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Element Zirconium, Zr, Transition Metal


The zirconium-containing mineral hyacinth or a jargon from Sri Lanka, originally known as Ceylon has been known from deepest ages for its beautiful colors, from yellow-golden, brownish, to fumous-green. Hyacinth was considered to be a sort of topaz or ruby, with similar chemical compound, a gemstone now known as zircon, jargon, hyacinth, jacinth, or ligure. Werner named it zircon (silex circonius; Arabic zarkun from Persian zargun "cinnabar"). These minerals were not known to contain this element until Klaproth, in 1789, analyzed jargon from Sri Lanka. He fused zircon powder with caustic alkali in a silver bowl and dissolved it in sulphuric acid. Separating with some troubles silicic acid and iron, he obtained crystal salt and found a new earth, which Klaproth called Zirkonerde. The same earth was obtained by Guyton de Morveau from French hyacinth.

The impure metal was first isolated by Berzelius in 1824 by heating a mixture of potassium and potassium-zirconium fluoride in a small iron tube. Pure zirconium was first prepared in 1914.


Around 40 natural Zirconium compounds are known, mostly as zirconium oxides or salts. Average crust abundance of zirconium is 1.7x10-2 mass %. In granites, sandstones and clays the concentration of zirconium is somewhat more (2x10-2%), than in basic rocks (1.3x10-2%). In alkali rocks the concentration of zirconium is maximal: 5x10-2%. Biogenic and water migration is poor. Seawater concentration of zirconium is 0.00005 mg/l. Baddeleyite ZrO2 and zircon have special commercial importance. Basic deposits types are alkali rocks with malacone and cytrolite, magnetite- forsterite -apatite rocks, carbonatites with baddeleyite, littoral and eluvial- deluvial placers.

The biggest deposits of baddeleyite and zircon are located in USA, Australia, Brazil, India, and Western Africa, as well as in Ukraine, Ural and Siberia.


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