A Favourite Stone of Freemasonry
This mineral is very hard to find on the open market, even harder than some diamonds; the reasons are its rarity and high price. Before the start of the twentieth century, jewellers did not even consider it a worthy stone, neither did they bother to give it a name. Furthermore, some fifty years ago, a stone deserving to have the same level of recognition as the worlds’s most precious gems do was compromised by American scientists and undeservedly forgotten.
Throughout the history, zircon was always outshined by other stones. Hindus and Persians said zircon was a younger brother of diamond; they thought the stone was a Ceylon version of the Earth’s hardest mineral. In Europe, zircon was often mistaken for andradite, chrysolite or citrine due to its colour variation. In the 1970s, Soviet scientists created an artificial replica of the diamond stone - phianite. Outside of the former Soviet Union this name has been, however, mostly left unknown. Americans who adopted Russian technology named the artificial stone differently - cubic zirconia - which has led to global confusion over definitions. Lots of exported jewels were marked with an acronym Zr, which stands for the same-named chemical element. As a result of this mishmash with terms, most people came to think that mineral zircon, metal zirconium and lab-grown cubic zirconia are all the same - an artificially created stone.
Nonetheless, there were always worshippers of this amazingly beautiful stone, regardless of historic period. Zircon was a favourite stone of Freemasons. A distinguishing sign that differentiated Master Masons from the other Freemasonry grades was a silver ring with zircon that was worn at the left hand. It was believed that zircon helped its owner to thunder down deceits and spin intrigues. Anne of Austria, the Queen of France, portrayed by Alexandre Dumas in the The Three Musketeers novel, also fancied the stone. She was constantly wearing a belt with stones sewn inside it, which supposedly saved her from dying at the hands of enemies and kept her firmly seated on the throne. In some countries of the East, people still believe this gem is a power stone, and highly ranked politicians and businessmen can be often seen wearing zircon jewellery.
In the Middle Ages, hyacinth, which is a hazel-coloured zircon type, was often worn by girls working as prostitutes - they thought this mineral helped them prevent unplanned pregnancies and earn more money.
Healing properties of zircon have never been confirmed, though folk tales say it can treat different kinds of health problems - all one has to do is to choose a stone of the right color. For instance, transparent zircon helps loosing weight, yellow stones, on the contrary, help gaining weight, dark-coloured stones protect from catching cold, and blue zircons help those who have stomach issues.
Nowadays, zircon is rarely used in jewellery, which is mostly to the fact that majority of samples are very small, often less than one carat in size. The stone is also extremely fragile and, therefore, is rarely suitable for gem-cutting. Most jewellers decide not to use it in their work, and, as a result, there are more vintage jewel items made of zircon than modern ones.