Zircon is not a very well-known gemstone, but it is one of the most important gemstones of today. Many people confuse zircon with the artificial diamond simulant, cubic zirconia. Of course, the two are completely different - cubic zirconia (CZ), is a lab-created synthetic material, while zircon is a naturally occurring gemstone with a very different chemical composition. However, before the introduction of diamond simulants like cubic zirconia and moissanite, white zircon was actually one of the most popular diamond substitutes, owing to its high dispersion and refractive index, and was often marketed under the misleading trade name of 'Matura diamond'. Zircon is also remarkably dense and exhibits a very pronounced level of birefringence. Zircon has such high birefringence that it may appear fuzzy or display facet-doubling.
Zircon occurs in a wide range of colors, of which white or colorless is likely the least valuable or important. The most popular zircon today is blue zircon, usually occurring with green pleochroism, which can result in interesting teal-like colors. Blue zircon is actually produced by heating more commonly occurring brown zircon. However, only some brown materials have the appropriate physical structure to turn blue when heated, typically only deposits found in South East Asia - which is why most blue zircon comes from Cambodia or Burma. Blue zircon is one of the traditional modern birthstones for December.
Australia boasts the oldest deposits dating back more over 4.4 billion years. Other notable sources include Brazil, Korea, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Thailand and Vietnam.