The atmosphere is getting colder, but our hearts are getting warmer. The sounds of holiday music is everywhere, the smell of our favorite hot drinks and of course the sights of all the beautiful color lights that adorn our homes and streets. In the gemological world December gives us a stone that can match much of the seasons color palette. From the decorations to snow covered fields. This month we will look at Zircon.
There are two theories as to how zircon obtained its name. One of the theories suggests that it came from the Arabic word Zarkun which means “cinnabar” or “vermilion.” The second theory suggests it derived from the Persian word Zargun or “gold colored.” Some of the colors that Zircon offers can match those descriptive words, making both theories believable. Colorless Zircon is known for its outstanding brilliance and flashes of multicolored light, called fire. This stone is so similar to Diamond when viewed with the unaided eye, that it has bred a common confusion between the two gems for centuries. The consequence of this confusion has led many people to think of Zircon as an only a diamond imitation, but fail to realize the beauty and special characteristics of this beautiful stone. During the Middle Ages, Zircon was thought to induce sleep. Drive away evil spirits and promote riches, honor and wisdom. Blue Zircon however obtained huge popularity during the Victorian Era (1837-1901) thanks to its delightful color and great amount of brilliance, it was worn in almost all colored stone jewelry of the time. Gemologist George Kuntz -Tiffany’s famed gem buyer and discoverer of Kunzite- was an advocate of Zircon. He proposed the name “starlite” for Zircon to make people aware of the stones unique optical properties, but it never caught on.
Geography of Zircon
Zircon can be found in places like Madagascar, Australia, China, Sri Lanka and Tanzania. They are found in a range of colors. Matara Zircon is name given to colorless Zircon that is mined from the city with the same name near Sri Lanka near where it is mined.
Chemical Composition, Crystal Structure, and Physical Properties
The chemical compound of Zirconium and Silicate (a compound of silicon and other minerals) create Zirconium silicate which in nature occurs as Zircon. It is usually colorless, but impurities in the crystal structure can cause different colorations. Zircon crystals can grow in many different type of host rocks, because of this they posses a range of optical and physical properties. Some Zircons can have radioactive trace elements like Uranium. This radioactive trace elements can cause a process called metamictization, which is a natural process resulting in the gradual (and eventually complete) destruction of a mineral’s crystal structure. This causes the Zircon to irradiate itself and change its properties both optical and physical.Zircons are classified into three different types: High, intermediate, and low. They receive a classification depending on their properties, which are directly related to the amount of damage the radioactive trace elements have done to the crystal structure.
Zircon comes in many colors such as brown, blue, green, yellow, red, pink, reddish and colorless. Zircon colors are so variant and beautiful that allows jewelery designers to create one-of-a-kind pieces, but it is also a stone that is sought after by collectors due to its unique colors. Necklaces, pendants, rings, bracelets, and earrings are adorned by Zircon.
Wear and care of Zircon
Zircon has an 6- 7.5 on the Moh’s scale. The Moh’s scale of mineral hardness characterizes the scratch resistance of various minerals on an exponential scale from 10 to 0. The top of the scale is Diamond at 10 and graphite at 0. Due to its good hardness, Zircon is ideal for occasional wear, due to its brittle nature. In the right mounting with the proper protection, Zircon will last a long time.
Just like each family has their own special traditions, languages, memories, and foods making them one of a kind, the many different colors and interesting optical properties of Zircon make it stand out from all others. Getting together with those loved ones makes this the most wonderful time of the year. From all of us here at Diadem Jewelers we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Learn about many of the other amazing areas of the Wonderful World of Color by clicking the link below!
Part 1: Tourmaline