I just received this press release from the AGTA. Perhaps it will
help some of you who have had questions about this situation:
American Gem Trade Association White Paper on Irradiated Blue Topaz
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has recently stepped up
enforcement of irradiated As a result, several major
jewelry chains and department stores are considering, or have
already stopped selling blue topaz.
Prior to 1990, the NRC introduced regulations specifying that any
neutron-irradiated gemstone must be imported by a licensed firm that
can properly test for radiation. Unfortunately, there are no jewelry
industry laboratories currently with equipment or a license to test
to NRC requirements, nor are there licensed importers of blue topaz.
Current rules affect mostly blue topaz in the darker colors. Some
light blue topaz is LINAC (linear accelerator) treated, and thus
exempt from the rules. However, in the next few months, new rules
will regulate LINAC treated gems. These will include requiring an
NRC license for the importation of all blue topaz, red tourmalines,
many beryls (treated blue, yellow and pink colors, but not emerald),
kunzite and irradiated diamonds. Cobalt-60 (gamma ray) irradiated
gems such as various quartz colors, yellow sapphire and pearls are
not affected by the upcoming regulations.
It is estimated that blue topaz generates over a billion dollars per
year in sales. The upcoming expanded regulations encompassing other
gems will greatly increase the amount of business at risk.
To the best of our knowledge, there has not been a single confirmed
report of cancer or radiation poisoning as a result of an irradiated
gem over the past few decades. We have no reason to believe that any
significant quantity of dangerous gemstones is in the market today.
However, since there have been a handful of sightings over that
period of gemstones with potentially harmful radiation, we are
taking the prudent step of reminding all AGTA Members that if they
handle deep blue topaz, they should do their own radiation checks.
NRC rules are more conservative than in any other country; the
rationale being that, since gems are luxuries used strictly for
adornment, they require tighter regulation than items regarded as
necessities. For example, rules for glow-in-the-dark wristwatches
permit higher radiation levels, since they are considered
necessities, rather than luxuries (i.e., a watch provides the time
A Geiger counter check of blue topaz is inconclusive. Some topaz
within NRC regulations may show some above-background radiation with
a Geiger counter. Some topaz without any indications of
radioactivity above-background will be in excess of NRC regulations.
A Geiger result indicating significant above-background radiation is
suspicious, and should not be released or sold until an accurate
analysis of the radioactivity is made. Please note that the NRC
rules only apply to treated gems, some natural gems may have
detectable radiation and are legal.
NRC rules do require documentation of all irradiated gems. A paper
trail of sources must be maintained, similar to the Kimberly
Process. All members are strongly encouraged to identify their
inventories by vendor and date of importation. Typically, older
stocks will already have had radioactive decay, and may be easier to
sell or document as safe. Intermingling inventories may complicate
the ability to sell existing stocks. All new imports (legal or not)
must be clearly identified by vendor and date, as should sales to
manufacturers and retailers.
Rick Krementz, President of the AGTA, will be meeting with the NRC
in Rockville, Maryland on Thursday July 26. 2007. The AGTA's mission
is and has always been to advance and protect the interests of
colored gemstones and AGTA Members in today's jewelry industry.
Towards that end, the AGTA is working with the NRC and other gem
industry associations to better clarify the current status of blue
topaz and other irradiated gems.
The AGTA goals are:
To facilitate the measurement of radioactivity in present
inventories so current irradiated gems may be sold to consumers
To encourage compliance with NRC rules and protect the industry's
To assist AGTA members in regulatory issues related to irradiated
To facilitate the future legal importation of irradiated gems via
NRC licensing, laboratory support, education, and other means.
To influence the NRC rules to be appropriate to our industry, so
they permit the cost-effective importation and sale of gems safely
to the consumer
While we cannot make decisions for individual firms, we reiterate
that some large chains have halted the sale of pieces containing
neutron-irradiated blue topaz. It seems only prudent that Members
would likewise temporarily suspend importation in such stones until
their status and safety can be clarified.
The NRC has stated that they do not intend to take enforcement
actions against retailers. Therefore, there is no reason for blue
topaz products to be returned to vendors.
Starting in late 2007 or early 2008, additional regulations on
irradiated gems will go into effect. AGTA will continue to keep
members apprised of these and other rules impacting the trade in
Nothing in this document should be considered legal advice. The
presented is l only, and while believed to
be accurate, carries no guarantee of reliability.
Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140