The appearance of synthetic moissanite has caused quite a stir in the jewelry markets and especially in the present day diamond trade industry. The reason is simple - moissanite is in many respects so similar to diamond that it is very difficult even for the gemologists to spot the difference. Actually the term "synthetic moissanite" is practically a tautology, since there is hardly such thing as a natural moissanite. It is true that moissanite has originally been discovered in the fragments of some meteorite in Arizona, but in so microscopic quantities that I believe we can safely state that the only moissanite we will encounter in our lives is the artificially produced.

So what is moissanite after all, and how can it be compared with diamond? Moissanite is a trade name for ordinary silicon carbide, a compound with chemical formula SiC. On the other hand diamond (I am sure everybody knows this, but let me repeat it just for the record) is plain carbon, that is C. If you take a look at the periodic table of element you will discover that silicon lies immediately bellow carbon, meaning that both elements have similar properties. So if you take diamond and replace some carbon atoms with silicon in a regular fashion you will end up with moissanite, without really disturbing much of the chemical bonding. This explains why moissanite is so successful in mimicking the diamond properties. There are actually many polymorphs of SiC and not all of them can be designated as moissanite, but for the sake of simplicity we will neglect this fact. What is important, however, is one difference between the two similar compounds: silicon carbide has a hexagonal structure, whereas the unit cell of diamond is cubic. This difference is important since it can actually serve as a reference point for their discrimination.

The manufacturers of moissanite would probably disagree that this mineral has ever intended of serving as a replacement for the most precious gemstone of all, and they are certainly right. The gemstones produced by cutting and polishing artificially grown silicon carbide specimens can be considered gemstones on their own, since they are really very attractive and have unique properties. Let us enumerate the characteristic properties of both crystals. We know that diamond is the actual champion with hardness of maximum 10 point on the Mohs scale. The hardness of moissanite is around 9.2, which is slightly above corundum (read above ruby and sapphire stones), which used to be considered the second best in this respect.

The index of refraction of diamond is about 2.4, one of the largest in the mineral world, but moissanite has a higher one (~2.6). The fire and sparkle that moissanite produces surpasses those of diamond by a factor of two. This is really a huge plus for moissanite, since this was one of diamond's strongest advantage over the other precious stone. The thermal conductivity was one of the unique properties of diamond when compared to the diamond stimulants. With the advancement of moissanite who is equally able to conduct heat , this is is no longer the case and cannot be taken as a fingerprint of diamond.

With regards to transparency, moissanite falls under the category of almost colorless gemstones, as it exhibits some greenish nuances under specific lighting. This can make a problem if you are buying some jewelry items produced from this gemstone without actually seeing them (for example, via internet), as the coloration might be too intense. Moissanite is not as expensive as diamond but if you would like to expand your collection of precious stones, have in mind that it is still relatively expensive due to the complicated process of production.

If you liked this article, feel free to browse my other gem-related articles about green amethyst, topaz stones, and amethyst birth stone.