Many people have heard of zircon but never seen it. This is mostly because of colorless zircon’s wide use as a diamond simulant in the early 1900s. It was long ago replaced in that role by more convincing look-alikes, but its name still means “imitation” to many people. That’s unfortunate because zircon is a beautiful colored stone with its own fair share of folklore and charm. Colorless zircon is well known for its brilliance and flashes of multicolored light, called fire. These two zircon properties are close enough to the properties of diamond to account for centuries of confusion between the two gems.
Legend & Lore
In the Middle Ages, this gem was thought to induce sound sleep, drive away evil spirits, and promote riches, honor, and wisdom. Many scholars think the stone’s name comes from the Arabic word zarkun, meaning “cinnabar” or “vermilion.” Others believe the source is the Persian word zargun, or “gold colored.” Considering zircon’s color range, either derivation seems possible. Blue zircon was a particular favorite in Victorian times, when fine gems were often featured in English estate jewelry dating from the 1880s. Gemologist George Kunz—Tiffany’s famed gem buyer—was a notable zircon advocate. He once proposed the name “starlite” to promote the gem’s fiery nature. The name never caught on. Zircon is a birthstone for the month of December, along with turquoise and tanzanite.
Zircon occurs in an array of colors. Its wide and varied palette of yellow, green, red, reddish brown, and blue hues makes it a favorite among collectors as well as informed consumers.
Warm, soapy water is recommended for cleaning zircon. Ultrasonic and steam cleaners are not recommended for cleaning this gem.
This information was excerpted from GIA's Gem Encyclopedia with permission from GIA.