MOISSANITE IN THE MIX
Don't be fooled by this new diamond simulant
You've heard it before, but synthetic moissanite will be available sometime
this year, assures C3 Inc., the North Carolina company that's producing
and stockpiling the diamond lookalike. The gems will range from 3 points
to a half-carat. "Synthetic moissanite should retail from 5% to 10%
of the cost of a natural diamond," says Jeff Hunter, C3 president.
That's between $300 and $500 per carat. Though at first production was limited
to small crystals, larger crystals are now possible, allowing C3 to reduce
manufacturing costs while increasing the volume of gemstones produced from
each crystal by more than 100%.
Synthetic moissanite can fool conventional diamond testers, which evaluate
a stone's thermal conductivity. Unlike other diamond simulants, moissanite
is thermally conductive.
In broadcasts on the Discovery Channel that ran late last year, several
U.S. jewelers and appraisers thought moissannite was natural diamond. Those
tests sent shivers up the spines of those in the diamond jewelry business.
De Beers issued a memo, immediately responding to concerned sightholders,
explaining the broadcast and its implications. The memo included two pages
of questions and answers about moissanite.
Separately, the Gemological Institute of America published details of
its exhaustive study of moissanite in the Fall 1997 issue of Gems and
Despite the market test's ominous results, there are standard gemological
tests that separate moissanite from diamond. In addition, C3 has developed
a new diamond tester that was being market-tested at press time. The new
detector bases decisions on stone origin on optical characteristics rather
than thermal conductivity. The tester should cost less than $500.
Until you get your hands on the tester or if you're concerned that synthetic
moissanite might have made it to your inventory, look for the following
telltale moissanite signs that can be detected through conventional means:
- It's doubly refractive (2.65-2.69). Diamond's refractive index is 2.42.
With magnification, you can make out a faint "doubling of the image"
in the pavilion facet junctions looking through the table of the stone.
Diamond facet junctions stay single.
- Some moissanite samples have unique whitish, ribbon-like inclusions
under magnification. These are not found in diamonds.
- A hardness of about 9.25. Diamond's hardness is 10.0. Moissanite is
essentially a form of silicon carbide.
- Most samples have tinges of yellow, green or gray though producers
have been working hard to eliminate them. Completely colorless synthetic
mois-sanite is extremely rare, though the larger sizes - around a half-carat
- have less-visible shading.
C3 has taken the task of alerting the industry to the presence of synthetic
moissanite quite seriously.
Hunter has led the charge to educate jewelers, appraisers and educators
about moissanite. "We have crossed the country speaking to appraisal
organizations, GIA Alumni chapters and such - people who really need to
know," he says. "We have also supported GIA's efforts in conducting
a full study of laboratory-grown moissanite."
by Robert Weldon, G.G.
||Synthetic moissanite, a new and convincing diamond simulant, should be on
the market by next month. Gems and photo courtesy of C3 Inc., Raleigh, NC.|
Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.