Unfortunately for this December birthstone, due to the similarity of zircon's name to the lab created diamond simulant cubic zirconia, many people don't realize that zircon is a beautiful, naturally occurring stone with its own merits. Zircon comes closer to resembling diamonds than any other natural gem.
 
Zircon is made of zirconium silicate, whereas cubic zirconia is made of zirconium oxide. Both of the gemstones are hard to differentiate from each other and are confused as being the same. Zircon is a natural gemstone, unlike the lab, created stone. Natural zircon is rare and more expensive than cubic zirconia.
 
Colorless zircon is the purest form of the mineral. The natural color of zircon varies between colorless, yellow-golden, red, brown, blue and green. Colorless specimens that show gem quality are a popular substitute for diamond and are also known as "Matura diamond". These high-quality diamond-like stones can be very rare. In fact, it is much rarer than diamonds but is considerably less valuable. Zircon comes closer to resembling diamonds than any other natural gem. Its superior luster and intense fire give it a real sparkle that is comparable to a diamond. However, its popularity is somewhat diminished by the fact that it is often perceived as an inexpensive diamond imitation.  Some zircon stones can also display pleochroism which is an optical phenomenon in which a substance has different colors when observed at different angles, especially with polarized light. 

Zircon has been found in some of the world's oldest archaeological sites and is the oldest minerals so far dated on Earth.  Reports have indicated that a piece of zircon in Australia has been dated back 4.4 billion years, making it the earliest confirmed piece of earth’s crust. It has also been used in jewelry dated back thousands of years, unlike cubic zirconia that was produced in the 1970s. In the Middle Ages, zircon was commonly used to aid in sleep and bring prosperity and wisdom to its owner. It is a favorite of gem dealers and collectors, but it is not well known in the retail jewelry market.
 
Next time you are shopping for gemstones at fine retailers, look for the gem that famed Tiffany and Co gemologist, George Kunz, loved and proposed the name “Starlite” to promote the stone’s fiery nature and luster.