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Moissanite – a High-End Diamond Imitation

28 december 2007

At all times it was the dream of most women to get at least a small diamond into their jewelry caskets. This stone has long been viewed as a symbol of wealth and power and only sovereigns and their family members had the right to possess it. A considerable amount of time has elapsed to make diamonds be worn by anyone who can afford it, but the attitude towards this “king” of gemstones has not altered and it is valued as high as before.

Unfortunately, not all people can afford such luxury, but nevertheless they whish to show off a lovely gemstone to be envied by others. Then to meet these wishes, there appeared various kinds of diamond substitutes for the joy of many.  One of the first attempts to imitate diamonds was the world-famous crystals of Swarovski, which managed to win affection and recognition of millions in quite a short time. Daniel Swarovski was the founder of this fashion. His company’s story began when he invented the first electric grinding machine and started to use it for cutting crystal glass to imitate diamonds. Although such imitations were simple to distinguish from diamonds (for instance, the crystal refraction index is 1.40-1.90, while that of a diamond is 2.4), as early as 1900 the brand received the name of Swarovski, which it bears up to now. It was his technique, which upturned the opinion that bijouterie belonged to bad taste.

The next enormous step was fianite. Starting from the 1960s, synthesized gemstones became ever more widely spread. Laboratories were growing synthetic diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, alexandrites, amethysts, rhinestones and opals. Besides, there were created materials, which did not exist in nature, but were looking as gems when cut. Fianite belonged to that number (it was a monocrystal based on zirconium and hafnium oxides); it received its name from the Russian abbreviation standing for the Physical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, where it was originally synthesized in 1972).
A rhinestone may be considered a good enough “diamond dummy”, though it is quite natural stuff, which, if properly cut, sometimes glitters not worse than a diamond, however being more fragile and nondurable, but looking fairly decent and particularly advantageous if large.

As is known, nothing sits idle, and in the end of the 20th century, the U.S. market of gemstones and jewelry saw a new stone; to be exact it was a synthetic crystal of silicon carbide. In nature, such a mineral is occurred in very small quantities and is called moissanite. In recent years, not only large, but also colorless moissanite crystals were successfully synthesized and then gemologists started to speak quite seriously of its possible use as a diamond imitation after cutting. This was not accidental, since moissanite brilliance, hardness, weight and scratch resistance compete with all other gemstones.

Moreover, the new imitation has many qualities, which make it much closer to diamonds as compared with other gemstones. Let us take, for example, diamond brilliance, specific gravity (moissanite has 3.2 and diamond has 3.51), refraction index (moissanite has 2.64-2.69 and diamond has 2.42), hardness and, which is most important, thermal conductivity. For the first time, the invariable diamond tester, which before could very easily distinguish a fake diamond by its thermal conductivity, cannot define moissanite and mistakes it for diamond.

CREE, a company from North Caroline, U.S.A., which developed an industrial process for synthesizing large monocrystals of silicon carbide, is known to be the pioneer of jewelry moissanite. In summer 1995, experimental moissanite samples were cut by diamond experts, who gave them a “high” mark. The jewelry project was joined by U.S. Company Charles & Colvard, which presently happens to be an almost exclusive manufacturer of jewelry moissanite.

Of course, moissanite has some features different from natural rough and polished diamonds. The basic difference is that moissanite has double refraction and it is strong. If you view a moissanite crystal from any direction not in line with its optic axis, you will see bifurcated rear (opposite) facets and edges, as it may be observed, for instance, in calcite or zircon. However, gem cutters purposefully position a moissanite in a way precluding you to see facets bifurcation when the stone is viewed through its base. However, if you slightly turn the stone, you will see, for example, a bifurcated prong or if you focus your sight on the bottom facets, you will see a bifurcated reflection of the stone base, which is never the case with diamonds.
The specifics of inner moissanite structure is that it has channel-shaped or needle-shaped inclusions, which are usually multiple and are well observed even under small-grade magnification (for instance, under a regular 10x gem lens).

