The surface of partially stabilized zirconia ceramics was irradiated by a Nd:YAG laser in various atmospheres. Zirconia strongly absorbed YAG's laser beam and changed its chemistry and microstructure. The change of color of zirconia into gold was due to the formation of zirconium nitride (ZrN) observed on the irradiated surface in air, nitrogen or ammonia, which was confirmed by X-ray diffraction and secondary ion mass spectroscopy. The observed ZrN phase was 10-20 um in thickness at the irradiated area by the direct beam. The adhesion between formed ZrN and YSZ substrate was very weak.