Moissanite - A valuable synthetic diamond simulation
There are many synthetic gemstones that have been produced over the years and Moissanite is one of them. This is a synthetic gemstone that has potential that goes beyond being a simple gemstone; it is attractive, making it great as a gemstone, and its physical properties also make it great for industrial applications. This is a gemstone composed of silica sand and carbon, and it is over a century old. Silica sand and carbon are brought together at extreme heat and the result is a crystal which is both beautiful and strong.
The colors of Moissanite Gemstones
Depending on the size of the crystal, Moissanite can come in one or two colors. When the crystal is small, usually less than a carat in weight, it comes in a single color, but as the crystal grows bigger, it begins to get a suggestion of a greenish hue.
Moissanite can resemble diamonds and is therefore used as a substitute for them. The resemblance is so strong, that unlike zircon where the difference is easily seen, with Moissanite, it requires complex tests to tell the difference with diamonds. When Moissanite first appeared on the market, gemstones aficionados were perplexed when it came to differentiating it from diamonds, but they soon found ways in which to make the distinction.
A brief history of Moissanite
Moissanite was first discovered in 1905, when a meteor fell to earth and the element was discovered by Dr. Henri Moissan, after whom the element was named. The gemstone started being commercialized in 1998, under the name of Moissanite. With a hardness value of 9 on the Mohs scale, this is another stone which is almost as hard as a diamond, which has a value of 10. Moissanite also has perfect clarity and it does not have any inclusions, perhaps due to the pure conditions in which it is synthesized in the laboratory. Given this characteristic, Moissanite is perfect for making the perfect stones for jewelry, whether in small or large sizes. The refraction and brilliance of Moissanite is higher than that of a diamond, making it even more striking.
The synthesis of Moissanite
Since this is not a naturally occurring mineral on earth, it has to be synthesized in the laboratory. When a meteor fell in Arizona, in the late or early part of the 19th and 20th centuries, a Dr. Henri Moissan found this element in the crater that the meteor formed. However the crystals that were collected were too small, and the Dr. tried to synthesize it in the laboratory. It could have been formed by the intense heat that was generated when the meteor hit the earth, or it could have been part of the meteor.
In the laboratory, silica sand and carbon are combined and then treated to intense heat, at about 1600 Celsius and 2500 Celsius. This mixture is called Carborundum, and after treating it to heat, you get Moissanite. In order to generate such intense heat, the Acheson furnace is used; this is a furnace that uses a graphite resistor to generate the heat. You find that the resultant material, closest to the graphite resistor gets different colors and is very pure; that found farther away may have impurities, and has only a single color. The impurities are usually from aluminum and iron that is found in the mixture. The Moissanite made in this manner is usually used for industrial purposes.
Moissanite for gemstone purposes is made using a slightly different method, and the resultant material is always pure; this is the reason why it is perfect for making jewelry.
The uses of Moissanite
This is an element that does not occur naturally on earth and has to be synthesized in the lab. Industrially, Moissanite, is used to make fine sandpaper, among many other applications, where a hard material, which is resistant to heat, is required. Other industrial applications for Moissanite include the creation of heat sinks, Blue LED lights, high performance brake pads and computer chips. You will find glass cutters which are made of Moissanite, in order to make them cheaper. On its own, this mineral is not a great conductor of electricity, but when it is mixed with some other conductive compounds, it makes a great conductor, which can withstand a lot of heat.
When it comes to making jewelry, Moissanite is used as a substitute for diamonds, and are weighed in terms of diamond equivalent.
The diamond equivalent is a way of measuring the weight of materials which are supposed to be substitutes for diamonds. For example, the specific gravity of Moissanite makes it about 10% lighter that a diamond. So when you want to replace a one carat diamond, you will need a Moissanite stone of 6.5mm; this will be an exact fit for the diamonds to be replaced, but it will only weigh about 0.88 carats, rather than the one carat of the diamond. This is what the diamond equivalent weight, or DEW is, and it is used when you want to get a stone that is the exact same size as the diamond to be replaced.
For a gemstone whose discovery was almost accidental, it has proved to be a very useful compound in today´s industrial and jewelry uses.
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