Whether you’re a custom jewelry designer or simply a casual jewelry lover, you likely know that diamonds have long been one of the most popular gemstones. This notion is very accurate: studies show that diamonds represent 41% of overall retail jewelry sales. However, industry insiders say that in recent years, consumers have begun to choose another stone, moissanite, instead, especially when it comes to engagement and wedding rings.
Moissanite is named after chemist Henri Moissan, who first studied the gemstone in 1893 after a sample was recovered from a meteorite crater. In the years that followed, scientists began working to recreate the stone in a lab setting, and moissanite was eventually introduced to the jewelry market in 1998. Moissanite is the second strongest gemstone on the planet after diamonds, making it stronger than sapphires and rubies. However, when it comes to brilliance, moissanite usually ranks even higher than diamonds.
Today, virtually all moissanite stones are lab-created, giving them a number of qualities that appeal to modern consumers. For example, the gemstone costs around one-tenth the price of a diamond, making it a much more affordable option. However, many people are attracted to the stone’s sustainability: because moissanite is created in a lab, it doesn’t use ecologically destructive mining practices or exploitative human labor. And then there is the matter of “blood diamonds,” stones used to fund violent military conflicts in some African nations and often procured through questionable and unethical means. Moissanite provides an attractive alternative for consumers wary of indirectly supporting conflict or war.
For that reason, insiders say moissanite steadily is gaining a presence in the jewelry industry. For example, Charles and Colvard, the manufacturer of the trademarked Forever Brilliant moissanite stone, saw its annual sales jump 27% last year, yielding $8.6 million in profits in their fourth quarter. The company attributed the change to consumer’s shifting priorities. However, some handmade jewelry designers also specifically choose to work with moissanite, preferring the stone’s cost, brilliance, sustainability and more ethical origins.
“Handmade jewelry with stones and beads of many varieties can accessorize and add sparkle to the entire wedding party,” says Julie Barrentine, Jewelry Designer, Treehouse Treasures.
Some critics may claim that moissanite’s popularity is merely a fluke; after all, diamonds have been a key component of engagement rings and wedding jewelry since the 1920s. However, as consumers place a stronger focus on the value and origins of their jewelry, it will not be surprising if other stones, like moissanite, begin to chip away at the diamond’s long-standing popularity and ubiquity.