Background and Discovery of Moissanite
- Moissanite was discovered by Henri Moissan in 1893 while examining rock samples from a meteor crater in Arizona.
- Initially mistaken for diamonds, the crystals were later identified as silicon carbide.
- Artificial silicon carbide had been synthesized in the lab by Edward G. Acheson in 1891.
- The mineral form of silicon carbide was named moissanite in honor of Moissan.
- Moissanite is one of the hardest substances known, with a hardness just below that of diamond.
Geological Occurrence and Meteorites
- Natural moissanite is very rare.
- Until the 1950s, moissanite was only found as presolar grains in meteorites.
- In 1958, moissanite was discovered in the Green River Formation in Wyoming.
- In 1959, moissanite was found in kimberlite from a diamond mine in Yakutia, Russia.
- Moissanite occurs naturally as inclusions in diamonds and other ultramafic rocks.
- Silicon carbide grains found in the Murchison meteorite have isotopic ratios indicating an extraterrestrial origin.
- Most silicon carbide grains originate from carbon-rich asymptotic giant branch stars.
- The discovery of moissanite in meteorites was delayed due to contamination from man-made abrasive tools.
- Moissanite is commonly found in meteorites and around carbon-rich stars.
- The existence of moissanite in nature was questioned until 1986.
Physical Properties of Moissanite
- Moissanite has a crystalline structure held together with strong covalent bonding, similar to diamonds.
- It can withstand high pressures up to 52.1 gigapascals.
- Moissanite's color varies widely and is graded on the diamond color grading scale.
- It is one of the hardest substances known.
- Moissanite can be made synthetically from thermal decomposition of certain polymers.
Production and Applications of Moissanite
- All applications of moissanite today use synthetic material.
- The idea of a silicon-carbon bond in nature was proposed in 1824.
- Viable minerals that could substitute for diamond were produced in 1891.
- Cree Research, Inc. developed a commercial process for producing large single crystals of silicon carbide.
- Charles & Colvard was the first company to produce and sell synthetic moissanite.
- Moissanite is primarily used as a gemstone in jewelry.
- It is a popular alternative to diamonds due to its similar appearance and lower cost.
- Moissanite is also used in various industrial applications, such as high-power electronics and radiation dosimetry.
- Its high thermal conductivity makes it suitable for heat sinks and electronic components.
- Moissanite is used in scientific research and experimentation due to its unique properties.
Comparison to Diamonds and Market Value
- Moissanite has a similar appearance to diamonds and is often mistaken for them.
- It has a higher refractive index and dispersion than diamonds, resulting in more brilliance and fire.
- Moissanite is more affordable than diamonds of similar size and quality.
- It is also more durable and less prone to scratching than diamonds.
- However, diamonds still hold a higher market value and prestige in the jewelry industry.
Moissanite Data Sources