How radioactive dating works chemically
The decay constants for most of these systems have been confirmed in other ways, adding strength to our argument for the age of the earth., so there is one zirconium (Zi) for one silicon (Si) for four oxygen (O).
One of the elements that can stand in chemically for zircon is uranium.
We call the original, unstable isotope (Uranium) the "parent", and the product of decay (Lead) the "daughter".
From careful physics and chemistry experiments, we know that parents turn into daughters at a very consistent, predictable rate.
We have dated meteorites using Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, Pb-Pb, Re-Os, and Lu-Hf isotope systems and have obtained very similar ages.
The fact that the age we calculate is reproducible for these different systems is significant.
When an unstable Uranium (U) isotope decays, it turns into an isotope of the element Lead (Pb).
We have also obtained a very similar age by measuring Pb isotopes in materials from earth.
I should mention that the decay constants (basically a value that indicates how fast a certain radioactive isotope will decay) for some of these isotope systems were calculated by assuming that the age of the earth is 4.56 billion years, meaning that we will also calculate an age of 4.56 billion years if we use that decay constant.
There are many radiometric clocks and when applied to appropriate materials, the dating can be very accurate.
As one example, the first minerals to crystallize (condense) from the hot cloud of gasses that surrounded the Sun as it first became a star have been dated to 4568 plus or minus 2 million years....!! Other events on earth can be dated equally well given the right minerals.