If you are looking for a engagement ring with a colorless center stone, you don't only have diamonds to choose from. There are other durable and often more sustainable gemstone options like moissanites and white sapphires available. They provide a great and often more affordable alternative to diamonds. Let's look at the differences between white sapphires, moissanites and diamonds in more detail.
Where does the color or absence of color come from?
Chemically speaking white sapphires are corundum gem material - same as blue sapphires and rubies. It's the trace elements in the corundum that give each their specific color hue. Rubies get their color from chromium inclusions in the corundum, while the blue color in blue sapphires comes from iron and titanium. If there are no trace elements in the corundum material, it's colorless and called a white sapphire. Similar to colorless diamonds, white sapphire can still have some slight yellow, blue or pink undertones if there are minimal trace elements in the stone.
Moissanites and diamonds are chemically different minerals than sapphires. While sapphire corundum is an aluminum oxide, moissanites are silicon carbide (SiC), a very rare, naturally occurring mineral found primarily in meteors. Commercially available moissanite is always lab created. In the last 2 years moissanites have made a huge improvement and in addition to the near colorless moissanites there are now truly colorless moissanite options available that get a color grading similar to a D to F color Diamond.
Until recently the only moissanites I used were made by Charles & Colvard, the original maker of moissanites based in North Carolina. Their patent expired in 2015 prompting new moissanite makers to bring out their own moissanite innovations. I will be also offering Supernova™ moissanites by Moissanite International soon. They are colorless moissanites similar to the Forever One™ by Charles & Colvard, but will probably run slightly cheaper than the Forever One Moissanites. Supernova moissanites are coming from Australia and will have a bit longer turnaround time than the readily available Forever One moissanites.
Charles & Colvard's Forever Classics were the original moissanites with a J-K color grading. In my option their warm color nuance looks great in colored metals like yellow and rose gold. Forever Classic and Forever Brilliant moissanites are discontinued and current stock only available until it sells out. The newest colorless Forever One Moissanite with a color grading of D to F was introduced in 2015. At the beginning of 2017 Forever One moissanites are being made available in 2 grades: a near-colorless GHI grading and a colorless DEF graded one.
Metal color also has a influence how the stones color is perceived. In a rose gold or yellow gold ring any moissanite will look a warm color since the color of the gold is absorbed into the moissanite color.
Cushion Cut Forever Classic and Forever Brilliant Moissanite Fold Semi-Bezel Set Solitaire Engagement Ring. Ring design is also available with cushion cut diamonds.
With a platinum (or palladium) ring a colorless Forever One probably looks best, though you won't be disappointed with a near-colorless moissanite either. In a white gold ring either one works. The palladium white gold has a slight warm tone to it anyways.
Princess cut white sapphire (left) vs. Standard Forever Classic Moissanite (middle) vs Forever Briliant Moissanite (right)
Cushion Cut Diamond Bezel Set Solitaire Engagement Ring. Ring design also available with square cushion cut moissanites.
Diamonds are carbon formed under pressure in the earth. Diamonds are the only gem made of only one element. They are 99.95% pure carbon. The tiny amount of non-carbon trace elements can influence the color of the diamond. Natural diamonds can come in colorless to yellow, brown, blue, pink, grays and black. The saturation of color or no color does have a huge influence on the price of a diamond. White diamonds are graded on a scale from the highest and most expensive D- colorless to a Z which would be a light yellow or brown diamond. Fancy color diamonds are stones that show a yellow or brown tone with more color than a Z masterstone or are a color other than yellow or brown, like blue, pink, greenish, black or gray. In those the value increases as the color deepens.
If you are looking for an eye-catching sparkly gemstone, a diamond or moissanite will be your best bet. They are both brilliant and very sparkly. A white sapphire can be quite sparkly too depending how well it's cut, but it just does not have the same fire and dispersion a diamond and especially a moissanite has. For some people that's exactly the appeal of a white diamond as they want a more understated look.
