Zircon is not Zirconia and there are a lot of mix-ups. In this blog, we focus on the Zircon, the birthstone of December, (together with Turquoise and Tanzanite). The two gems are not the same and do you know why? Zircon is a very intriguing gemstone that can be found everywhere in the world. But it is so small that you hardly see it. When you find a nugget big enough for your eyes, you have to blink a few times, because of the beauty of this gem. The Zirconia is a manmade stone. Let us see why this gemstone is so special!
What does it look like?
Zircon has no color or is yellowish (called Hyacinth) or red to brown. The colors champagne, coffee, cognac, gold, green, honey, and orange are also there in its spectrum. The gemstone is transparent and the brilliance looks like the diamond. It is sometimes called ‘the poor man’s diamond’. On the market, you find also blue and green variations. These are colorless gems that are heated up to 1000 degrees for some hours and then they turn out blue or green.
This gemstone is strong double-breaking. This means that when a beam of light falls on the gem it divides into two beams. When you look at it you see that the facets double. This effect can give some extra brilliance, but also a great sparkling mosaic pattern and optical depth.
Zircon is not Zirconia.
They are both made of zirconium, which is why their names look similar. But that is all they have in common. Zirconia was discovered in 1937. Its origin is magma, deep down in the earth, which came up in times of eruptions. The crystals are so small, that they could not be used as gemstones, set in a piece of jewelry. But they are so beautiful that scientists in Moskou/Russia try to grow the crystals in a lab and they are successful. These manmade zirconium crystals are called zirconia and are used as a substitute for diamonds.
On the scale of Mohs, the Zircon has a hardness of 7.5 and is difficult to polish, since it breaks easily. The Zirconia has a hardness of 8.5 and resembles more the diamond in this matter, which has a hardness of 10 on the scale of Mohs.
The Zirconia can be made in every color and shape and is very much loved by designers in the fashion industry. It is less expensive than Zirkon and a lot less expensive than a diamond. Although it looks like the most precious gemstone in the world, it is not, but has the brilliance of a diamond (almost).
A long history
Zircon is the oldest mineral on earth. It dates back more than 4.4 billion years. You can find it in the crust of the earth, particularly in sand and deposits of sediment, metamorphic rocks, and crystallized magma.
Although you find only very small parts of zircon, the stone survived billions of years of earthquakes, erosion, and pressure shifts. It is a little bit radioactive, due to the uranium. The result is that this gemstone changes its chemical structure and color over time. That is a very important feature for geologists to determine how old a certain zircon or even the rock around it is.
The gemstone of this blog is found in the graves of one of the oldest excavations in the world. And there are a few very old documents that mention it. Just like in the Hindu poem about the Kalpa Tree, which has leaves made of this beauty. The angel that watches Paradise when Adam and Eve were still there, was called ‘Zircon’. And there was one at the breastplates of the High priest Aaron.
And more history…
In the Middle Ages, people thought that the zircon could make you sleep well, ward off evil, and even bring wealth and wisdom.
The blue variety got very popular in the Victorian Times and was very trendy and often used to decorate the English estate jewelry in the 1880s. The cloudy or smoky variety of this stone was popularly used in mourning jewelry. Queen Victoria was a kind of fashionista regarding mourning jewelry.
The heat treatment was invented in the 1920s and used to enhance the color of this gem. Especially the color blue was favorite with the jewelry designers. The gem buyer of Tiffany’s, the gemologist George Kunz, loved this gemstone. He invented the name ‘starlite’ for this stone and tried to promote it.
Nice to know
The name comes from the Arabic word ‘zarkun’ (red) of the Persian word ‘zargun’ (gold color). And there are mines in Cambodia, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, and Nigeria. It has a special variety: the blue (natural) Raranakiri variety, coming from Cambodia, has the most beautiful one in the world, according to the experts.
The stone is very very slightly radioactive. It contains a very small amount of radioactive isotopes that turn into lead, during a time. Experts know how long this process takes and by measuring the amount of lead, they know how old the rock is, and where they found it. The oldest minerals on earth are the ones found in Western Australia.
It is a mineral that you will find everywhere, but you can hardly see it since it has an average size of 0,000 001 meters to 0,000 003 meters. And sometimes they find nuggets of a few centimeters and they are used (when they have the right quality) for making pieces of jewelry.
It is said that the zircon gives you physical and mental strength and brings you to balance. And when you meditate wear some zircon piece of jewelry for a good meditation, that gives you visions and real dreams. Use this gemstone and you should get a lot of wealth and prosperity. But no guarantee from my side!
Zircons are formed in magma and metamorphic rocks and therefore they are very durable. Another great feature is they are resistant to chemical attacks. The result is that they can survive many geological events, like earthquakes and volcano outbursts. This feature can be proven in the rings of this gem that grow around the original crystal-type rings.
This gemstone is found especially in Australia, which produces 37% of the total world’s supply of this mineral. And also in Cambodia, Madagascar, Canada, Ukraine, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, this gem is mined.
How to take care of this beauty:
Best they are not being exposed to light for too long. When they are treated with light to get another color, they can get their natural color, which is probably colorless. For the same reason, you better not wear your Zircon piece of jewelry to a tanning and nail salon. There they use overexposure to white and blue light.
This gemstone is a beauty, but it is hard to cut since cutting the gem is broken easily. That means a real headache for the gemstone cutters. It is possible to get small zircon beads and they are used in some of the FlorenceJewelshop designs. Don’t worry about breaking, that happens only while cutting, or when you stand on the beads. Which I don’t recommend doing.
If you love gemstones and gemstone jewelry you will love this PDF full of stories and information about birthstones. Great to see what your birthstone is, but also perfect when you want a personal gift for your friend. Ask for this PDF. It’s free! Just let me know to whom I can send your copy.
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