Zircon saturation model in silicate melts: a review and update

  • Tongbin ShaoEmail author
  • Ying Xia
  • Xing Ding
  • Yongfeng Cai
  • Maoshuang Song
Original Article


Zircon stability in silicate melts—which can be quantitatively constrained by laboratory measurements of zircon saturation—is important for understanding the evolution of magma. Although the original zircon saturation model proposed by Watson and Harrison (Earth Planet Sci Lett 64(2):295–304, 1983) is widely cited and has been updated recently, the three main models currently in use may generate large uncertainties due to extrapolation beyond their respective calibrated ranges. This paper reviews and updates zircon saturation models developed with temperature and compositional parameters. All available data on zircon saturation ranging in composition from mafic to silicic (and/or peralkaline to peraluminous) at temperatures from 750 to 1400 °C were collected to develop two refined models (1 and 2) that may be applied to the wider range of compositions. Model 1 is given by lnCZr(melt) = (14.297 ± 0.308) + (0.964 ± 0.066)·M − (11113 ± 374)/T, and model 2 given by lnCZr(melt) = (18.99 ± 0.423) − (1.069 ± 0.102)·lnG − (12288 ± 593)/T, where CZr(melt) is the Zr concentration of the melt in ppm and parameters M [= (Na + K + 2Ca)/(Al·Si)] (cation ratios) and G [= (3·Al2O3 + SiO2)/(Na2O + K2O + CaO + MgO + FeO)] (molar proportions) represent the melt composition. The errors are at one sigma, and T is the temperature in Kelvin. Before applying these models to natural rocks, it is necessary to ensure that the zircon used to date is crystallized from the host magmatic rock. Assessment of the application of both new and old models to natural rocks suggests that model 1 may be the best for magmatic temperature estimates of metaluminous to peraluminous rocks and that model 2 may be the best for estimating magmatic temperatures of alkaline to peralkaline rocks.


Zircon Zircon saturation Model Silicate melt Mafic to silicic melts Peraluminous to peralkaline compositions Igneous rocks Thermometer 



We appreciate my editors’ critical and constructive comments, which turned out to be very helpful. Dr. Nanfei Cheng is gratefully acknowledged for critical comments on an early version of the manuscript. This work was financially supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program (B) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. XDB18010402), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41702224), and the Pearl River Talent Plan of Guangdong Province. This work represents a contribution to No. IS-2774 from the GIGCAS.

Supplementary material

11631_2019_384_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (35 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 35 kb)
11631_2019_384_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (37 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (XLSX 37 kb)


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Copyright information

© Science Press and Institute of Geochemistry, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Isotope Geochemistry, Guangzhou Institute of GeochemistryChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Collaborative Innovation Center for Exploration of Hidden Nonferrous Metal Deposits and Development of New Materials in Guangxi & Guangxi Key Laboratory of Hidden Metallic Ore Deposits ExplorationGuilin University of TechnologyGuilinChina
  3. 3.CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth SciencesBeijingChina

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