Natural Zircon 1.25 ct, from Ratanakiri, Cambodia
Weight: 1.25 ct
Dimension: 5.80 x 5.88 x 3.85 mm
Color Saturation: Medium
Origin: Ratanakiri, Cambodia
Not to be confused with zirconia, cubic zirconia, or zirconium.
Zircon is a mineral belonging to the group of nesosilicates. Its chemical name is zirconium silicate and its corresponding chemical formula is ZrSiO4. A common empirical formula showing some of the range of substitution in zircon is (Zr1–y, REEy)(SiO4)1–x(OH)4x–y. Zircon forms in silicate melts with large proportions of high field strength incompatible elements. For example, hafnium is almost always present in quantities ranging from 1 to 4%. The crystal structure of zircon is tetragonal crystal system. The natural color of zircon varies between colorless, yellow-golden, red, brown, blue, and green. Colorless specimens that show gem quality are a popular substitute for diamond and are also known as “Matura diamond”.
The name derives from the Persian zargun meaning golden-colored. This word is corrupted into “jargoon”, a term applied to light-colored zircons. The English word “zircon” is derived from “Zirkon,” which is the German adaptation of this word. Red zircon is called “hyacinth”, from the flower hyacinthus, whose name is of Ancient Greek origin.
Zircon is ubiquitous in the crust of Earth. It occurs as a common accessory mineral in igneous rocks (as primary crystallization products), in metamorphic rocks and as detrital grains in sedimentary rocks. Large zircon crystals are rare. Their average size in granite rocks is about 0.1–0.3 mm, but they can also grow to sizes of several centimeters, especially in mafic pegmatites and carbonatites. Zircon is also very resistant to heat and corrosion.
Because of their uranium and thorium content, some zircons undergo metamictization. Connected to internal radiation damage, these processes partially disrupt the crystal structure and partly explain the highly variable properties of zircon. As zircon becomes more and more modified by internal radiation damage, the density decreases, the crystal structure is compromised, and the color changes.
Zircon occurs in many colors, including reddish brown, yellow, green, blue, gray and colorless. The color of zircons can sometimes be changed by heat treatment. Common brown zircons can be transformed into differents colors by heat treatment.