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**U.S. Post and Gemstones! ***

Heard something interesting today, the U.S. Postal service is going
to start “Sanitizing” all parcels that go through their system.
This is an irradiation process! Please be careful what you send/
receive from the States, this process is harmful to some goods.
My boss, who is a GIA guy, received some ‘before and after’ photos
of gem stones. While diamonds is still ok, most other gemstones
are affected by this irradiation process. Sapphires went paler,
white pearls went dark grey, Kunzite changed from pink to yellow,
quartz went dark, and kept getting darker with each “hit”. Imagine
what it will do to Grandma’s fruitcake… This is a legitimate
concern for anyone who orders things from in the USA, better
protect yourself, make sure you have it in writing that the goods
can be returned if they arrive “not as shown”. And maybe if you
ship stuff you had better check this out!!

All, Recent post by GIA. Sent to me from
another subscriber.

Gerry Galarneau

Hi Gang, Several articles I’ve seen on the US Post Office’s plans for
’santizing’ mail stated that only ‘flat’(envelopes) mail are going
to be zapped. They articles went on to stated that registered &
other mail where the sender’s name & address are required to mail
the pkg are not going to be zapped.

I’m sure that once all the equipment, process & procedures are in
place the Post Office will issure a statement about what mail will &
won’t be sanitized. With the possibility of radiation affecting many
things orther than gemstones the only prudent thing the Post Office
can do is to inform the public about what’s going to be zapped.
Until then, I wouldn’t get excited about it.


Great. About 80% of my business involves shipping jewelry orders. I
wonder if there’s some sort of packaging we can use to protect the
jewelry from the radiation? I know that camera shops sell lead-lined
bags (or they used to, anyway) to protect film from airport security
x-ray machines. I wonder if there’s something similar that could be
used to line jewelry shipping boxes? And what sort of chaos would
that cause at the Post Office if we used it?

–Kathy Johnson
Feathered Gems Jewelry

Based on the color changes noted on the Gemological Ass/n tests, has
anyone perhaps considered that now, if you WANT to irradiate a gem,
maybe you can do it (for almost free!) by popping it into an envelope
and mailing it to yourself?? ;-)) margaret

    Heard something interesting today, the U.S. Postal service is
going to start "Sanitizing" all parcels that go through their
system. This is an irradiation process!   Please be careful what
you send/ receive from the States, this process is harmful to some

Hi all, i have been “lurking” for quite awhile, but since i found the
topic of the dangers of irradiating mail interesting, i thought i
should comment when i recieved a good sorce of info.

I forwarded this post to my sister, a masters student in museum
studies, to see if she has heard anything. The reply is long, and
doesnt have much info specific to stones and minerals, but still very
interesting. I am going to read the full article tomorrow!

I have been following this rather closely. Here is what the
Smithsonian Institute has to say on the subject. Its public info
feel free to share it. This is legit not someone scared of
"radition". Basically they are asking all museums to stop sending any
collections and items through the mail.

The Smithsonian has posted a paper on its web site about the problems
of sending museum specimens through the mail now that the Postal
Service has decided to irradiate some of the mail. FYI, I’ve copied
the summary of the paper below, and the full text is at this site:

Summarizing the as it pertains to typical collection
specimens exchanged by museums and research laboratories and
transported by mail, the following concerns emerge.

Living specimens (seeds, cuttings, etc.) will be killed by this
irradiation. Materials of cellulosic composition, especially plant
fibers and paper, will be quite seriously affected. They will loose
significant tensile strength and will become more brittle, while the
induced chemical changes, chain scission and oxidation, will
accelerate their aging processes.Discoloration is also to be

Oxidation also will result from interaction with ozone formed in air
during the irradiation; while one may expect efficient ventilation at
the radiation equipment, ozone also will be formed within the
enclosures of the mailed materials, where the concentration could
range in the tens of ppm.

Materials of proteinaceous composition, while less vulnerable than
the cellulosic ones, still can be expected to be affected at the
proposed dose levels in terms of physical changes (embrittlement of
skin products, loss of fiber strength in wool and hair samples), and
in terms of accelerated aging. Again, discolorations are to be
expected. Again, ozone production is an additional factor.

Samples of interest because of their genetic can be
compromised, to an extent depending on the type of questions being
addressed by the research in which they are to be used, because of
large scale destruction of DNA molecules, accompanied by

Dyestuffs will fade, resulting in fading and color shifts in
textiles, stained specimens, and color photographs. The same effect
may result in shifts and fading of the natural colors of specimens.
Glass can undergo blue/purple discolorations; this may affect the
research value of microscopic slide specimens. While this
discoloration of the glass can be removed through annealing, this
would not likely be a viable option for mounted specimens because of
the effects of the heating on mounting medium and the specimens

Mineral specimens may develop colors and/or change colors; generally
these effects are reversible through annealing, though of course the
effects of that heating on the specimen depend on its nature.

In the case of specimens under alcohol, there is the potential for
some radiolysis of the preservation solution, leading to the
formation of various ions and free radicals in the solution. These
reactions are very complex and can lead to a wide range of reaction
products, but the concentrations of the latter should be in the ppm
range and do not form a major concern. Additionally, the temperature
raise resulting from thermalization of the electron beam energy would
raise the pressure in the container somewhat,but this effect is not
likely to be of sufficient magnitude to cause failures of the
containers unless the integrity of the latter were already seriously

Rubber and plastic stoppers of bottles and vials may become somewhat
embrittled, but not to an extent of losing the closure of the

Magnetic media (floppy disks, zip disks, audio and video tape) will
probably loose significant content. Undeveloped
photographic film will be exposed. Radiocarbon dates of irradiated
samples will not be affected in a significant way, although there is a
theoretical possibility for contamination as a result of chemical
reactions that involve reactive groups from carbon containing
packaging material.

Samples intended for thermoluminescence dating will become useless,
since this irradiation will deposit a dose that exceeds the "natural"
one by orders of magnitude. Since no nuclear reactions are induced
under the proposed conditions, generation of radioactivity in the
irradiated samples is not a concern. It is not practical to try to
mitigate the radiation effects through shielding of the samples, e.g.
with lead metal. The weight of the shielding required to stop these
high energy electrons would be quite high and make the mailing
expensive; moreover, the bremsstrahlung generated by interaction of
the electrons with the high Z elements of the shielding could still
result in appreciable doses to be administered to the material
inside. USPS also might have objections, not only since it presents
an attempt to circumvent their preventive actions, but also since
this bremsstrahlung could conceivably create other problems at the
irradiation facility.

In view of the above it is strongly suggested that mailing through
USPS of vulnerable specimens and collection items, as well as
important research on magnetic media or undeveloped
film, be avoided unless it can be arranged for these mailings to be
exempted from irradiation.

Heather Motto
Delphinus Designs, Sterling Silver Jewelry

Thanks for sharring this, I have a question for all. I sent out a
lot of irridiated pearls, how will this affect them I wonder?

One other thought, if changes do occur, there has to be some
disclaimer, notification from the postal system, otherwise, we sure
as heck can put in an insurance claim.