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Zircon: The Hottest Gem of 2024?

Updated: Apr 5


What is Zircon?


Occasionally confused with cubic zirconia (which is something completely different), Zircon (Zirconium Silicate) is the oldest-known natural mineral on earth, dating back 4.4 billion years! Zircon grows in a tetragonal crystal system and rates 6.5 - 7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale. Its lustre is vitreous; its specific gravity (SG) is 3.9 - 4.7, and its refractive index (RI) is 1.81- 2.02. Zircon has important mining sources in Cambodia, Madagascar and Sri Lanka.


Zircon is one of the most underrated semi-precious gemstone choices on the market today. But this is changing, and avid gem collectors and custom jewellery enthusiasts are seeing Zircon's incredible potential from an investment standpoint and the brilliant natural beauty it brings to custom jewellery designs.


This year, I attended the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show 2024, and it was very clear from talking with many gem dealers that Zircon, especially Cambodian Blue Zircon, was one of the most sought-after gems of the event. This is also reflected in the fast-rising wholesale prices.




Zircon, The Birthstone of December


What a delight to have the opportunity to adorn yourself with a beautiful natural jewel with a history that stretches back to the beginning of time. 


Zircon is the official birthstone of December, alongside Tanzanite and Turquoise. This makes it a fitting choice for those born in the month of Christmas. With a beautiful array of colours available, a Zircon option fits every personality and acquired taste. 


There is a wonderful, longstanding tradition of gifting a gemstone each year to mark a wedding anniversary. Gold is the official first wedding anniversary gemstone; however, that isn't limited to the metal itself! Consider Zircon as a thoughtful gold-inspired first wedding anniversary gift. Sri Lanka produces incredible specimens of golden Zircon, perfect for a unique wedding anniversary gift for your significant other.


2.87ct Rosewood Zircon in a cushion cut, Sri Lanka Origin
2.87ct Rosewood Zircon, Sri Lanka Origin

What Colour is Zircon?


When Zircon is extracted from the ground or found in alluvial deposits, the crystal is reddish-brown. This reddish-brown variety was originally known as Hyacinth Zircon.


All Cambodian Blue Zircon (originally known as Starlite Zircon) on the market has undergone heat treatment; when heated to 1472 - 1832 degrees Celcius, it transforms the reddish-brown and yellow hue of the Zircon into a pale blue through to a vibrant blue. Blue is the most well-known and popular colour in the Zircon family.


However, this intensely lustrous gemstone is found in reds, pinks, browns, oranges, yellows, greens and colourless. You could describe the colour palette of Zircon as being largely autumnal, and teamed with its exceptional brilliance and fire, the result is a bold, earthy and visually stunning gemstone that looks incredible once set into a custom jewellery piece.



4.49ct round brilliant cut Seafoam Zircon, Madagascar Origin
4.49ct Seafoam Zircon, Madagascar Origin

Zircon is Doubly Refractive, also Known as Birefringence


Zircon is unique and desirable because it is one of the few semi-precious gemstones that rivals a diamond with its brilliance. As you admire and move a Zircon, its refractive properties create sharp and intense flashes of multicolour light, often informally described as shimmer. A colourless Zircon resembles a diamond and has been known as a Matura Diamond. One of the main differences is that Zircon is doubly refractive, and diamond is not. This double fraction, also known as Birefringence, creates a mesmerising display of light, a fiery brilliance, that is truly fascinating to observe.


Even with its sheer beauty rivalling that of diamonds, Zircon is much more affordable than a comparable-sized or shaped diamond, making it an attractive alternative. With a Zircon, you can achieve a similar aesthetic to a diamond jewellery piece but with a more modest budget.


Custom Zircon Jewellery Design


The Sapphire Merchant has designed some notable custom Zircon jewellery pieces for our clientele, including Zircon engagement rings. Zircon is acceptable as an engagement ring gemstone, but it can be a softer gem, so some care should be taken when wearing it day in and day out. Here are two examples of our custom jewellery work with Zircon.


6.84ct Cambodian Zircon, with Diamond Halo and Filigree Band
6.84ct Cambodian Zircon Custom Ring

A Zircon Cocktail Ring


The first is a 6.84ct Cambodian Blue Zircon ring. Our client wanted a custom-designed ring that had a distinctly antique feel but still felt fun and fresh at the same time. During our consultation, we looked at different design features that he felt made an attractive jewellery piece. Bringing these design features together, we opted for a halo of 2.50mm round brilliant diamonds, D colour with VVS clarity, to frame the generously sized emerald cut Zircon. The diamonds added to the overall brilliance of the ring and brought a distinct feeling of luxury to the design. Next, we created a fine-leafed filigree pattern for the band, a nod to the Victorian era. This striking band-work stabilised the larger 6.84ct Zircon and 1.05ct total diamond weight. This Cambodian Blue Zircon Custom Ring was finished in 18k yellow gold, resulting in a visually luxurious feast for the eyes. Our client was thrilled with the result, and this stunning custom Cambodian Blue Zircon ring was a luxury Christmas gift for his wife.


6.32ct Champagne Zircon Engagement Ring
6.32ct Champagne Zircon Engagement Ring

A Zircon Engagement Ring


The second is a 6.32ct Champagne Zircon engagement ring. Our client originally wanted a yellow diamond framed with trilliant cut white diamonds; however, the price for coloured diamonds is high, and finding suitable options can be challenging. Our client initially wanted to view our yellow sapphire stock but immediately gravitated toward the Zircon options in our catalogue. She was quickly taken by the 6.32ct radiant cut Zircon, which certainly had a diamond appeal! From here, we created the 3 stone engagement ring style, adding our custom design features to make it a truly unique custom jewellery piece. The Sapphire Merchant sourced trilliant cut diamonds, approximately 0.70 total carat weight, in G-H colour with VS clarity. We mixed the metal, making the overall ring in 14k yellow gold but making the basket work, holding the diamonds in 14k white gold. This was done to brighten the diamond work. We added a gorgeous heart detail on each side of the basket holding the Zircon, giving my client a unique stamp on her custom jewellery piece. This Champagne Zircon Engagement Ring was a customised take on the classic 3-stone engagement. A custom jewellery design that will stand the test of time!


The Sapphire Merchant Travels to Source to Handpick our Zircon Gemstone Options:


Browse our luscious range of shimmering natural Zircon gemstones. Whatever you can dream of, The Sapphire Merchant can make for you. If you fall in love with one of our Zircons and are still determining a design idea, we collaborate with you to create something you will adore for many years to come. Contact The Sapphire Merchant today to start a journey that tells your story with an incredible custom jewellery piece.





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