Database of luminescent Minerals


Chemical Formula: ZrSiO4

Familly: Silicates

Status: IMA-GP

Crystal System: Tetragonal

Mineral for Display: Yes

Associated names (luminescent varieties, discredited names, synonymes etc.):  alvitecyrtolitemalacon


UV Type Main color Intensity Observation Frequency
Long Waves (365nm):      Pale Yellow Weak
Mid waves (320 nm):      Orangy yellow Medium
Short Waves (254 nm):      Orangy yellow StrongOften
Other colors LW:          
Tawn , Yellowish ,
Other colors SW:                                   
Yellowish White , Pale Yellow , Yellow , Dark Orange /Tawn , Tawn , Greenish , Yellowish ,

Daylight Picture

Zircon, Rift Mineral Province, Malawi;
Col. G. Barmarin
Photo: Courtesy

Short Waves Pictures (254nm)

Zircon, Rift Mineral Province, Malawi;
UVSW, Col. G. Barmarin
Photo: Courtesy


Phosphorescence (in the common meaning of the term) seen by naked eye:

No Data

Ténébrescence: OUI

Thermoluminescence: Yes


Variété alvite (contenant du Hf, Th et des terres rares: OC et LW: vert; SW: Rouge-orangé;
Variété cyrtolite (zircon partiellement métamicte contenant U et souvent Th et des terres rares: OC: jaune;
variété malacon (zircon très métamicte, souvent brun: OL: orange; 
Zircon is ometimes thermoluminescent

Main Activator(s) and spectrum:

Most Common Activator: Radiation induced centers

Other activators:            (UO2)2+ (Uranyl ion) as impurities , Cr3+ , Fe3+ , Sm3+ , Eu3+ , Dy3+ , Ho3+ , Er3+ , Tb3+ , Nd3+ , Yb3+ , Tm3+ ,

Peaks in the spectrum (nm):

Dy3+ : 472, 481, 486nm

(UO2)2+ : 506, 523, 550nm

 Fe3+ : 750 nm, Δ = 110–120 nm and τ = 3–5 ms 

Neutron and alpha irradiation : 575 nm, peak half-width (Δ) = 120–130 nm, and decay time (τ) = 30–35 µs 

Spectrum: Michael Gaft, Petah Tikva, Israel. Plot: Institute of Mineralogy, University of Vienna, Austria, with permission of the authors.


  To the spectrum gallery (12 spectra in the gallery)

Comments on activators and spectra:

The crystal chemistry of zircon strongly favors the incorporation of REE in Zr4+ site. The REE impurities become luminescent in this crystallographic environment.


The steady-state luminescence in natural zircons is dominated by broad emission arising from radiation induced centers and narrow emission lines of Dy3+ (Trofimov 1962; Tarashchan 1978). These emissions obscure the spectra of other REE. The thermal treatment enables to solve this problem in certain cases using the fact that the intensity of broad band luminescence quickly decreases after heating at 700 °C–800 °C, while the intensities of the REE lines remain nearly constant (Shinno 1986, 1987). Even after heating the samples not all the REE can be identified by steady-state spectroscopy since the weaker luminescence lines of certain REE are obscured by stronger luminescence of others. For example, the luminescence of Pr3+ is difficult to detect because the lines of Sm3+, Dy3+ and Nd3+ hide its radiative transitions. In turn, Tb3+ conceals luminescence of Tm3+ and so on.

Different suppositions are made in previous studies and even the question about yellow luminescence connection with intrinsic or impurity defect remains open.


The yellow band with peak wavelength (λmax) = 575 nm, peak half-width (Δ) = 120–130 nm, and decay time (τ) = 30–35 µs is connected with neutron and alpha irradiation.
The red band with λmax = 750 nm, Δ = 110–120 nm and τ = 3–5 ms is connected with Fe3+. (M. Gaft, I. Shinno, G. Panczer and R. Reisfeld, Laser-induced time-resolved spectroscopy of visible broad luminescence bands in zircon, Mineralogy and Petrology, vol76, 2002)

Activators: broadband emission from radiation induced centers and lines from Dy3+ (Trofimov in Gaft) masking other lines from REE in Zr4+ site.

The intensity of the broadband luminescence quickly decrease after heating at 700-800° while the lines from REE stay constant (Shinno in Gaft). 

Best Locality for luminescence(*):

(*)Data are not exhaustive and are limited to the most important localities for fluorescence

Bibliographical Reference for luminescence:

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Mineralogical Reference on internet:

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