Though a beautiful completely natural stone with its own merits the zircon is perhaps the most misunderstood and least well known gemstone today mainly because it is often confused with the artificial diamond stimulant cubic zirconia (CZ).
The two of course are completely different because the CZ is a lab-created gemstone with a very different chemical composition to that of the distinctly natural zircon whose fire and brilliance can rival those of a fine diamond and sometimes even outshine mediocre diamonds thus making the zircon a less-expensive stand-in for the diamond.
No surprise then that the completely natural colourless zircon, prior to the introduction of diamond stimulants like CZ, was once one of the most popular diamond substitutes. The only connection to each other is that they both contain the element zirconium in their chemical structure, hence the name cubic zirconia.
The zircon also differs from the diamond in hardness because it registers 6.5-7.5 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness whereas the diamond is a 10 on that same scale. Also, the diamond is carbon-based whereas zircon is a mineral and the oldest known mineral on earth, older even, say the scientists, than the moon whose formation is said to be 4 billion years ago with samples from Australia dating back 4.4 billion years. An impressive and interesting history for sure because in addition to all that the zircon led to the emergence of the discipline of ‘zirconology’.
Other Differences between the Diamond and the Zircon
The zircon is far heavier than the diamond, so if you were to buy 1 carat of each the zircon would weigh more than the diamond yet look smaller than the diamond or other gemstone varieties of the same weight. Also, the zircon is brittle and thus chips and cracks more easily than the extremely hard diamond. A really important difference, however, is that the zircon is radioactive but not enough so as to make it unsafe or pose any health hazards and to minimize or remove any risks, the stones must be heated to stabilize them for use as gems. Heating, of course, also occurs to enhance the stones colours and increase transparency.
Zircon Myths & Colours
Many ancient cultures for many thousands of years knew zircon and being highly superstitious they believed the zircon to be imbued with magical powers. in the Middle Ages, for example, where it was treasured, the zircon was believed to be the stone of prosperity that would bring untold wealth to its owner; be a sleeping aid; bring wisdom and honour to the wearer/owner, and be of help for blisters, varicose veins, and testicle problems.
In its purest form, the zircon is completely colourless – just like a quality diamond – but the inclusion of impurities causes a wide range of interesting colours, just like the diamond comes in a variety of colours. These colours of zircon include yellow, golden-yellow, orange, yellow, golden-brown, brown, rose, rose-orange, red, green, blue, violet, purple, green, and other in-between colour variations. The most popular colour is blue, specifically a bright to medium-dark pure blue and in this colour the most valuable but the most expensive of all, due to its rarity, is the Green Zircon. The less popular colours, perhaps because they are less often seen in jewellery, are pink, purple, and yellow. And another rarity in some stones is the cat’s eye chatoyancy.
As in the case of many other gemstones and because the zircon occurs in so many colours mistakes – genuine or otherwise – are often made in the identification process. Example, the pastel-blue zircon resembles and can be mistake for the Aquamarine, Blue Topaz, Blue Tourmaline, and Blue Spinel; the Golden-Brown Zircon resembles the Citrine, Topaz, and Sapphire; the Pink Zircon is similar to the Morganite, Pink Topaz, Kunzite, Rose Quartz, and Pink Spinel; and the Yellow Zircon can be similar to the Yellow Diamond, Topaz, Beryl, and Yellow Sapphire.
So, a word to the wise if a zircon of any colour is in your future to only buy from someone you can trust implicitly – Joe or Monika at LL Private Jewellers – so you know you’re getting a genuine Zircon, the completely natural diamond alternative that you can also outfox your friends with. The zircon, by the way, is also the traditional birthstone for December.
For more information about zircon, please contact LL Private Jewellers at-604-683-3918.