What’s the Difference Between Moissanites & Diamonds?

Moissanite vs. diamond. Which comes out on top? Is it moissanite with its undeniable sparkle, or diamond with its centuries-old cultural heritage and value? The answer is complex and very much based on what you want out of a gemstone.

 

Fortunately for you, I’ve created this short and useful guide to aid you in your journey toward buying the right gemstone. While I myself am a diamond fan, and will always recommend natural diamonds over every other type of gemstone, here you will find the advantages of purchasing a moissanite.

 

 

What is Moissanite?

It’s more than likely that many uninitiated people have seen a moissanite and exclaimed, “That’s a diamond!” Unfortunately for these people, they couldn’t be more wrong. While a moissanite is near-colorless gemstone, it is composed of silicon carbide, rather than carbon. It’s a rare mineral that occurs naturally, and is usually only found in the craters of meteor impacts. Because of this, most moissanite is produced artificially, meaning it is cheaper and more abundant than natural moissanite.

Here are examples of moissanites in a variety of different cuts. As you can see, they’re very similar to diamonds, and are usually used in lieu when trying to keep budgets small. Image credit: AGS

How to Tell the Difference

For the curious amongst you, telling the difference between a moissanite and a diamond is an interesting process. It can even require a little bit of scientific experiment. Here’s what you should look out for:

Brilliance

Moissanites actually produce higher levels of brilliance, usually because they are artificially made.

Clarity

Again, because most moissanites are artificial, the clarity levels tend to be higher than diamonds because manufacturers can control them.

Color

Unlike the higher quality diamonds, moissanites are not colorless. They’re near-colorless, and will often show green, yellow, or even gray hues when viewed under certain light sources.

Fire

Moissanites tend to have more fire than diamonds. Fire is where, through refraction, white light breaks down into colors of the spectrum. Moissanite will have stronger flashes of these colors.

Electricity Conduction

Here’s the scientific part. Diamonds do not conduct electricity at all, as each carbon atom is bonded through covalent bonds, leaving no free electrons or ions to conduct with. In contrast, moissanite is slightly conductive. And when I say slightly, I mean very slightly. It wouldn’t measure on conventional conduction tests, and so requires special equipment.

Value

A number of factors influence the price of both diamond and moissanite, but in general, moissanite is far less expensive. The main reason for this is because they are artificially made and therefore not rare. While diamonds retain their value over time, moissanites tend to lose theirs.

Moissanite vs. Diamond: Comparing the Four Cs

If you’ve never come across them before, the Four Cs are the characteristics through which diamonds can be evaluated; Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat. They all influence the cost and quality of a diamond. Savvy diamond buyers can, by looking at the Four Cs of a specific diamond, determine the quality of a diamond and whether they are getting a good deal or not.

 

We can also use them to compare moissanite and diamond.

Cut

Moissanites come in a variety of cuts, just like diamonds do, but as ever, the most popular cut is the Round Brilliant. This is because the Round Brilliant offers the greatest brilliance and fire, is the best at hiding any unwanted color (such as green or yellow), and suits literally all styles of jewelry it’s used within.

Clarity

Because moissanite is made in a lab, the potential for blemishes or inclusions (the things that lower a gemstone’s clarity grading) is small. Now, moissanite may have some imperfections, but they’re generally only visible when viewed under magnification.

 

Now, one thing I must state is that moissanite isn’t graded like diamonds are. Most diamonds are graded by the AGS or GIA clarity scales — unfortunately, moissanite doesn’t come with this level of impartiality. For each of these stones, the clarity grading is usually done by either the manufacturer or the seller. What this means is that you need to be extra careful to judge whether you can trust the seller or manufacturer in their appraisal, so that what you’re getting is what’s been described.

 

Because of their beginnings in a lab, it is highly unlikely you will find a moissanite with a clarity grading below VS1 or VS2. From the manufacturer’s perspective, there would be no financial incentive to make a gemstone at these lower gradings, so expect to find many flawless moissanite on the market.

Lab-Grown Diamonds: An Alternative to Moissanite

It’s not only moissanite that can be made in a laboratory. In fact, diamonds too can be created by skilled craftsmen under artificial conditions. These diamonds are physically identical in both composition and visual appeal, but are far more affordable than natural diamonds.

 

My favorite purveyor of artificial diamonds is Brilliant Earth. They pride themselves on their ethical approach to diamond retailing, and boast an impressive array of lab and lab colored diamonds.

