Diamond simulants appeared not only as a result of several ethical unease and concerns, but because of the steep and stinging prices of true, naturally-formed diamonds as well. While many advocated against the unreasonable, dangerous, poorly paid and even illegal conditions in which some diamonds were being extracted, especially in parts like South Africa, scientists were coming up with solutions whose results they probably didn’t expect themselves. However, it must be noted that the diamond simulant is not the same thing as synthetic diamonds, which are made from actual diamond material that is produced through chemical processes in the laboratory.
While it is made from significantly different materials than those of a natural diamond, a diamond simulant has certain properties and characteristics that make it be valued almost like their natural counterparts. These characteristics are mainly hardness and dispersion of light, which is what makes diamonds so coveted in the first place. Though at first sight, for the naked eye, no differences between a natural diamond and a diamond simulant can be noticed, a trained gemologist can tell the difference through various methods the most important of which is a visual inspection with special lens and so on.
The most common materials used to achieve a diamond simulant are two artificial materials, cubic zirconia and high-leaded glass. Synthetic rutile and strontium titanate were also used for a while, but they were soon discarded because other better materials were developed. Presently, the best and most used artificial material for the creation of diamond simulants is a laboratory product called moissanite.
In order to determine if a material or diamond simulant is effective enough to be considered valuable, a gemologist will subject it to various tests, some of which are density and hardness-related, though most of them are tests related to the visual aspects of the simulant. One of the most common tests is achieved with the Mohs scale of mineral density, in which the diamond is highest on the scale, at number ten.
Today, moissanite is the most common artificial material used to create diamond simulants and it is actually preferred by many women and men, not only because of the more accessible pricing, but because it can be cut and fashioned just like a natural diamond, with spectacular results. Moissanite can be shaped for engagement rings, marriage bands, necklaces, earrings, brooches and basically anything the customer wants. Moissanite was discovered by French chemist Henri Moissan in 1893 and its chemical composition is silicon carbide.