What to Watch: Moissanite, Once a Trick Diamond, Finds the Spotlight

Moissanites, once a tool for trickery, are now getting their moment.

The lab-made stones — which are replicas of stones that fell to earth on a meteor that was discovered in the late 19th century — are becoming a popular, budget-friendly alternative to diamonds.

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They emit a slightly grayer light spectrum than diamonds, but have comparable durability that — much like diamonds — make them optimal for daily wear. On the jewelers’ Mohs Hardness Scale, diamonds are registered as 10 out of 10, while moissanites register at 9.25, making them more durable than sapphires, rubies or emeralds.

To the naked eye, moissanites can easily pass off as a diamond and have been used as a tool for deception for decades.

They have even fooled advanced gem experts. Heather Sandor, head of A & C Trading Corp., has been selling moissanites for nearly two decades. She recalled the story of one customer — a grader at the Gemological Institute of America — who bought a pair of moissanite stud earrings and wore them to work, where her boss complimented her on her “diamond” earrings.

In another case, a wealthy woman slotted out her large diamond for a moissanite before entering a nursing home, so she could wear her engagement ring without fear of it being stolen.

But now attitudes are changing. As diamond prices fluctuate, inflation constricts many people’s budgets and consumers continue to look into the origin and ecological impact of their jewelry, moissanites are gaining popularity as an engagement ring stone.

“There is definitely a trend toward alternative, ethically sourced stones,” Sandor said.

“The shift in all these years is that it’s more the woman now who is requesting moissanites [for her engagement ring]. One is the ethical reason of not wanting a diamond and second is the financial understanding that money put into a diamond is coming out of a future source. They want to spend more on a wedding, a down payment for a house or a honeymoon and want a ring that shows big,” she contended.

Sandor said moissanites come in varying qualities and clarity, but the higher-end of the spectrum costs about $300 per carat at retail. Natural emeralds are currently trading — in the mid- to high-quality range — around $1,500 per carat, while rubies are higher at $2,500 plus.

Sandor does not sell diamonds and could not speak on their current market value. But looking at 2022 year-end market valuations, diamonds have seen turbulent times in the last 12 months. At one point, the stones were up 20 percent in value, but ended the year about 10 percent lower than in 2021, according to the RapNet diamond index.

“You are paying far less for moissanites and it gives you the same feeling as a diamond without all the strings attached,” Sandor claimed of the sentiment couples have when they purchase one of the stones.

Brilliant Earth, the online jewelry retailer aimed at Millennials and Gen Z, has also begun selling moissanites as part of its custom engagement ring program.

Kathryn Money, senior vice president of merchandising & retail expansion, said that the stones’ price is the main reason for their popularity. “The customer can trade up, and get a larger stone that is more affordable,” she said, noting that moissanites are also much lower in price than lab-grown diamonds, which Brilliant Earth also sells.

“The interest in moissanites has been strong for us and I would say it’s been steady,” she added.

Brilliant Earth is now planning to bring moissanites into its wider fine jewelry assortment. “We are planning some fine jewelry options in moissanite, there will be some extensions into the assortment in the coming year,” she said.

Maria Tash recently started incorporating moissanites into her line. When developing a spike cut out of stone, Tash had trouble getting the result she wanted from diamonds. Instead, she pivoted to moissanites.

“They have highly refractive and reflective properties, which make it a good cousin to diamonds. We were having so much trouble with diamonds [while developing this] that someone suggested to me that moissanite would be more doable. I always knew of them in the quiet distance,” Tash told WWD of the stone in October.

But she didn’t see moissanites eclipsing diamonds in popularity anytime soon. “Diamonds have so much panache in the market and there is a lot of big money behind them. It’s great though that we have more choices now, with lab diamonds, natural stones and even moissanites,” Tash said.

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