Step 2: Advanced Gemology

Lesson 7

How Common are Gemstone Radiation Treatments?

Most gems on the market today receive various treatments to change their natural colors and create more desirable, salable products. Radiation and heating are the most common treatments, used alone or sometimes in combination with other enhancements.

Although both treatments are common, radiation generates fear while heat carries little stigma. For example, most gem buyers will accept that heat transforms brown tanzanite to blue and amethyst into citrine. The gem industry has used heat enhancement for many years. On the other hand, gem dealers worry that an ill-informed public would refuse to buy jewelry containing irradiated stones. Of course, gemstone radiation poses no health risks as long as the process is carefully controlled.

What is Radiation?

The term “radiation” covers a number of phenomena which fall into two groups: electromagnetic and particulate.

Electromagnetic Radiation

Radio waves, microwaves, and visible light are the most well-known forms of electromagnetic radiation. These all consist of photons, or small “clumps” of vibrating electric and magnetic fields, moving through space at light speed. The faster the vibration, the more energy (and smaller wavelength) a photon has.

Visible light vibrates at…