December’s zircon: gem of the month
December’s gemstone, zircon, is a gorgeous stone that often doesn’t receive the credit it deserves. Frequently mistaken for a diamond, the gem comes in a variety of colours and has intense brilliance and strong lustre – just like a diamond. In spite of this, many people perceive zircon as an imitation diamond, which has had the unfortunate effect of lessening its popularity among consumers. However, the stone is still highly valued among gemologists and jewellers, as well as consumers who recognise the stone’s unique and beautiful qualities. In addition to this, zircon has played an important role in history, and remains an integral component in crystal healing due to its reported metaphysical properties.
As mentioned, zircon very closely resembles a diamond in colouring, lustre, and transparency. Like diamonds, the gem can come in a variety of colours, including yellow, blue, brown, red or colourless. However, there are a couple of major differences between the two gems. One is hardness; zircon is not as hard as diamond and is more susceptible to cracking or chipping. Another key difference is that zircon exhibits double refraction, which is an optical property that means that light entering the gem splits into two rays.
Zircon almost always undergoes some form of enhancement to bring out the stone’s brilliance. Heat treating is commonly performed to give the gem better colouring. Zircon is naturally brown or orange, but exposing the gem to extreme heat will transform it into more desirable colours, such as blue or colourless.
There are a few varieties of zircon recognized by gemologists and jewellers around the world. Zircon that comes in hues of yellow, orange, red or brown is referred to as jacinth or hyacinth. Colourless or pale yellow zircon is called jargon, while the trade name for colourless zircon is matura diamond. Blue zircon, one of the most sought-after colours, is known as starlite.
Zircon throughout history
The use of zircon for ornamentation, trade and other purposes dates back to Biblical times. During the Middle Ages, the stone was valued for its supposed ability to keep evil spirits away and promote wisdom and wealth. Later, during the Victorian era, zircon gained a devoted following of buyers who included it in jewellery and other ornamental pieces. In fact, the gem was a favourite for English estate jewellery, with a number of zircon pieces dating back to the 1800s.
The gemstone has also found a place among spiritual healers for its reported metaphysical properties. Zircon is said to have great healing energy that can promote balance between a person’s physical, emotional and spiritual selves. The gem is believed to help keep people grounded and to promote intuitive and psychic abilities, so it is frequently used during meditation. Many believe that zircon can help a person’s dreams become reality, and that connecting with the stone physically and mentally can enhance visions and provide guidance and purpose.