GemClear, the world's first independent irradiated gemstone testing laboratory, has recently discovered irradiated blue topaz in the U.S. market that is not in compliance with Nuclear Regulatory Commission ("NRC") regulations. GemClear President Rick Krementz, said "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 GemClear™ these stones would have been distributed to customers."
The topaz were recovered from a New York dealer, and was proposed as legal, but were not.
Although the topaz is not dangerous according to Krementz, it is a stipulation that all neutron or electron beam irradiated gemstones 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.
The US-NRC has set allowable limits of residual radioactivity before an irradiated gemstone may be released for distribution in the US. Gemstone irradiation is intended to improve the colour, and occasionally reduce visibility of inclusions in the gemstones. Some kinds of irradiation can cause long lasting residual radioactivity, which is why the NRC regulates the distribution of irradiated gemstones.
"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. GemClear will present all non-compliant genstones it found in September, at the US-legal level during end-November, 2008. The non-compliant stones have been withheld from the market.
Irradiation of gems is vertyu common but often not disclosed as it is not easily detectable. Blue topaz, many red and pink tourmalines, kunzites, morganite, golden beryls, and small treated diamonds, are commonly irradiated. Other gems occasionally irradiated include sapphire, turquoise, and emerald.