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Tanzanian Zircon
Gem Profile

This is the way to move zircon—lots of it: Let it move. Don't keep it standing still where it can't unleash the shows of fire power for which it is the little-known equal of diamond. Take it out of the showcase and put it on your person, preferably—if you're a woman, that is—on the ear where it does what it does best: trip the light fantastic.

That's what jeweler and zircon devotee Kim Yanke does in her store in Franklin, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. Every day as of late she has been sporting zircon stud earrings that are impossible to ignore and which never fail to elicit admiring oohs and aahs, followed by conversations as animated as the gems. Each exchange helps bond buyer to seller and aids Yanke in her tireless zircon crusade.

"Thanks to its high refractive index, zircon gives diamond a run for its money when it comes to sparkle—for a lot less money," she says. "Plus it's got the added benefit of color."

If you're like most jewelers, you're probably thinking of a greenish-blue hue at this point. Well, think again. Yanke's zircons are golden with just a pinch of red, mined in Tanzania, which is famous for producing gems in unfamiliar shades.

Yanke knows that zircons are at their best when they scintillate. So she wears them on her ears where the slightest head movement gives this gem a chance to sparkle. Of course, the fact that the zircons are worn as studs reins them in a bit. Yanke wisely leaves the fullest expression of zircon's pyrotechnics to her customers, suggesting they wear this gem in dangle earrings that let zircon attain maximum glitter—and outshine hers.

"Zircon loves to dance," she explains. "The more it moves, the more it dances."


Tanzania's new find of fancy color zircons comes at a good time for this gem. Zircon has been a designer darling these last few years—but in its traditional blue color. Now it comes in a wide assortment of earth tones ranging from wheat yellow to brownish-orange peach and cinnamon through to a kind of dusty persimmon. Because of zircon's flash and flair, it's not advised to liken its colors to those of topaz, sapphire, or spinel. "The quality of the color is different from that of any other gem," says Dave Trout of Phoenix-based Coffin & Trout. "It captures your attention immediately."

Coffin, too, is an enthusiast of Tanzanian zircon, welcoming the expansion of its colors from cool, deep aquatic shades to warm, light earth tones. "There's been some pink before but now I think we're going to see real availability of alternate colors," he says.

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