Moissanite vs. Diamond: Which Is the Best Engagement Ring?

maissonite vs. diamond
Moissainite vs. diamond in a head-to-head photo: Can you tell the difference? DiamondGalaxy/Shutterstock

Shopping for an engagement ring can be a monumental task for any couple ready to take the plunge and enter the next chapter of their lives. The International Gem Society says the most traditional choices for engagement ring stones are emeralds, rubies, sapphires and, of course, diamonds.

But what if you want something more affordable? Perhaps you also need to look at moissanite. Of course there's a lot to consider in the moissanite vs. diamond debate, including beauty, durability and price. So read on to learn a bit more about why moissanite is becoming a popular option as an engagement ring stone.

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A Brief History of the Engagement Ring

Most anthropologists trace the origins of the engagement ring back to ancient Rome. However, the modern tradition of offering a diamond ring as a symbol of loyalty and love began in 1477 when Austrian Archduke Maximilian Ferdinand commissioned a unique engagement ring for Mary of Burgundy.

Ferdinand wanted a premier stone that was extremely rare, breathtakingly brilliant and would last the ages. He, therefore, landed on the hardest-known mineral in the world — a diamond.

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Although diamonds and other gemstones were popular fixtures in high-class society, they didn't catch fire in the fine jewelry industry until the British company De Beers mined diamonds at a commercial scale in South Africa. This influx of supply made them more readily available to the average middle-class consumer.

In 1947, Hollywood celebrities touted De Beers' slogan, "A diamond is forever," and a wave of public interest sent scores of hopeful grooms to jewelry stores to find their beloved a dream engagement ring.

Although diamonds are still the classic option, recent trends have shifted to uniquely colored gemstones and lab-created diamonds for customers looking for affordable and eco-friendly alternatives. For these reasons, and the fact that they are almost identical to a natural diamond, moissanite gems have risen in popularity.

antique diamond ring
Antique diamond rings set in a platinum are stunning. But other stones are growing in popularity for engagement ring settings.
Robert Kirk/Getty Images

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What Is a Diamond?

A real diamond is a naturally occurring mineral comprised of carbon and graphite. Over billions of years of extreme pressure and heat, these carbon-containing fluids dissolve other minerals and leave behind dazzling diamonds in their place.

Diamonds are trapped in igneous rock — rock that forms when hot, molten rock crystallizes and solidifies — and pushed toward the surface with geologic movement and volcanic eruptions.

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A clear, colorless diamond is the rarest type of diamond found in nature. Less than 1 percent of the diamonds mined are D or E (which means colorless diamond). However, nitrogen, boron and other elements can add impurities to the crystalline structure, producing a wide array of colors from red and pink to deep blue and yellow gold.

What Is Moissanite?

Nobel Prize-winner Henri Moissan discovered the first moissanite gemstones in 1893 in a meteor crater in Arizona. Moissan mistook the moissanite stones for diamonds and was excited to cash in on his lucrative find.

It was as easy to see why he made that mistake. Moissanite is silicon carbide and the diamond-like stone has similar brilliance, fire, luster and hardness. Today it takes specialized tools to discern the difference between a moissanite gemstone and a genuine diamond. Unlike cubic zirconia, a known diamond simulant, moissanite is rare, heavy and extremely durable.

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3 Major Differences Between Natural Diamonds and Moissanite

maissonite vs. diamond
It's so difficult to tell a diamond from moissanite, it requires special tools, like a jeweler's loupe, to discern the difference. EgolenaHK/Shutterstock

Consider these common differences between moissanite and diamonds when shopping for an engagement ring:

1. Diamonds Are Harder Than Moissanite

A natural diamond earns the highest score of 10 on the Mohs scale (measurement of mineral hardness), whereas naturally occurring moissanite scores a significant 9.25. Both of these minerals are exceptionally durable and can withstand surface scratching, immense pressure and friction without damage.

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2. Moissanite Has More Fire and Brilliance Than Diamonds

Crystalline silicon carbide has a higher refractive index than diamonds, meaning that it produces more sparkle and "fire" when light hits the stone's surface.

Unlike diamonds, natural moissanite stone has a unique ability to maintain brilliant rainbow flashes of what many call "disco ball glamor."

3. Moissanite Is More Affordable Than Diamonds

A natural moissanite stone is considerably lighter than a diamond and therefore does not abide by the same laws of diamond price indexes. Instead, they are priced by size and color, while a diamond's price is decided by the "Four Cs," carat weight, color, cut and clarity. This distinction makes moissanite an affordable alternative to diamond engagement rings — especially when a customer is shopping for a larger, budget-friendly stone.

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Should You Choose a Moissanite Engagement Ring Over a Diamond?

Moissanite rings make excellent alternatives to traditional diamonds because they are cheaper and more brilliant. However, while moissanite stones do create sparkle, some think it is actually too much for everyday wear, especially when compared to natural diamonds. (Remember the disco ball reference?)

Also, moissanite and other lab-created gems might be more environmentally friendly than some diamonds, including those known as "blood diamonds." These gems are mined with slave labor, deadly working conditions and unregulated trade practices, while moissanite stones, on the other hand, are made in labs.

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Of course, some consumers will always prefer natural diamonds over simulants like cubic zirconia and moissonaite because diamonds hold their value and remain a traditional symbol of unwavering loyalty and love in a relationship.

Either way, whatever decision you make in the moissanite vs. diamond debate is personal. You should choose an engagement ring that fits your style, budget and personal preference.

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