Zircon

“White or colourless Zircons are used in lieu of Diamonds by wealthy natives in Ceylon.”

A. H. Church, Precious Stones (1905)

Etymology

The name Zircon derives from the Arabic ‘zarkun’ (red) or the Persian words ‘zar’ (gold) and ‘gun’ (color). However, do not be confused by the colors indicated by its word origins, as Zircon comes in an array of colors.

The zircon

The Zircon

Chemical composition of Zircon

Zircon is a natural beauty composed of zirconium silicate. Zirconia, often mistaken for Zircon, is made in a laboratory: zirconium oxide was discovered in 1892, but natural Zirconia was only discovered in 1937, although its crystals were too small to be processed into gemstones. In the 1970s, a Soviet scientist from the Moscow Physics Institute finally managed to create Zirconia in a laboratory. Starting in the 1980s, Zirconia was marketed as an affordable Diamond substitute.

Zircon extraction

Zircon is extracted in Cambodia, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

Cinnamon zircon

Cinnamon Zircon

The history of Zircon

A gemstone since antiquity, Zircon has been found in some of the world’s oldest archaeological sites. Zircon is also cited in several ancient texts, including the Bible and the Hindu poem of the mythical Kapla Tree, which was bejeweled with leaves of Zircon. Some sources mention a Jewish legend that names the angel Zircon as the guardian appointed to watch over Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Called by its ancient names, Ligure and Jacinth, Zircon gets several mentions in the Bible, first as one of the ‘stones of fire’ (Ezekiel 28:13-16) that was given to Moses and set in the breastplate of Aaron ( Exodus 28:15-30) and secondly, as one of the 12 gemstones set in the foundations of the city walls of Jerusalem (Revelations 21:19). Andreas, the Bishop of Caesurae, who wrote in the late 10th century, was one of the earliest writers to link the apostles with the 12 gems of Jerusalem. He associated Jacinth (Zircon) with the Apostle Simon.

Imperial zircon

Imperial Zircon

Properties of Zircon

Zircon is strongly doubly refractive, which means light splits into two rays as it passes through the gem. This is immediately visible, even to the untrained eye, as a doubling of the facets, although this is somewhat dependent on the angle of observation. Double refractivity is more pronounced in thicker gemstones. Although it does not make the gem more brilliant per se, it often results in beautiful sparkling mosaic patterns and optical depth. Other key attributes of Zircon are its beautiful adamantine sparkle, brilliance, fire and luster.

Ratanakiri zircon

Ratanakiri Zircon

Varieties of Zircon

Zircon comes in an array of colors, including blue, champagne, coffee, cognac, golden, green, honey, orange, red, white (colorless) and yellow.

Spice colored varieties are Cinnamon Zircon and Saffron Zircon while Nigerian Kaduna Zircon is a warm honey yellow hue. Ratanakiri Zircon is a unique variety: a Zircon from Ratanakiri, a Cambodian town famous for exporting a number of the best examples of the stone in existence.

Care for Zircon

Some examples lose color intensity or revert to their original colors if exposed to very intense light.