Good Science in Plain Language

GIVING THE GIFT OF RADIATION?

 

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Gemstones are sometimes put through a nuclear reactor or accelerator because the high levels of ionizing radiation change the structure of gemstones resulting in fully saturated body colours.

By Maria Costa and Dr. Curtis Caldwell, Chief Scientist of Radiation Safety Institute
updated December 12, 2017

 

GIVING THE GIFT OF RADIATION?

Tis the season of gift giving and what can be a better gift than jewellery? The deeper the colour and shinier the bauble, the better, right? Is there anything more stunning than a beautiful blue topaz, a rich yellow diamond, or a deep black pearl?

Did you know that sometimes a gemstone’s brilliance is the result of the process of irradiation?

Gemstones are sometimes put through a nuclear reactor or accelerator because the high levels of ionizing radiation change the structure of gemstones resulting in fully saturated body colours. Does this mean you are giving that special person the unintended gift of radiation?

In the early 1900s an English chemist, Sir William Crockes, buried a diamond in radium bromide for 16 months, this turned the diamond a beautiful green, but unfortunately this method also resulted in a long-term period of radioactivity.

Since that time many countries, Canada included, have put strict regulations in place, whereby licensees hold and test the gems releasing them once they reach residual level of radioactivity; this can often take a couple of months. That licensed distributor has performed a radiological survey, determined that the jewel is at a low level of radioactivity, and only then it is safe for the gemstone to go on the market. Once on the market, regulations no longer apply and the gems are free to be sold and safe to wear.

So go ahead and give the gift of jewelry and watch that special person step back dazzled by the stone’s brilliance and not step back in fear.

 

About the Radiation Safety Institute of Canada:

Founded in 1980, the Radiation Safety Institute of Canada is an independent, national, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of cancers due to excessive exposure to radiation. Its mission is to promote radiation safety and awareness through sharing science and best practice.

 

Questions about Radiation?

Free Radiation Safety Inquiry Service answering questions about radiation.

Toll Free: 1-800-263-5803
Email: info@radiationsafety.ca

 

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GIVING THE GIFT OF RADIATION?

Gemstones are sometimes put through a nuclear reactor or accelerator because the high levels of ionizing radiation change the structure of gemstones resulting in fully saturated body colours.

read more

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