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Diamonds are one of the most beautiful, and most expensive, jewels available today. They are also extremely popular. Diamonds are an important symbol of engagement in many parts of the world, and they also appear in everything from simple earrings to the tiaras and crowns worn by royalty!
Because they are so popular and expensive, diamonds have been a favorite area for imitation over the years. Cut glass, rhinestones, and cubic zirconium are all attempts to replicate the beauty of diamonds at a lower cost. None of these are particularly good imitations -- they lack the luster and brilliance of the real thing.
Technology's latest attempt to replicate the diamond is a product called Moissanite. In this edition of How Stuff Works, you will learn about this interesting jewel. We will discuss its history, qualities, creation, and availability!
In 1893, Nobel Prize-winning French scientist Dr. Henri Moissan discovered minute quantities of a new mineral, natural silicon carbide. The mineral was located in an ancient meteorite found in the Diablo Canyon in Arizona. Later named "moissanite" in honor of Dr. Moissan, this mineral's supply was too limited for jewelry use.
More than a century later, Cree developed a process for producing large, single crystals of moissanite. In 1995, a master diamond cutter observed samples of the silicon carbide crystals and suggested to the founders of Charles & Colvard that, if properly cut, the crystals could make a beautiful jewel. Charles & Colvard recognized the mineral's potential. They also realized that in order for the moissanite jewels to be used, they would have to be manufactured -- there is essentially no natural supply for this stone. In 1995, Charles & Colvard partnered with Cree (a NC-based R&D lab) to develop larger gemstones for Charles & Colvard to use in the Cree colorless development program. In conjunction with Cree, Charles & Colvard is the exclusive worldwide manufacturer and marketer of lab-created moissanite gemstones.