[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

NEWS- Radioactive Gemstones Circula

Tuesday November 11 5:13 PM EST 

Radioactive Gemstones Circulating in Asia

By James Mclean 

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Hundreds of dangerously radioactive gemstones are
circulating in Asian markets
and some have found their way into finished jewelry, Bangkok gemologists
told Reuters. 

Tests conducted by radiologists in the Thai capital showed radiation
levels in some stones were more
than 50 times the U.S. safety limit and could cause health problems,
including cancer. 

"It is most likely that the stone has been bombarded with neutrons in a
nuclear reactor," Bangkok's Center
for Gemstone Testing said in a recent warning. 

The concerns center on batches of a popular semi-precious stone called a
"cat's eye" that are believed
to have been irradiated to change their color from yellow, when they are
worth a few hundred U.S. dollars
per carat, to an unusual chocolate hue priced at thousands of dollars
per carat. 

A 30-carat radioactive cat's eye set with diamonds in a finished ring
was discovered recently at a jewelry
fair in Hong Kong, jewelry executives said. 

"When it was placed in front of a Geiger counter (radiation detector) we
literally leaped back. The
machine was just screeching every time the ring went near it," said Jon
McDonald, an editor at a local
jewelry media firm who witnessed the ring being tested. 

Tests recently conducted by laboratories in Bangkok on one 3.5-carat
stone showed radioactivity levels
greater than 52 nanoCuries per gram (nCi/g). The U.S. safety limit is
one nCi/g, and the legal limit in Asia
is 2.0 nCi/g, gemologists said. 

"This is dangerous, it could make your skin cancerous and destroy white
blood cells," said Bandhong
Wangcharoenroong, director of the radiation measurement division at
Thailand's Office of Atomic Energy
for Peace. 

Several hundred carats of the stones were thought to be circulating in
Bangkok but the problem was
region-wide, said Ken Scarratt, director of the Center for Gemstone

"The biggest problem is in places like Indonesia and Japan. In Indonesia
a gem lab there has seen
hundreds of these stones coming through," Scarratt told Reuters. 

"The lab in Indonesia said boxes full of these stones were being brought
in for examination," Scarratt

The center's statement said: "The industry, particularly in Thailand,
Indonesia, Hong Kong and Japan
(where most of the stones are thought to have circulated) should have
all cat's eyes of an unusual color
checked for radioactivity immediately." 

Dealers believe low quality cat's eyes from Orissa in India were being
exported to Indonesia for radiation
enhancement and sold on from there. 

"We can say with our hands on our heart that the evidence we have at
this time from the questions we
have asked, from the people we have spoken to and stuff volunteered to
us indicate that Indonesia is the
center of this problem," Scarratt said. 

But an Indonesian jewelry industry official in Jakarta said he doubted
his country was the source of the
radioactive gemstones. 

"Indonesia buys a lot of gemstones from Burma, Thailand and India but to
my knowledge there are no labs
here to treat gemstones," said the official, who declined to be

"There are laboratories to test gemstone quality, but there are no labs
to treat gemstones," he told

He said irradiating gemstones was done elsewhere to increase their value
and one of his colleagues had
discovered such stones in Thailand a couple of years ago. 

"My friend used to buy gemstones from Bangkok until he came across
gemstones exposed to radiation
two years ago," he said. "Since then he has stopped buying gemstones
from Bangkok." 

Tests suggested the stones would not be safe until the turn of the
century and should be kept in lead
containers until that time, Scarratt said. 

Meanwhile, worried Thai gem dealers were buying up radiation detectors,
distributors said. 

"Most of the people doing business in Thailand have very little
knowledge of the radiation in the stones. I
hope we can help educate them," said Monta Chaiyabal, managing director
of industrial monitoring
equipment distributor Duwell Intertrade Co Ltd, which sells Geiger

"I know that the stones are radioactive for people, and it is dangerous
for people maybe to wear it," she