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The Truth About Moissanite

Ewen Logan

Lead goldsmith and owner of LTJ

There is a lot of hype around moissanite at the moment, with this ultra-fashionable gemstone being touted as the new sustainable 'diamond alternative'. I have seen a lot of claims online about moissanite being an environmentally friendly option that is indistinguishable from a diamond, whilst being just as durable and having more sparkle. While there is no doubt that good-quality moissanite can be a lovely gemstone in its own right (after all, we sell it!) these claims are misleading. There is a lot of 'smoke and mirrors' around moissanite in the jewellery industry, with dubious grading practices and inflated pricing. So, how do these claims stack up, and how does moissanite compare to diamonds?
What is moissanite?
Moissanite is a rare, naturally occurring mineral also known as silicon carbide. It was first discovered by the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Dr. Henri Moissan at the site of a massive meteorite strike in Arizona, and was named “moissanite” in his honour. In 1995, scientists working for Charles & Colvard developed an innovative thermal growing process that created silicon carbide crystals in a lab, allowing them to be utilised as gemstones for the first time. Since then, they have been widely produced by different growers, with varying qualities. Watch the video below for more information.

Is all moissanite the same quality?
Like all synthetic gemstones, there can be a vast difference in quality. Charles & Colvard’s moissanite has remained the global standard since 1995, and their Forever One™ moissanite is their best quality offering. In 2018, they introduced their lower-cost Moissanite™ range in an effort to compete with the influx of cheaper moissanite from other growers. The lower cost is reflected in a slightly lower quality of cut, clarity and polish compared to the premium Forever One™ range, as detailed in the brochure below. Although the C&C Moissanite™ is still far superior to generic moissanite, we prefer to use the higher quality Forever One™ moissanite in our own jewellery. This does come at an additional cost, but we believe it is worth it for such a superior stone. If your design uses a lot of stones (and/or a very large carat weight) and your budget doesn't stretch to the extra cost of Forever One™, we can source standard C&C Moissanite™ on request. 

Charles & Colvard Moissanite Buying Guide

Is moissanite environmentally friendly?
I see moissanite being described as environmentally friendly and sustainable because it is lab-grown. But all gemstones can be lab-grown these days, including diamonds. Therefore when comparing the eco-credentials of gemstones, it's important to compare like-for-like. Synthetic moissanite is no more eco-friendly than synthetic diamond, emerald or aquamarine, because they are all produced in exactly the same way. Therefore if you want a more eco-friendly alternative to a natural diamond, the more logical choice would be a lab-grown diamond rather than an entirely different type of gemstone. However, many lab-grown gemstones are far from eco-friendly, whatever the type. It takes immense amounts of electricity to produce a lab-grown gemstone, and most growers are based in countries that still rely heavily on fossil fuels and produce vast greenhouse-gas emissions. So don't assume that your gemstone is 'eco-friendly' just because it was grown in a lab. There is a lot of greenwashing in the synthetic gemstone market. If sustainability is important to you, ensure you are choosing lab-grown stones from the right producer. 
Charles & Colvard's entire business ethos is centred around creating ethical and sustainable gemstones. They promise that their environmental and socially responsible efforts will always go beyond consumer expectations, and donate a proportion of their profits to environmental and social causes. They say:
"Our goal is to both reduce our negative impact on the earth and to use our business as a force for good. When you decide to buy a piece of our moissanite, you are making a conscientious choice to purchase an ethically sourced, socially responsible and sustainable gem. Together, we are changing the environmental standards set by the fine jewellery industry".
Their website is certainly full of buzzwords like 'ethical' and 'sustainable'. But surprisingly, I couldn't find any reports or certifications to back up these claims. Even their FAQ section skirts around the issue, and I couldn't find any information about the environmental impact of their growing process, even when I searched through their press release archives and scoured online articles. If the information is out there, it's certainly not readily accessible to the public which is disappointing. So while it's probably safe to assume that C&C are more eco-friendly than faceless moissanite growers, it's difficult to say how sustainable the growing process actually is. 
In contrast, lab-grown diamond producers Green Rocks are fully transparent with their processes and became the world's first sustainably rated diamond producer in 2020. They opened up their entire operation to SCS Global, who investigated every part of the company, its technologies and operations before awarding Green Rocks their Sustainability Certification. The quality of their diamonds is also unrivalled, with their Green Grown Process producing the most natural-looking lab diamond available on the market today. 
So, if you're wanting to guarantee your gemstone has been sustainably produced, at the moment I would have to recommend a Green Rocks diamond over moissanite, unless Charles & Colvard start to offer more transparency. Another great eco-friendly option is to choose a recycled diamond. We can source antique and modern diamonds in most cuts and carat weights. 
Is moissanite as hard as diamond?
Most people know that diamonds are the hardest gemstone on earth, and can only be scratched by another diamond. They score a 10 on the Mohs scale, which rates the hardness of all minerals on a scale of 1 to 10 (with talc scoring 1). Moissanite scores around 9.25 on the scale, making it the second hardest gemstone after diamond. This means it is a hardwearing gemstone. 
However, it is important to understand that the Mohs scale is non-linear, and there is a huge difference between 9 and 10. Diamond is many times harder than sapphire which scores a 9, and sapphire is very prone to scratching and wear with normal use. As moissanite scores 9.25, it will be more durable than sapphire but is definitely not as durable as diamond. 
You don't need to take my word for it - Charles & Colvard publish bench guidelines for jewellers, with a host of warnings about the possibility of scratching and heat damage while working with moissanite. 

