"The gems were not dangerous," said GemClear President Rick Krementz. "The gems were safe and under the international limits for irradiated gems, however they exceeded the US-NRC limits for exempt distribution and it is believed that if not for the services provided by GemClearTM these stones would have been distributed to customers."
The US-NRC has strict limits on the allowable limits of residual radioactivity before an irradiated gemstone may be released for distribution in the US. All neutron or electron beam irradiated gemstones are required to be tested by an NRC licensee before being released for the trade or consumers. Hand-held survey meters, such as Geiger counters, are not sensitive enough to measure radiation to NRC requirements.
Radioactivity naturally decays, and eventually reaches zero. The gems that GemClear found to be non-compliant in September were expected to be at the US-legal level at the end of November, 2008. There is no process or treatment that can accelerate the decay rate, only time. The non-compliant stones were withheld from the market.
"Many dealers do not know the precise origins of their irradiated gems. The best way for a retailer to protect their brand and themselves from possible litigation is to make sure they either have their gems tested, or have control of the supply chain from the treater to themselves," Krementz said. Many gems are irradiated and the treatments are not disclosed since irradiation treatment is very difficult to detect. In addition to blue topaz, many red and pink tourmalines, kunzites, morganite, golden beryls, as well as many small treated diamonds, are commonly irradiated. Other gems occasionally irradiated include sapphire, turquoise, and emerald.
Irradiation is a safe process, commonly used to sterilize hospital surgical instruments and spices. Gemstone irradiation is intended to improve their color, and occasionally to reduce the visibility of inclusions. Some kinds of irradiation can cause long lasting residual radioactivity, which is why the NRC regulates the distribution of irradiated gemstones.
For more information, please visit www.gemclear.com, or call 877-NRC-GEMS.