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Zircon is sometimes confused with cubic zirconia. The former is a bona fide gemstone, the latter, a man-made diamond wannabe.

The picture here (by Rocket 1000) shows Cambodian coloured zircons. This gemstone comes in colorless, yellow, red, green and brown. The colorless varieties found in Sri Lanka are a popular substitute for diamonds and are known as Matura or Matara diamonds. They aren't as hard as diamonds, though. The yellow ones are sometines called hyacinths. Blue is the most desired color - most blue zircons are obtained by heat treating the red-brown ones. Naturally blue zircon is hard to come by.

Zircon is an old gemstone as it has been found in ancient archaeological sites and appears in historical literature and in the Bible where it's called jacinth. Today zircon is found in many places but the largest gem crystal deposits are found in Thailand, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.

Cambodia's zircons are mainly found in the Ratanakiri region near the Vietnamese border. This remote beautiful region is where blue zircons can be found. The miners use simple traditional methods to extract out the gemstone from narrow mine shafts going down several metres.

As you can see from this video (ignore first minute or so) of Ratanakiri mining, these are small family businesses. According to the video, the mining concession rent is $10 per day. The miners dig and sift through tons of dirt to get a daily return of $10-300 a day - the average is on the low end. Watch the last bit of the video - if you've ever complained about your lousy job, you won't again. Childcare? What childcare?

ReferencesPaul E Desautels (1971). The Gem Kingdom. Random House
Edna B Anthony : Let's Talk Gemstones
David Federman : Cambodian Zircon
Gemstv : Zircon

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  1. Can you imagine squatting in the water like that - or searching however - for a few little pebbles all day? Ah-h! I am so grateful to be where I am and have what I do.

  2. Very interesting! I'd also be interested in hearing your thoughts on CZ's. They are gorgeous, but may not get respect. Why is that? Any ideas? Just curious! Lisa C.

  3. CZs are amongst the oldest of modern day fakes and well known as such. I suspect CZs don't get respect because they are fake and people want the real Mccoy. CZs are also relatively easy to spot as fakes. It also doesn't help if people insist on wearing huge CZs which arouses suspicions.

    Today, there are much better manmade diamonds coming on the market which are virtually indistinguishable from naturally formed ones.

  4. Thanks for your post. I am believer in the humble zircon. Zircon can be amazing faceted gems. Check these out - The colors are completely natural and untreated. The golden ones knock me out.

  5. My goodness, those zircons are just drop dead gorgeous. They are an underused gemstone for sure.


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