M is for Moissanite
Moissanite (silicon carbide) is a naturally occuring mineral although it is generally too small to use for in the gem industry. Moissainte was discovered by chemist Henri Moisan in 1893 in a meteor crater in Arizona. It would not be properly identified as silicon carbide until 1905 when it was named ‘moissanite’ in honor of Henri Moisan. It is interesting that silicon carbide was synthesized in the lab two years before it was found naturally occurring.
Since the crystals are so small, almost all moissanite is lab grown. The industry around its production and use as a gem has been controlled and protected for years by patents. I tried to weed through the complex history, but it is confusing. Suffice it to say that the company Charles & Colvard, Ltd. held the patent on the production, cutting, distribution, and sale of specific silicon carbide crystal moissanite gems until 2015 – 2018 (patents expired on different dates depending on the country). As a result, if you Google moissanite, you will most likely see most results associated with Charles & Colvard. Since the expiration of the patents, there have been other companies selling the gemstone.
The gem industry is very competitive. I found pages and pages of patents tied to the cutting, setting, and naming of moissanite, many held by Charles & Colvard.
In 2000, following the prediction by a Rabbi, the largest moissainite crystals have been found in Israel by the mining company Shefa Yamim.
Silicon carbide (also known as carborundum) has many industrial uses. As a semiconductor it is used in LEDs and in electronic devices used at high temperatures or high voltages. It is also used as an abrasive in saw blades, grinding wheels, and as a sandblasting abrasive.
Moissanite has a hardness of 9.5 on the Mohs scale, second only to a diamond.
When my daughter and her wife were planning to get married, they asked me to make their engagement rings. They purchased the materials and all I had to do was make the rings – no pressure! They chose princess cut moissanite and white gold – the first time I had worked with either. The process was a story in itself, but they turned out okay. Years later they are still very happily married.