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Lead atoms created by uranium decay are trapped in the crystal and build up in concentration with time.
If nothing disturbs the grain to release any of this radiogenic lead, dating it is straightforward in concept.
However, zircon is so overwhelming a favorite that geologists often just refer to "zircon dating." But even the best geologic methods are imperfect.
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The 235U–207Pb cascade has a half-life of 704 million years and the 238U–206Pb cascade is considerably slower, with a half-life of 4.47 billion years.
So when a mineral grain forms (specifically, when it first cools below its trapping temperature), it effectively sets the uranium-lead "clock" to zero.
With this background in the uranium-lead method, you may have a deeper appreciation of the research presented on the University of Wisconsin's "Earliest Piece of the Earth" page, including the 2001 paper in Nature that announced the record-setting date.