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The oldest mineral discovered on Earth

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As many would agree, the earth is a fascinating treasure with many natural wonders that even experts cannot explain. Minerals are one of those wonders. Minerals in this context refer to naturally occurring solid chemical compounds that have definite internal chemical compositions, crystal forms, and clearly defined physical properties that are recognizable.

A mineral must be a natural substance created by a natural geological process to be considered as such. Over the years, experts have been able to identify and name thousands of minerals, expertly study them, and deduce the chronology that marked their formation. Many of these minerals are older than we think; some even predate the existence of humans. What do you think is the oldest mineral found on earth? This article answers. Keep reading to find out.

What is the oldest mineral on Earth?

Natural brown zircon crystals
Zircons are the oldest mineral on earth.


The oldest mineral ever found on earth is zircon. The oldest samples of this mineral date back over 4.4 billion years, making it almost as old as the earth itself. It is common in most sandy and sedimentary deposits, as well as in metamorphic rocks and crystallized magma.

The first step to finding and naming minerals is to find locations with mineral deposits. Depending on the situation, these locations are found through satellite images or geochemical surveys.

Where was zircon first found?

According to experts, the oldest samples of zircon were found in Jack Hills of Western Australiaand they were almost 4.4 billion years old. This proves that the mineral first formed in the earth’s crust when the earth was in its infancy, only around 200 million years ago. However, since other samples discovered nearby ranged in age up to three billion years, these minerals represent the closest scientists have to a consistent chemical record of early Earth.

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Each zircon contains uranium, which allows very precise age determination. Scientists can determine the age of uranium by measuring its famous radioactivity and quantifying its decay rate. This same method was used to determine the age of the zircon coins found. The team of scientists used a laser blast and a mass spectrometer to test more than 3,500 zircons for their chemical composition. These analyzes provided information on the chemical composition and age of each zircon. Due to damage to these minerals over the billions of years since their formation, only 200 of the thousands of samples analyzed were suitable for research.

How was zircon formed?

According to experts, this mineral was formed from magma or metamorphic rocks. The mineral zircon is created when zirconium, silicon, and oxygen condenses in magma or metamorphic rock. Due to its chemical composition, zircon can survive geological processes such as erosion. Although this mineral is not physically affected by these geological events, it acts as a time capsule and records them. In other words, it is easy for experts to understand the timing and details of major geological events by studying zircon samples. The amount of information experts had about the early Earth would have been limited without the help of zircon.

Zircon contains uranium, which changes the color and chemical composition of the mineral over time to indicate changes in the environment and also give clues to the formation of the Earth. During this time, the zircon core is unchanged and retains the chemical properties of the rock in which it first crystallized. Because of this, it’s easy for scientists to laser open a piece of zircon and, with pinpoint accuracy, determine the timeline of some of the world’s most important events. Zircon has also helped scientists understand the formation of certain continents, life on earth before humans, and facts about other planets.

What does zircon look like?

Green zircon crystals in the stone
The zircons are of different colors; orange, yellow, red, green and sometimes even colorless.


Although generally reddish brown, zircon comes in different colors; orange, yellow, red, green and sometimes even colorless. It is also usually translucent, but in some cases it appears transparent. Although it is already available in several colors, this mineral still changes color when heated. Blue zircons are the most common shade and the price will increase as the shade of blue becomes more intense. Traces of specific impurities, some of which are radioactive, give it its variety of colors.

What is zircon used for?

Zircon has multiple uses for different industries, and one of the sectors that uses the mineral the most is ceramics. The mineral is a fine ground for making glazes and enamels. Additionally, it is used in the manufacture of ceramic tiles and pigments and as an opacifier to improve the whiteness of these pigments.

Zircon is very frequently used in jewelry due to its range of colors and toughness. The mineral has been used as a gemstone for over 2,000 years. When zircon is faceted, it can dazzle brilliantly and is a less expensive alternative to diamonds. However, its toughness makes it harder to beat in finer jewelry like rings. In the steel industry, zircon is used in line furnaces due to its high melting point, usefulness as an abrasive, and hardness. Other applications for zircon products include spacecraft, electronics and engines.

Although so old and so useful, zircon is not a rare mineral. It can be found in the earth’s crust and is also a common mineral found in igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. However, larger pieces of zircon are more difficult to find, unlike smaller ones. Zircon can be found in several parts of the world. Still, some of the most common places where it is found include Australia, BrazilKorea, Madagascarand Niger.


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