Charles & Colvard Bench Jeweller Guide

Is moissanite indistinguishable from diamond?
When moissanite became fashionable a few years ago, gemstone testing equipment wasn't calibrated to recognise it. This resulted in moissanite incorrectly testing as diamond (which was the closest match) and led to claims that the two were indistinguishable from one another. New testing equipment has been updated to allow for this, and moissanite no longer tests as diamond. But testing aside, it has always been possible for a jeweller to tell them apart with the naked eye. 
Diamond sparkles white with a hint of colour, but moissanite is much more reflective and has a 'disco ball' effect with rainbow sparkles, as can be seen in the image below. While it can be a beautiful gemstone (at the right quality) it just doesn't have the same look as a real diamond. Check out this great video from Chris Bilton (formerly of Professional Jeweller Magazine) as he examines a moissanite stone for the first time. 
As you can see in the video, in addition to an obvious disco ball effect, poor-quality moissanite tends to have an unfortunate grey tint. The only truly colourless moissanite we've seen is the Forever One™ Premium Colourless range from Charles & Colvard. This has a nice white colour and suffers less from the disco ball effect, and is generally just a much nicer gemstone than the one Chris examined in his video. But to the experienced eye, even the Forever One™ stones are still obviously moissanite rather than diamond. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because it's still a beautiful stone in its own right. But it's something to be aware of if you're planning to purchase moissanite jewellery in the hope of passing it off as diamond! 

