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Blue Zircon vs. Blue Topaz: What's the difference?

Blue Zircon and Blue Topaz are both used as birthstones for the month of December and look almost identical to the naked eye but the price tag varies greatly with Zircon being much more expensive. These two gemstones differ significantly as well in their geologic composition and history. Find out the real differences in this awesome exploration.

Zircon may sound like a sci-fi villain, but it is a zirconium silicate mineral that has been mined for over 2000 years. Fragments of Zircon that are less than 1mm in diameter are widely spread amongst sedimentary rocks on the Earth’s surface. Larger pieces are usually used as gemstones and in jewelry. Most natural zircons are red, yellow or brown with brownish coloring resulting from iron oxide impurities. Heating or irradiation methods are used to produce colorless, green and blue zircon, Blue Zircon being the most popular as well as the birthstone for December. Consumers should beware, because If they wear their heat treated Zircon jewelry in a tanning bed or under UV lights used at a nail salon, the color will revert back to its original brownish color.

This stone as well as its affiliated element both derive their name from the Arabic word meaning “gold color.” Zircon is a naturally occurring mineral and an ore of Zirconium, is a silvery white metal and a chemical element on the Periodic table, High quality Zircon is sometimes used as a less expensive substitute for Diamonds and require close inspection to distinguish between the two. Gem quality Zircon today can be found all over the world although Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Australia, Africa and Pakistan are some of the most notable sources .

Zircon also has significance within Christianity and Judaism. At the time known as “Jacinth,” it was one of the twelve stones worn by Moses' brother, Aaron, each representing one of the 12 Tribes of Israel. These twelve stones were an inspiration to the modern day birthstones.

Zircon is energizing, stimulates all of the chakras and helps one focus. It helps one take ideas from within the head and bring them into reality by giving one initiative and drive. It also works as a “talisman” for spiritual protection. Topaz is a rare silicate mineral that generally forms in the cavities caused by bubbles in cooling Magma with high concentrations of Fluorine gas. Topaz is also found as water worn pebbles deposited in streams after being formed within the spaces of pegmatites (chunks of igneous rock that have crystals that are more than 1cm in diameter) and rhyolites (extrusive igneous rock conglomerates). Both varieties are a result of volcanic activity. Topaz, much like Sapphire or Tourmaline, is a gem that comes in a wide array of colors. And it’s these colors that determine pricing with natural pink, orange, purple, blue and red being the rarest and most valuable and pale yellow, clear, and brown being more common and least expensive. Blue Topaz rarely occurs naturally, but in the commercial market it is often clear Topaz that has been treated. It is first irradiated, which modifies the electrons within the atoms of the crystal to change the color to brown, and then heated to produce a stable blue color. This unique two-step color changing process was invented in the 1960s.

It is an excellent gem to use for jewelry since it has a hardness of 8 with Diamond, Corundum and Chrysoberyl being the only minerals that are harder than Topaz. However, it does have perfect cleavage, which can lend to it chipping. And this attribute is also why Topaz is rarely found attached to its matrix; the crystals usually break off. Topaz was named by the Ancient Greeks for the island of Topazios in the Red Sea, though, ironically, today what we call Topaz cannot be found there, and the ancient gems were likely Peridot. Throughout history, the name “Topaz” was used to refer to most yellowish gems, but in the 19th century, we realized that Topaz could be many colors, and that many of these yellow gems were actually other stones. An orange/yellow and expensive variety of Topaz called “golden topaz” is November’s birthstone. Citrine, which is less costly, is more commonly used as an alternative birthstone. Today, the main source of Topaz is Brazil, although smaller deposits have been found in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Australia and parts of Africa. In the USA, Topaz has been found in Utah, where it was declared the state gemstone in 1969.

“Swiss Blue” or “London Blue” Topaz: are clear Topaz that have been both heat treated and irradiated to derive their color both sky blue (swiss) and rich dark gray-blue (London).

Blue Topaz enhances one’s communication skills and helps one find and achieve their aspirations in life.

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