The color hue is another important distinguishing quality of moissanite. Presently, this stone cannot be entirely colorless and its most frequent hue is greyish green, whereas the genuine diamond color has in most cases slightly yellow or brown shades. Besides, the slight difference in specific gravity also plays its role. Thus, the weight of a moissanite insert equal to a diamond insert in diameter will be less than that of the diamond one.
According to mass media, today Charles & Colvard is positioned as an exclusive manufacture of synthetic moissanites and it works in team with several jewelry firms. When buying such a jewel one should pay special attention to the availability of an authenticity certificate and a lifetime warranty issued by Charles & Colvard. Moissanite Fine Jewelry, Inc., one of the first companies in the market to take up this line, has been engaged in jewelry business for over 24 years and now is producing only moissanite jewelry.

Breebaart Trading BV, a company established in Rotterdam, which has been working in team with Charles & Colvard already for 20 months, is moving moissanites to the European market. Breebaart has entered into an agreement, under which it has an overriding right to distribute moissanites in such countries as the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Switzerland and Germany. Besides, it has an opportunity to appoint local distributors independently. In its turn, the company will be responsible for coordinating marketing programs and promoting moissanites in the territories of these countries. Their collections feature both female adornments (rings, earrings and pendants) and fancy rings for men.

Moissanite has also penetrated the collection of another well-known company - Sparkling Hues. Its founder Mr. Niraj Johri assures that his company is an exclusive distributor of Charles & Colvard in India.
The enthusiasts of web stores will be able to find something special for themselves at moissaniteonthenet.com, which displays new moderately priced moissanite collections, or online at the Goldex Group site allowing visitors to design their own moissanite adornments, thus guaranteeing their exclusiveness.
This synthetic stone was not missed by the Duchess of York, who introduced her own collection of jewelry entitled “Sarah Ferguson for K&G Creations”, consisting of rings, pendants, bracelets and earrings encrusted with moissanites. All of the Duchess’ net proceeds from this collection will be donated for charitable purposes. The per-piece price of this “affordable” jewelry will start from $400.

Unfortunately, this exotic gemstone is not so far largely featured in the Russian market, but it is quite possible that in the near future the showcases of our stores will change and fianite jewelry will make some room to its younger brothers – moissanites.
So then, taking into account the low price of moissanites (starting from $300 for rings, $100 for earrings and $150 for pendants) and their great resemblance of real diamonds one would expect their general recognition. It would seem after all that it is of no importance whether you have a diamond glittering in your ring or a moissanite; the main thing is how its mistress goes about it and if she feels comfortable wearing this or that gemstone. Besides, it is rather difficult for an unaided eye to distinguish a good-quality substitute, while one may wear fianites, moissanites or rhinestones with the same dignity as diamonds, whereas their loss will be less tragic. Due to diversity of the modern market, which offers enormous amounts of jewelry to satisfy any taste, everyone can find a diamond (genuine or not), which will bring joy and assurance to its owner.

For more than 5 years now, moissanite jewelry items have been in the ads of such exclusive fashion magazines as “Vogue”, “ELLE”, “O” and “In Style”.
For further details, one may visit the following committed web sites:
http://www.moissanite.in/ , an online e-store, http://www.moissaniteonthenet.com/  and
http://www.moissanitefinejewelry.com/ - Moissanite Fine Jewelry, Inc.

Reality has upset the plans of “carbide zealots”. The business of the specialized company is running low. Charles & Colvard’s net income for the third quarter of 2007 decreased by 89% (http://www.moissanite.com/ir/press_releases.cfm?ACTION=Detail&ID=208).

According to the company’s CEO Bob Thomas, this situation was due to slower sales caused by the challenging economic environment, which affected some of their domestic jewelry manufacturing customers resulting in higher inventory levels. In the third quarter of 2007, net sales decreased 46% to $6.6 million. Domestic sales in the third quarter decreased 51% to $5.3 million, while international sales decreased 5%.
Evidently, during the 5 years of promotion the jewelry market got the point. It seems that the U.S. market is saturated with moissanite; its sales amount to $5 million or 0.04% of U.S. retail sales. Other jewelry market segments are also being saturated. It may be expected that a moissanite flow will be directed to Russia and this may happen in a Russian way – via shady and imposturous channels.
Total moissanite sales in 2007 are expected to be in the range of $30 - $33 million.
Vladimir Teslenko, specially for Rough&Polished