 

Color

Color is where a lot of diamond aficionados truly see the difference between moissanite and diamonds. As I stated, moissanite suffers from having either yellow, green, or gray hues present. If they were to be graded on the GIA color scale (they’re currently not), they would sit around the K grading. Also, the bigger the moissanite, the more likely you are to see those undesirable colors.

 

Diamonds, on the other hand, are generally colorless. When you get a D color diamond (the highest GIA grading available), you’ll see just how stunning that sparkling transparency can be.

Carat & Price

I thought I would include price under carat as they’re very closely related. As with any gemstone, the bigger the carat, the bigger the price. Because of their status as manmade, you will tend to find that moissanite of the same carat will be around the same price. On the other hand, diamonds, due to their natural formation, can be highly varied even though they are the same size, and so the prices can be wildly different.

 

Moissanites are actually priced based on their size in millimeters, as they weigh around 15% less than diamonds of the same size. For example, a one-carat diamond can cost around $3,890, while a moissanite of the same dimensions will be priced at around $850.

The Durability of Moissanite

When measuring durability, or ‘hardness’, gemstone appraisers use the Mohs scale of hardness. Diamonds clock in at 10 on this scale, which is the highest level. In contrast, moissanites measure at 9.25. While moissanites are still durable, they will never be quite as durable as a diamond.

 

So will they suffer more from scratches? While the scale says that moissanite simply are not as hard as diamonds, it will still take a significant impact to scratch or blemish them.

The Light Performance of Moissanite

The thing that diamond buyers are looking for above all else is light performance. It is the be-all and end-all of diamond quality, the thing that makes them shine, the thing that takes a person’s breath away. So how does moissanite perform?

 

Brilliance is the term used to describe how light comes into a gemstone through its pavilions, and then is refracted up and out through the table. It’s the term most associated with light performance, and can be affected by many things. Inferior cut or clarity will mean a diamond or other gemstone will be unable to provide a high amount of light performance. Interestingly enough, moissanite actually has a higher refractive index, coming in at 2.65. Diamonds rank at 2.42, and yet there is generally more brilliance to a diamond.

 

The sparkle of moissanite is wholly different from that of diamond. This is due to the different formation of moissanite facets, which leads to less refraction of white light. In the battle of light performance, diamonds come out on top when it comes to sparkle.

 

A small portion of gemstone lovers view moissanite’s brilliance as being too ‘busy’, as they emit a lot of vibrant colored light when refracting. Evidently, what you prefer is up to you, but it’s worth knowing that diamonds produce more of those gorgeous clear white sparkles.

The Pros and Cons of Moissanite

When comparing moissanite and diamond, there are several pros and cons that you need to take into account.

The Pros of Moissanite

  • Their brilliance is undeniable: With their 2.65 refractive index and great brilliance, they are incredibly sparkly. Perfect for those who love a little drama to their gemstones.
  • Smaller cost: Due to their artificial nature, they are far less expensive than diamonds. If you’re looking for a larger stone, you’ll be able to find one for an affordable price.
  • Ethically sound: As they’re created in a lab, there’s very very little chance for any unethical practices to be involved in them making it to market.
  • High levels of clarity: Artificially producing moissanite means it’s easy to control their clarity, keeping it at high levels. I’d actually be impressed if you could find a moissanite with an obvious inclusion.

 

However, not all gemstones are created equal, and moissanite does have several cons.

The Cons of Moissanite

  • Inability to retain value: In comparison to diamonds, which do retain a lot of their original value, moissanite do not retain theirs.
  • Artificial feel: Some people note the distinctly artificial brilliance to some moissanite, almost as if they’re too sparkly. That powerful brilliance might be a clear giveaway that it was made in a lab. Ultimately, this is down to personal preference.
  • Lack of cultural significance: No other gemstone matches the lure, appeal, and heritage of diamond. This is where much of the culture around diamonds comes from. Moissanite simply doesn’t have this.

My Final Thoughts on Moissanite

As you can tell from this article, while moissanite and diamond have their similarities, they’re incontrovertibly different gemstones, each with their own distinct characteristics. If you’re unrestricted by budget and adore significance and regality, choose a diamond. If you’re looking to save money and prefer something glitzier, choose a moissanite.

 

That being said, it is more than possible to find affordable diamonds as well. It’s been my mission to help buyers find the right diamonds for them at great price points. Overall, I will always recommend natural diamonds over anything else.

If you’re looking for natural diamonds, explore the options available at a company such as Whiteflash or James Allen or for lab diamonds try Brilliant Earth. If you’re a first-time buyer, weighing up diamonds versus moissanite, head to my education pages and blog and start your research. I’ve got a mass of free information that I want those first-time buyers (and even seasoned pros) to use when purchasing diamonds.