Does moissanite sparkle more than a diamond?
As explained above, moissanite certainly does have more sparkle than a diamond. This is because it is doubly refractive and shows much more fire and brilliance, giving the disco ball effect. Some people love this ultra-flashy sparkle, and others think it looks fake and brash compared to the subtle sparkle of a diamond. But the sparkle of any gemstone is down to its cut, and a perfectly cut diamond will out-sparkle a badly cut moissanite. And this is where the lack of an official grading system for moissanite can be a real disadvantage, as it's difficult for customers to know what they're getting. Scroll down to the bottom of this page for a video of our own moissanite rings, which were made using the Forever One™ Premium Colourless gemstones.
Is moissanite graded the same as a diamond?
Everybody knows about the 4 Cs of diamonds: cut, colour, clarity and carat weight. The diamond grading system was developed by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) in the 1950s and is still used worldwide today, both by the GIA and other grading services (such as IGI and EDR). You can read more about this in our Diamond Buying Guide.
There is no official grading system for moissanite, but they tend to be graded in comparison to diamonds so the customer can see what quality they're getting. Charles & Colvard Forever One™ Premium Colourless moissanite is the equivalent colour of a D-F diamond and the equivalent clarity of IF-VS1. You can read more about the Charles & Colvard grading process in their blog post: Making The Grade. Their grading is done in-house rather than by an independent source, but they do seem to have a robust process in place. Stones over 4mm also come with a Charles & Colvard certificate of authenticity, with a reference number matching a laser inscription on the girdle of the stone. 
Some unscrupulous sellers are issuing copycat GIA-style grading reports for their moissanite gemstones, from a company calling themselves GRA. You can see for yourself that they have blatantly copied the genuine GIA logo, branding and website content, and their reports have been designed to imitate the official GIA diamond grading reports. You can see Chris talking about this in his video, and a genuine GIA report is shown below (click on the image to download a sample report). I agree with Chris - while it's great for gemstones to be graded by a reputable source, I don't see any evidence that GRA is one of them. In addition to the copycat branding and reports, their website is extremely suspect and full of spelling errors. The site claims that "since 2001 GRA has been proven to be the internationally recognized passport for gemstones". I have never heard of them before, and neither have any of the other jewellers I asked. So be very careful parting with extra money for these 'GRA' certified stones. 


GIA Grading Report

Is moissanite cheaper than diamond?
There's no doubt about it, traditionally mined diamonds are very expensive. This is part of their appeal - they have an air of luxury and exclusivity. It is truly special to own something so rare and precious, billions of years in its creation and pulled from the depths of the earth. Prices increase exponentially as you exceed 1ct, as it is much rarer to find gem-quality stones in these sizes. 
Lab-grown diamonds can be bought for a fraction of the price of their naturally-mined equivalents, especially in larger sizes. At weights under 1ct, you can expect to pay 4-5 times more for a natural diamond versus a lab-grown diamond of the same specification. At weights above 1ct, you can expect to pay 10-20 more. This makes lab-grown diamonds a budget-friendly alternative to naturally mined ones. 
Moissanite is even less expensive than lab-grown diamonds, even for the highest quality Forever One™ Premium Colourless gemstones. These cost roughly half the price of a lab-grown diamond of the equivalent size, with the standard C&C Moissanite™ costing roughly a quarter. But beware of sellers making claims about "savings" possible by choosing moissanite over diamond. Moissanite is certainly cheaper, but you're paying what the stone is worth. It's a bit like saying you can save money on an orange by buying an apple - they're two completely different things!  
Moissanite jewellery definitely has its place, and a high-quality stone can be stunning to look at. We sell some beautiful moissanite pieces ourselves, like the rings shown in the video below. But moissanite should just be enjoyed for what it is: very sparkly, fairly inexpensive and quite similar to a diamond.
The lower cost is undoubtedly the main advantage of moissanite, but there is an incredible about of misinformation out there due to uninformed or dishonest sellers. I find it concerning when I see moissanite being described as being 'exactly like a diamond' because it's simply not true. Many sellers are using copycat GIA-style reports to inflate the price for unsuspecting buyers. Others are promoting lab-grown moissanite as the 'sustainable alternative' to naturally mined diamonds, despite many lab-grown stones being far from eco-friendly. And in doing so, they completely overlook lab-grown diamonds, which are the more logical alternative to naturally mined diamonds (rather than moissanite which is a completely different gemstone!).
If you do choose a buy moissanite jewellery, be sure to choose your jeweller carefully to ensure you are getting the best quality stone for the best possible price. You can see two examples from our own moissanite collection in the video below, which were made with C&C Forever One™ stones. Please email us for current pricing.  

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