Step 1: The Preform
Step 2: Preform & Dop
Step 3: Pavilion, Post-grinding
Step 4: Cut & Polished Girdle
Step 5: Cut Facets
Step 6: Polished Facets
Step 7: The Stone's Crown
Step 8: Polished Table
Step 9: Finished Gemstone
Perhaps you've wondered "Why is a diamond so hard?" Diamonds are a naturally occurring mineral, one of two crystalline forms of the element Carbon. Chemically, diamonds are pure carbon crystals, and each carbon atom is held tightly by four bonds to other carbon atoms nearby. Diamonds are the hardest naturally occurring substance known because of the strength of these bonds. You may have heard about the strength of carbon fibers -- carbon fibers have incredible strength for the same reason.
Why is silicon carbine (SiC) nearly as hard? Silicon carbine relies on carbon bonds as well for its strength. Silicon carbide is the third hardest compound known to mankind. In addition, the physical and electronic properties of SiC make it the foremost semiconductor material for short wavelength optoelectronic, high temperature, radiation resistant, and high-power/high-frequency electronic devices (hence Cree's initial interest in it). Moissanite is created with silicon and carbon, through a combination of pressure and heat.
How a Moissanite Stone is Created
To begin the moissanite production process, Charles & Colvard receives single silicon carbide crystals from Cree. The crystals are precision cut into small pieces called preforms, as shown in Step 1.
The preforms are then sent overseas to high-volume faceting vendors who hand-cut and polish the preforms to Charles & Colvard standards, which are designed to maximize the gemstone's brilliance and fire. As Step 2 shows, the vendor then attaches the preform to a guidance tool, or dop to aid in the grinding process. Moissanite jewels are shaped with a tool called a faceting machine. To understand this tool, imagine a record player. The faceting machine acts as the record table, spinning around. It is made of either steel or aluminum, and has industrial-grade diamond chips embedded in it (that's what cuts and polishes). The dop acts as the record player needle, gently guiding the moissanite preform down to the spinning faceting machine. It's the friction between the gemstone and faceting machine that shapes the stone. The faceting vendor uses the faceting machine to cut and polish each moissanite preform. Using the dop, the gemstone is rotated for an even shape and polish.
The lower portion of the gemstone, or pavilion is formed by grinding the pavilion (Step 3). Then the girdle (the edge of the stone that is grasped by the setting) is cut and polished (Step 4), and then the pavilion facets are cut (Step 5) and polished (Step 6).
Next, the gemstone is removed from the dop and reattached with the top of the stone, or crown, exposed for cutting (Step 7). The crown facets are cut and polished. Finally, the table (the upper flat surface) is polished (Step 8). The resulting gemstone (Step 9) is returned to Charles & Colvard for inspection, sorting, grading, and shipping to select jewelry stores.