Zircon: Stone of Prosperity

Zircon is one of the official birthstones for the month of December, along with turquoise and tanzanite.

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Many people have heard of zircon but never seen it. This is mostly because of colorless zircon’s wide use as a diamond simulant in the early 1900s.

Blue zircon was a particular favorite in Victorian times, when fine gems were often featured in English estate jewelry dating from the 1880s.

One of the most brilliant non-diamond gems, colorless zircon was widely used as a lower-cost diamond alternative in the nineteenth century.

Zircon’s fire and brilliance are close enough to the properties of diamond to account for centuries of confusion between the two gems. (photo: GIA)

It has been treasured since the Middle Ages and times of antiquity, although typically under various other historical names, such as jacinth and hyacinth.

The name ‘zircon’ is thought to be derived from the Persian word “zargun” which means “gold-colored”. Hindu poets wrote of the “kalpa tree”, the ultimate gift to the gods, which was a glowing tree covered with gemstone fruit with leaves of zircon.

Zircon can display earthy colors such as yellow, orange, and brown. - Courtesy Richard Krementz Gemstones

Zircon can display earthy colors such as yellow, orange, and brown. (Richard Krementz)

In the middle ages, it was said to aid sleep, bring prosperity, and promote honor and wisdom in its owner.

It is actually the oldest known mineral on earth; the oldest samples are even older than the moon, which formed about 4 billion years ago.

Zircon was the first crystal to form on Earth in molten granite as it cooled to form rock.

Zircon was the first crystal to form on Earth in molten granite as it cooled to form rock.

In its purest form is completely colorless (white), but owing to trace impurities, it can occur in a wide range of interesting colors, including yellow, orange, red, green, blue, violet, brown and combinations in between. In general, zircon is transparent to translucent.

The most popular zircon today is blue zircon (80% of sold is blue), usually occurring with green pleochroism, which can result in interesting teal-like colors. Blue zircon is actually produced by heating more commonly occurring brown zircon.

Today, most zircon that is faceted for use in jewelry is free of inclusions that are visible to the eye. Eye-visible inclusions cause a drop in zircon value - Courtesy Pala International.

Today, most zircon that is faceted for use in jewelry is free of inclusions that are visible to the eye. Eye-visible inclusions cause a drop in value -(Pala International).

Major sources of “rough” are the Chanthaburi area of Thailand, the Palin area of Cambodia, and the southern part of Vietnam.

Many stones are completely untreated. Some brown varieties, mostly found in Southeast Asia, may be heated to produce colorless and blue zircon.

Some colors are unenhanced, including rose and rose-orange zircon from Tanzania, and orange to orange-brown zircon from Cambodia.

Every gemstone begins as a piece of rough mined from the earth. Sometimes rough is found in river beds, sometimes on the ground, and sometimes deep in the earth.

Every gemstone begins as a piece of rough mined from the earth. Sometimes rough is found in river beds, sometimes on the ground, and sometimes deep in the earth.

Green is very rare and owes its color to minute natural traces of uranium and thorium. Golden-yellow zircon is sometimes heated.

Zircon is rather durable with its good hardness and indistinct cleavage, but its brittle tenacity can cause fractures and chips, especially along facet edges requiring extra care when setting, cleaning or wearing.

Occasionally, long parallel inclusions in zircon will create the cat’s-eye effect when it is cut as a cabochon. - GIA & Tino Hammid, courtesy Gordon Bleck

Occasionally, long parallel inclusions in zircon will create the cat’s-eye effect when it is cut as a cabochon. – GIA & Tino Hammid, courtesy Gordon Bleck

Avoid steamers or ultrasonic cleaners when cleaning zircon gems and jewelry, particularly with stones that may have been color-enhanced. Avoid the use of harsh cleaning chemicals or agents, especially bleach and acid.

You can wipe down stones using a soft cloth or brush and a mild soap or detergent if needed. Be sure to rinse your stones well using warm or room-temperature water to remove soapy residue.

Be sure to rinse your stones well using warm or room-temperature water to remove soapy residue.

Rinse your stones well using room-temperature water to remove soapy residue.

It is best to store gems and jewelry separately from one another to prevent scratches and fractures. When storing zircon gemstones, it is best to wrap them in a soft cloth or place them inside a fabric-lined box.

We hope this article has given you a bit more of a background on zircon, but should you have any additional questions about this or any other jewellery related topics, you can always: “Ask the Jeweller”

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This article was compiled from my personal knowledge as a gemologist, as well as numerous online sources, individuals and textbooks. If you have something to add to this article that you feel would be of benefit to others, please, do not hesitate to contact us.

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