By Rob Bates | July 1, 2016
When Charles & Colvard’s U.S. patent for moissanite expired last year, the company said it “anticipate[d] new providers of moissanite to enter the market,” according to its annual report. (Its EU patent expired this year.)
We are now seeing that come to fruition—and it may be just the beginning.
Among the new entrants: Moissanite International, which sells under the brand names Nova and Supernova. According to director Lauren Chang Sommer, the company grew out of Moi Moi Fine Jewellery, a shop in Sydney that retails moissanite. (Moi Moi still sells Charles & Colvard material, as its patent doesn’t expire in Australia until September.) It has hired Joseph Ambar, former director of international sales for Charles & Colvard, to be its president of international sales.
Then there’s Wholesale Moissanite, which, like Charles & Colvard, is based in North Carolina, and is owned by Guy Stimpson, one of the first Charles & Colvard salespeople. It is now selling product that is produced abroad under the brand name NEO.
“I’ve been at this since I was 22,” Stimpson says. “I’ve been waiting for the patent to end for a lot of years.” He says his goal is to create a “new standard” for the business.
He expects that the new entrants will lead to three results: The quality will increase, the price will drop, and awareness will rise.
“If you talk to 10 people, and ask, Have you heard of moissanite? you might have one who says yes,” he says. “It’s funny the amount of people that I speak with, even jewelers, who are just learning about this.”
He feels the product still has enormous potential: “Moissanite is for everyone. It’s for the guy in the ice cream store and on the floor of the stock exchange. I think it’s a $100 million market.”
Jen Hollywood, a designer who sells moissanite products through her website and on Etsy, says we should expect a lot more people entering the moissanite market—particularly from China, which produces more than 80 percent of the world’s silicon carbide. But she adds: “It takes a serious amount of money to get into it. You need the equipment, it needs to be cut differently than a diamond. It will take these new companies a little time to figure that out.”
An even stranger wrinkle in this tale may be the discovery of natural moissanite in Israel. (All the moissanite currently on the market is synthetic.) Local mining company Shefa Yamim says it’s found natural moissanite crystals, as well as other gems, at deposits in a river near Haifa.
“I don’t know what the value is,” says chief operating officer Vered Toledo, who notes her company hasn’t been given the go-ahead for a mine yet. “It is something the market needs to think about: How much is natural moissanite worth?”
Charles & Colvard says it’s “aware” of the new moissanite in the market, but “we haven’t seen any yet that competes with what we offer,” according to director of marketing and communications Sarah Swan O’Dea.
“We are the original creator of moissanite, and our 20 years of experience with the gemstone has enabled us to grow, cut, and polish what we believe is the best possible gem in the world,” she says. “We are the largest provider of moissanite in the world with deep relationships with some of the biggest distributors globally. We offer a limited liability warranty with every gem we sell and have excellent customer service based in the USA. That is invaluable and not something we are seeing from other companies.”
The company is also currently working on a “rebranding project” to be released later this year, “This effort will help our customers better understand the value of our products,” says O’Dea.
Whatever happens, it’s a big change. Like the diamond market, the moissanite market, long dominated by one company, is undergoing a fundamental structural shift.
“You will see an influx of many different companies come in with many different names,” says Stimpson, who says he knows of manufacturers in China, Sweden, and other parts of Europe. “I don’t think everyone will stick around. Let’s say you have 10 different brands. Maybe 18 months down the road, six of them will be around. It will all come down to who does the best job of marketing.”
Original article: http://www.jckonline.com/blogs/cutting-remarks/2016/06/30/moissanite-post-patent-era