Zircon, the starlight blue variety, is a birthstone of December. A translucent gemstone, it evokes images of the snow and ice found in the winter months, making it the perfect accessory for a cold day in December.
This stone, usually found in warm colors ranging from amber to sorrel, is named from the Arabic words zar and gun, meaning gold and color. However, due to color treatments, it can be found in all colors of the rainbow, with red being the most prized. In fact, before the 1920’s, blue zircon was unheard of. During the early 20th Century, experimentation led to the discovery that heating the stone gives it a different color. Dubbed “starlight blue,” it was an immediate hit, despite the unnatural occurrences that led to the color. Consumers worldwide merely reveled in the beauty of these “new” zircon gemstones.
Before their new blue hues, zircons were popular for their other qualities. In the 11th Century, they were believed to protect travelers from disease, injury and insomnia while guaranteeing a warm welcome at the end of a journey. They were further believed to guard against the Black Death during the 14th Century. Even today, many maintain that they have healing properties, especially for those suffering from insomnia.
With zircon being such a beautiful stone, it is commonly used as “fake” diamonds. Both stones share an inner brilliance such that it is incredibly difficult to tell clear zircon from diamonds. However, very unlike the latter, zircon is fragile. With the heat treatments and its inherent structure, it is actually quite delicate and should be cared for accordingly.
A popular subset of zircon is cubic zirconia. They differ only in that cubic zirconia does not contain silicate (for the chemists out there, zircon is ZrSiO4 while cubic zirconia is ZrO2). I prefer to work with this gemstone instead of zircon. Zircon as a quality gemstone is rare and expensive while cubic zirconia is cheaper and easier to obtain. Furthermore, they work well with fine silver . Unlike zircon, cubic zirconia does not crack or degrade in heat because it is much more durable. This also makes it ideal for everyday wear. While some might look down on cubic zirconia because it is manufactured and inexpensive, I find that its price doesn’t change its beauty, clarity and brilliance.