to gems.) Hardness is characterized as a gems resistance to scratching. Toughness is a gems resistance to chipping or breakage. Rated at 9.5 on the Moh's hardness scale, moissanite is the second hardest jewelry quality gem. Diamonds, rated at 10 on the Moh's scale, is the only gem harder. Moissanite is however tougher than a diamond. This is due to the fact that diamonds have many naturally occurring fracture points throughout the gem. Hit a diamond with a hammer and it can break into a dozen or more pieces.
Accidentally scrape a brick wall with a diamond ring on your finger and the diamond can easily chip. Moissanite has no fracture points so is much more resilient to hammer bashing (not impervious - don't try it) and accidental chipping. At Laraci, this is particularly good news for our customers who love tension engagement rings. Tension rings hold the gems in place under 12,000 psi point pressure which makes toughness very important. Diamonds can crack along fracture points at that kind of point pressure, but Moissanite (being tougher) has no problem with it.
Moissanite has more sparkle than a diamond.
Whether we are talking about moissanite gems, diamonds, or any other jewelry grade gem, sparkle is key to its "wow" factor. A gems sparkle is the culmination of several attributes including primarily its brilliance (its refractive index), cut type and cut quality, and then to a lesser degree a gems clarity (density of inclusions), polish, cloudiness, and anything else that impacts its light return. When jewelers are talking about a gem's brilliance, they are referring to its "refraction". The refraction index is a measurement of the difference of the speed of light in a vacuum compared to the speed of light traveling through a given medium (such as through a diamond or through moissanite for example). When the speed of light slows down (due to the density or type of medium) its wavelength changes which visually impacts its color (think of the prism effect). The higher the refraction index, the greater and more varied the light dispersion (jewelers call this a gem's "fire").
The refractive index of a diamond is 2.42, but moissanite is rated higher with a refractive index of 2.65-2.69. In addition, moissanite (as do rubies and sapphires) has a double refraction (see "Birefringence" on Wikipedia), where a diamonds refraction is just singular (as is glass). This gives moissanite 10% more sparkle and fire than a similarly cut diamond.
The basic four C's of choosing a great gemstone are: Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat weight
The four C's is what you need to know in order to purchase a great looking gem whether it be a diamond or moissanite. Really, of the four C's, in our opinion only the first three really matter. If you get a gem with first of all a great cut, then also great color and clarity, you will have a gem with great appeal. Carat weight (gem size) must be considered too of course, but when working with a budget, stick with the four C's in order of importance: Cut, then Color, then Clarity, and lastly Carat weight. A large looking gem with a poor cut, poor color, or poor clarity will not impress.
Cut Quality is Crucial
Moissanite can always have a perfect cut. Very little is as important to the dazzle and "life" of a gem than its cut quality. Cut quality is all about light return. The better the cut, the more light that passes through a gem will be returned back out the top or through its crown. A poor cut gem will appear dull since a fair percentage of the light entering the gem finds its way out the bottom through its pavilion. Cut quality is typically rated as 'poor','fair','good','very good', 'excellent', and sometimes 'ideal'.Have you wondered why diamonds have such a variation of cut qualities? Why cut a diamond so its only 'good' or 'very good'? Don't we always want lots of light return? Absolutely! Unfortunately for diamonds, the cut is often determined by the fracture lines in the rough stone its being hewn out of. Many times a larger rough diamond is determined to have more value if it can be cut into a greater number of smaller stones even though some must be of lower quality due to fracture points in the rough stone. Moissanite has no fracture point weaknesses so can be perfectly cut every time. In fact, Charles & Colvard's master cutter has perfected the cut ratio's to maximize the light return out of every Charles & Colvard moissanite gem. A moissanite with a perfect cut combined with the highest brilliance and fire ensures a very sparkly and lively gemstone. No shortage of wow factor. As an interesting side note, not all moissanite is cut equally. Some moissanite sellers in India and China have opted to cut their moissanite to typical diamond 'Ideal' cut ratio's. While this of course works very well for a diamond, the optical properties in moissanite is different causing light to bend differently (refraction and birefringence) so the cut must allow for a slightly larger table and less overall depth than that of a diamond. A perfect moissanite cut will maximize light return in a perfect moissanite gem and as an added benefit create a slightly lower profile on the finished moissanite engagement ring.
Years ago, color grading of diamonds an other gemstones was less specific. Gems were rated as A (best), then B for mediocre, and C for the lowest grade. Gems with a great color rating could be AA or AAA. These days thankfully, moissanite and diamonds are rated on a much larger scale of D-Z (basically colorless to yellow-brown.) Grading now starts at 'D' instead of 'A' to avoid confusion with the older antiquated color grading system.
D-E-F is considered colorless, G-H-I-J is considered "near colorless", K-L-M is "faint color" (yellowish), and so on to very yellow. Laraci offers Charles & Colvard's Forever One colorless and near colorless as well as NEO's colorless and near coloress moissanite. An individual untrained in gem color differentiation typically is unable to differentiate between two color grades side by side, so D and F are both considered colorless and will appear the same to most observers. When comparing an F with an H color, most people can spot the lighter color, but the shade difference is almost indecipherable.
FL-IF (flawless - internally flawless)
VVS1-VVS2 (very very slight inclusions)
VS1-VS2 (very slight inclusions)
SI1-SI2 (slight inclusions) - 10x loupe needed
I1-I3 (visible inclusions) - visible to the naked eye
Gems basically all have some level of "inclusions" in them. Inclusions can be used by jewelers as one of many unique identifiers to verify that they have the right gem for the right client. Diamonds inclusions can be things such as very small black carbon deposits, white feathering, or a "cloud" of tiny and tightly spaced deposits. In moissanite the inclusions can be very small clear looking "pipes" that sometimes can be located with a 10x loupe. The easier it is to spot an inclusion, the lower the gems clarity rating. Laraci does not sell any gems with a clarity rating below VS2.
Carat weight (not to be confused with "karat" which is a precious metals measurement) is a unit of measurement which today is equivalent to 200mg. The word carat originates from the Greek word "kerátion" (or carob seed). Carob seeds were used a millennia ago to measure the weight of jewelry because they were believed (incorrectly) to have a consistant weight. In the late 1500's carob seeds were used to weigh diamonds. In 1907, the official carat (ct) was agreed to be 200mg.
We always say that size is the least important, especially if you are considering going with a lower quality cut to allow for more budget to go toward a larger gem. Thankfully with Moissanite, you don't have to worry about getting a poor quality cut or poor color rating. All of our Moissanite is ideally cut to best suit maximum light return in Moissanite, and the color and clarity is always great. This allows you to choose a larger carat weight that makes sense for the engagement ring that you've chosen and suits your budget.