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Moissanite, the gemstone “born from the stars,” takes its name from the French chemist Henri Moissan, who discovered it back in 1893 at the site of a crater created by a gigantic meteor strike. The crater is located in Northern Arizona and is called Meteor Crater. When it hit earth approximately 50,000 years ago, fragments of it that contained minute quantities of Moissanite were scattered across the desert, leaving behind a mineral that is literally “out of this world.”
When Moissan first discovered it, he thought he’d found diamonds. It wasn’t until 11 years later that he learned that he had discovered a completely new mineral.
But what exactly is Moissanite?
In its naturally occurring form, Moissanite is composed of silicon carbide, a byproduct of carbon and silicon and one of the rarest and scarcest minerals on earth. It has only been found in a few deposits worldwide. And while Shefa Yamim, the same exploration and mining company that discovered Carmeltazite, a rare oxide mineral, also discovered 2500 crystals of natural Moissanite in Israel over the last 14 years, Moissanite is still exceedingly rare.
Because of its scarcity, almost all Moissanite today is lab-created. Lab-created Moissanite is a form of crystalline silicon carbide and was engineered specifically to look like a diamond. In fact, it is widely used as a diamond simulant and unless you are shopping specifically for natural Moissanite, the Moissanite you see for sale in jewelry is synthetic. Today Moissanite shines brightly as a popular alternative to diamond engagement rings.
So what’s the difference between natural diamonds and Moissanite?
For sparkle, you can’t go wrong with diamonds or Moissanite, but figuring which one is the best for you requires looking beyond just their sparkle. You first need to know how they differ, and this is understood best by comparing their composition, visual properties, color, weight, durability, and cost. The table below can help illustrate these differences.
And what about the difference between Moissanite and lab-grown diamonds?
Because Moissanite was engineered specifically to be a diamond simulant, many often assume that it is the same as a synthetic diamond. However, they are two entirely different gemstones in both appearance and composition. While diamonds (synthetic and natural) are pure carbon, Moissanite is both silica and carbon. This unique combination is why Moissanite sparkles more (and more colorfully) than diamonds. It’s also why it is not quite as hard as diamonds. Moissanite also has double the refraction that diamonds have so when it’s viewed from a certain angle, it’ll appear to have double the facets. Sapphires, tourmaline, and zircon also show double refraction.
How is lab-grown Moissanite created?
The process of creating Moissanite is lengthy and complicated. It was developed by jewelry manufacturer and distributor Charles and Colvard and uses a patented thermal growing technique that results in the flawless and brilliant gemstone we know as Moissanite. First, silicon and carbon are combined to create silicon carbide. Then, a tremendous amount of heat and pressure is applied to the combined compounds, which creates the Moissanite. The Moissanite gemstones are then cut and polished for maximum brilliance and fire. Because this process takes two to three months per gemstone and is costly, there are limitations to the amount of Moissanite that can be created. Nonetheless, the result is worth it as it creates a gorgeous gemstone especially perfect for modern engagement rings.
Why choose Moissanite over a diamond?
Moissanite has several advantages that will appeal to the modern engagement ring shopper: First, it is considerably more budget-friendly than diamonds; second, Moissanite stones rarely have inclusions or blemishes because they are produced artificially. Therefore, they have higher clarity than diamonds; third, Moissanite also has a high level of brilliance at every noticeable level of color (so if you love sparkle and shimmer, then this is your stone)! Lastly, Moissanite is one of the most ethical and sustainable gemstones available. As a man-made stone, no mining is needed. You can get a perfectly brilliant stone without all the adverse environmental, humanitarian, and political consequences. It’s the most sustainable and ethical engagement ring choice out there. (And did we mention it’s beautiful?)
Take the challenge
Can you really tell the difference between this Moissanite ring and this diamond ring?
A buying guide for Moissanite engagement rings
- Quality: There are different grades of Moissanite on the market. For the best quality Moissanite, stick with colorless stones.
- Fire and brilliance: For the most fire and brilliance, look for stones that are flawless (no inclusions) or only slightly included.
- Weight: Moissanite weight is described using diamond equivalent weight (DEW) since carats are the universal unit of measurement for precious gemstones. However, since diamonds weigh more than Moissanite and will weigh more than a Moissanite of the same size., most Moissanite is sold by size (in millimeters). In other words, carat weight isn’t an accurate indicator of size; you can get a much larger Moissanite stone for the same carat weight as a diamond. For example, a 6.50 mm round brilliant diamond will have a carat weight of 1.00, whereas a 6.50 round brilliant Moissanite will have a carat weight of approximately 0.88 CT (or 1.00 CT DEW).
- Cut: Moissanite can be cut into all the popular gemstone cuts and shapes that diamonds are such as round brilliant, pear, cushion, princess, emerald and marquise. What’s crucial to achieve the most brilliance and fire in Moissanite is precision. The facets should be carefully angled to reflect light back to the top of the stone rather than out through its sides or its bottom. Round cuts provide the most sparkle, so that is usually the favored cut, but other popular cuts include the marquise, cushion, square oval, radiant, pear, and trillion cuts.