Top: 5mm Forever One moissanite vs a 0.55ct/5.25mm H/SI1 excellent cut diamond on the bottom
If a diamond look-a-like is the goal, I would recommend choosing a round brilliant cut moissanite. Many of the fancy cut moissanites like cushions, pear, trillion, or ovals have a slightly different facet design than a diamond of the same shape and are more easily detected as not being diamond. The new generation of moissanites has come a long way from the early moissanite on the market some 10-15 years ago.
A 5mm square cushion cut moissanite vs a larger 7x5mm lab created white sapphire.
Diamonds, moissanites and sapphires are all great choices for every day wear jewelry like an engagement or wedding ring.
Diamond is the hardest natural material. On the Mohs hardness scale a diamond is a10, Moissanite a 9.25 and sapphire is a 9. But since this scale is not linear, the difference between a 9 and 10 actually means that diamonds are 3 to 4 times harder than sapphires. Hardness is a measure of resistance to scratching and abrasion between minerals. So a diamond can easily scratch a moissanite or sapphire, a moissanite can still scratch a sapphire. Only a diamond can scratch another diamond. Abrasion after many years of daily wear is fairly likely to occur on a sapphire engagement ring but seldom on a diamond ring.
But hardness often comes with one drawback, it makes a material more brittle. Due to their crystalline structure, diamonds can chip. Diamonds have 4 perfect cleavage planes where breakage can occur. Moissanites are somewhat brittle too, although breakage usually results from very thin cut gems. Sapphires on the other hand have a excellent toughness. Toughness indicates the ability of a mineral to absorb energy, and is a measure of how likely a material is to chip or break. Diamonds and moissanites are rated as having a good to very good toughness, while sapphires have an excellent toughness.
Speaking from my own experience: I work with a lot of moissanites and sapphires and a bit less often with large diamonds. I have broken my share of moissanites and diamonds, luckily most of them were rather small and inexpensive. Damage to sapphires only occurred when there was an inclusion in the stone that made a weak point in the mineral. Highly included diamonds are also more likely to break on impact than flawless ones.
The great thing with Forever One moissanites is that Charles and Colvard's limited lifetime warranty includes stone chipping and breakage to some extend. If a large moissanite chips or breaks during normal wear, replacement value of a 1mm smaller moissanite will be given (does not include setting charges and labor to replace the stone in the ring setting). The financial blow if something ever happens to your moissanite is not as big. The breakage warranty does not apply to small melee moissanites or if the moissanite is so badly damaged into tiny pieces that it can't be recut. FOREVER ONE™ moissanite, and FOREVER BRILLIANT™ moissanite gemstones have the same Limited Lifetime Warranty as all other Charles & Colvard Created Moissanite® gemstones.
Please note that Supernova moissanites do not come with any warranties nor certificates.
Princess White Sapphire Engagement Ring and Woven Wedding Band, the engagement ring is also available with moissanites.
Most white sapphires have been heated to improve their color and sometimes also clarity. Heating is a permanent enhancement, as lasting as the gemstone itself. Heated sapphires can be re-cut and re-polished if needed without affecting it's color hue.
Moissanites are man-made stones, grown in a lab, then cut and faceted. They do undergo a heat treatment too that improves it's whiteness. It's generally stable if handled with caution during jewelry repairs. But moissanitres can change their color if recut.
Most white diamonds on the market are not treated. But there are some diamond treatments that customers need to be aware of. Some of those treatments like coatings (to mask a diamond color) or fracture filled diamonds are non-permanent and not stable. Other treatments like HPHT treatments (high-pressure, high-temperature) or laser drilling (to remove small dark inclusions) are generally stable but they result in special care that needs to be communicated to anyone handling the diamond. See more information about diamond treatments on GIA's website. Lab created diamonds are also available upon request and will be identified as a man made stones versus a natural one grown over thousands of years inside the earth.
All gemstone treatments need to be disclosed to the customer and anyone handling the stone in the future.