Zircon crystals from diamondiferous kyanite gneisses of the Barchi-Kol area (Kokchetav massif, Northern Kazakhstan) have been investigated by a combined application of cathodoluminescence (CL), Raman spectroscopy and electron probe microanalysis (EPMA). The zircon crystals exhibit up to four distinct domains characterised by significantly different CL signatures and parameters of the ν3(SiO4) (1008 cm–1) Raman band (i.e. full width at half maximum, position and intensity). Extremely metamict zircon cores (Domain I) host inclusions of low-pressure minerals (quartz and graphite) and the outer mantles (Domain III) are populated by ultrahigh-pressure relicts (diamond and coesite), whereas inner mantles (Domain II) and overgrowth rim zones (Domain IV) are inclusion free. Both the zircon cores and rims have very low Ti concentrations, implying formation temperatures below 760°C. The Ti content in the inner mantles (up to 40 ppm) is indicative of temperatures in the 760–880°C range. The temperature estimates for the outer mantles are 900–940°C, indicating a pronounced overlap with the peak metamorphic values yielded by the Zr-in-rutile geothermometer for the same rocks (910–950°C). The internal textures of the zircons and the occurrence of index minerals within the distinct domains allow us to unravel the stages of the complex metamorphic history recorded in the zircon. Our data show that the zircon cores are inherited seeds of pre-metamorphic (magmatic?) origin, the inner mantles were formed on the prograde metamorphic stage, the outer mantles record ultrahigh-pressure metamorphism and the outermost rims mark the retrograde metamorphic stage. The observed zircon internal textures are thus clearly correlated with distinct growth events, and in some examples reflect a major part of the metamorphic history. It is concluded that the combined application of the CL, Raman spectroscopy and EPMA techniques to zircon offers significant potential for deciphering the metamorphic evolution of deeply-subducted rocks.