- © The Mineralogical Society Of America
The mineral zircon is extremely variable both in terms of external morphology and internal textures. These features reflect the geologic history of the mineral, especially the relevant episode(s) of magmatic or metamorphic crystallization (and recrystallization), strain imposed both by external forces and by internal volume expansion caused by metamictization, and chemical alteration. The paper presents a selection of both the most typical, but also of the less common, features seen in zircon, categorized according to the different geological processes responsible for their formation. The atlas is intended as a general guide for the interpretation of zircon characteristics, and of related isotopic data.
Zircon has become one of the most widely used minerals for the extraction of information on the prehistory and genesis of magmatic, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. Much of the geological usefulness of zircon stems from its suitability as a geochronometer based on the decay of U (and Th) to Pb, but in addition it is also the major host of the radiogenic isotopic tracer Hf, and it is used to determine oxygen isotopic compositions and REE and other trace element abundances, all of which yield useful clues concerning the history of the host rock, and in some case, the parent rock in which the precursor zircon crystallized.
One of the major advantages of zircon is its ability to survive magmatic, metamorphic and erosional processes that destroy most other common minerals. Zircon-forming events tend to be preserved as distinct structural entities on a pre-existing zircon grain. Because of this ability, quite commonly zircon consists of distinct segments, each preserving a particular period of zircon-formation (or consumption). A long experience and modern instrumentation and techniques have provided the “zircon community” the means to image and interpret preserved textures, and hence to decipher the history and evolution of a rock. One …