Z is for Zircon
Zircon is a naturally occuring mineral formed from the chemical compound zirconium silicate. In its natural state it is clear but impurities give it a range of color. I just love that impurities can make something so beautiful.
Zircons are often used as a substitute for diamonds. It is the only gem that has the same brilliance and fire of a diamond and the untrained eye most likely could not tell the difference. The two major differences are 1) a diamond is a single refractive stone and a zircon is a double refractive stone and 2) a zircon has a Mohs hardness of 7.5 compared to the 10 of a diamond. After a period of time and wear, a zircon could lose the sharpness of the facets which would not occur with a diamond.
The most valuable zircons are either colorless, brown, blue. This specimen in the collection of the Smithsonian is a beautiful blue.
There are a number of industrial uses for zircon. More than half of the zircon mined today is used in the ceramics industry. There are also chemical derivatives such as zirconia and zirconium. Their uses span the fields of nuclear energy, gas purification, cosmetics, and in the manufacture of cubic zirconias (another diamond substitute).
This post wraps up my first ever A to Z Challenge. It has been fun, but quite a ride. I have learned a lot and I hope you picked up a few things along the way. It has been my pleasure to have you take this journey with me!