Zircon, one of the birthstones for December, is an often misunderstood naturally-occurring gemstone, frequently confused with cubic zirconia.
In its colorless form, zircon was widely used as a diamond substitute in the early 20th century - but it’s the blue zircon that’s the most popular form and the reason the stone became a traditional birthstone.
Zircon comes in a beautiful array of colors, ranging from yellow-golden and red, to brown, blue, green and colorless. For many years the latter was most popular, as it could be used as a substitute for diamond. Many people are actually unaware of zircon and the wide range of colors it’s found in, instead confusing it with the synthetic cubic zirconia and considering it to be simply an “imitation” gemstone.
The stone measures 7.5 on the Moh’s scale, making it a popular choice for jewelry, but wearers should be aware that it’s still a little vulnerable to scratches.
Zircon is mainly found in Burma, Cambodia, Thailand and Australia, and to a lesser extent Brazil and Sri Lanka. It’s actually the oldest gemstone on Earth, with some samples discovered believed to be older than the Moon (which is four billion years old!)
Although zircon has been used for thousands of years, its history is somewhat clouded due to be a lesser-known stone.
In the Middle Ages, the gem was thought to induce sound sleep, drive away evil spirits, and promote wisdom, honor and riches. It became popular with gemologists in the Victorian era.
Zircon’s value is highest when it’s closer to pure blue in color, reaching up to $300 per carat.
High saturation and tone tend to increase the stone’s value, generally.
Almost all blue zircon is heat-treated to enhance its color. This is seen as an acceptable treatment because naturally-occurring blue zircon is extremely rare, and there’s no way to distinguish between natural and treated stones.
Zircon’s name has been somewhat tarnished by the similarly-titled cubic zirconia, but this is no imitation stone - not anymore.
The gem comes in a beautiful selection of colors, and has rich historical importance attached to it.