Don't Let Your Eyes Deceive You - You and Your Jeweler Must Know About Diamonds and Moissanite

The demand for moissanite, a manmade gemstone that resembles diamond, is sweeping the nation. According to manufacturers Charles & Colvard, North American sales have skyrocketed to a 113 percent increase in the first-quarter of 2005. Moissanite is sold at several department store chains and appeals to people who want to buy inexpensive alternatives to diamond jewelry.

King's Jewelry, one of the largest jewelry chains in the U.S., has marketed moissanite as a gemstone rather than as a diamond substitute, and this message has been successfully received by self-purchasing women. These consumers do not want to buy diamonds for themselves, but do want to wear diamond-like gemstones that have a higher quality than cubic zirconia.

Although moissanite is a beautiful and affordable gemstone, its diamond-like qualities might confuse you and your jeweler into thinking that the gemstone is actually a diamond. Scams have occurred throughout the United States, including in O'Fallon, MO where a man purchased moissanite stones from con artists, thinking they were diamonds. The buyer later brought the moissanite to a local jeweler who even mistakenly deemed the stones to be diamonds.

After carefully observing the dual trends of moissanite sales and diamond fraud, St. Louis-based Neustaedter's Fine Jewelry offers tips about both jewels to dispel their common myths.

What is Moissanite?

Originally discovered by Dr. Henri Moissan at Meteor Crater in Arizona during the late 19th century, moissanite is a mineral composed of silicon carbide. A century after its discovery, laboratories began producing crystals from moissanite, and in 1998 Charles & Colvard began selling the gemstone.

Moissanite & Diamonds have Very Different Origins

Although the original moissanite fragments studied by Dr. Moissan originated from a meteorite that struck earth, moissanite gemstones are manufactured in labs. Since moissanite is difficult to grow, the gemstone is much more expensive than diamond substitutes like cubic zirconia.

In contrast, diamonds are created by natural processes. According to South African Diamonds, a Web site devoted to diamonds originating from South Africa, the jewels were formed millions of years ago in the earth's mantle when carbon crystallized due to high temperature and pressure. When volcanoes erupted, magma carried diamonds just below or on the earth's surface. Later the magma cooled and turned into rock which trapped diamonds for thousands of centuries. This rock is what people mine in places such as South Africa.

Their Similar Appearances have Some Distinguishing Traits

A glistening moissanite gemstone often looks like a diamond at first glance, but magnified moissanite has several characteristics that a qualified jeweler can identify.

Your jeweler should examine a suspected moissanite stone under a 10-power loupe to get a good look at the stone and its characteristics. Magnified moissanite stones often feature subtle greenish tints whereas quality diamonds are often colorless. Under 10-power magnification, moissanite's facets seem to multiply, which is called "double refraction," but diamonds only reflect their facets once. Moissanite also bears white ribbon-looking imperfections which are not present in diamonds. In order for you to observe everything first-hand, Neustaedter's has a very large screen in its shop to magnify your gemstone.

Recent technological developments have improved testing methods for moissanite. Some jewelers use special moissanite testers to detect the gemstones. When the tester's probe tip touches moissanite, you can see the Moissanite light flashing and hear a beeping noise. But since this test is not 100 percent accurate, your jeweler must use his or her knowledge and a trained eye to perform other tests.

A less hi-tech approach that some jewelers use is a flotation test, performed in a dense liquid. If performed properly, moissanite will float whereas a diamond will sink. It is recommended, though, that your jeweler uses multiple tests to determine the true identity of your stone.

What Should You do When Purchasing Moissanite or Diamonds?

You should only purchase the jewels when you are issued a guarantee that states the authenticity of your diamond or moissanite. Neustaedter's recommends that you go to a jewelry store certified by the American Gem Society (AGS) because they will possess the knowledge and tools necessary to identify moissanite and diamonds.

Moissanite and diamonds both have their own advantages, but you and your jeweler must to understand the differences and characteristics of each stone to make a wise purchase.