Irradiating Minerals

All about irradiating Minerals

Cartoon of a Quartz Crystal being radiated

You’re getting my Aluminum Ions all Fired Up!!


Part of the fun of learning about minerals is learning the various ways that they are different. Soon someone becomes intrigued with “How” these changes are made, and experiments are attempted. This is the way that we learn. And there can be those who detest such experimentation, but this is the way that so much has been learned in the past.

There are few ways to get a quick resulting change in a mineral that exposing it to high doses of radiation. In nature, this would happen over years and years of time. But with modern technology, some irradiation projects can literally be accomplished over night.

I once talked to a collector of quartzes and natural glasses who got a night job working with someone who worked with an x-ray machine in a hospital. Now, I am not condoning abusing your job or misusing equipment, but his tenacity spoke of his strong desire to learn and see what was actually possible by way of radiation exposure.

The affect of light in revealing various minerals in certain formations was first suggested over half a century ago.

The affects of irradiation upon silica gel can effect various impurities or minerals within the substance. Many minerals have been observed to follow the same trends of silica gel. Brazilian agates and  quartz both turn smokey when subjected to overnight irradiation because they both contain aluminium impurities in them.

The most reactive and sensitive to radiation is crystalline quartz. The ability to inject or introduce certain impurities into a substance truly alters the ability to manipulate color, and variance in a substance.

There are four main kinds of impurities that might be found in certain silicon agents.

  1. A monovalent cationic impurity atom
  2. A monovalent anion
  3. Half an oxygen vacancy
  4. A positive hole

The type of color that is revealed through irradiation depends upon what pre-existing defects that might already be present in the substance.

The study and knowledge required to be able to understand and even predict that types of minerals that can be introduced in the creation process of a mineral or quartz in order to have the desired resulting color is a remarkably intricate application.

These attempts at human intervention in the creation process of minerals should not be considered a forgery or an affront upon the abilities of nature, but rather a compliment of the abilities of nature to be able to create a more precise and more beautiful specimen.

I have always adhered to the belief that any of these experiments and achievements that are used to bring attention to and appreciation for rocks and minerals can only be viewed as a good thing.

When we are tempted to be put off by or offended by man’s desire to interfere or to arbitrate in the processes of nature we should see these attempt at imitate nature should be considered the purest form of compliment!

Treatment of Spodumene (Kunzite/Hiddenite)

Hiddenite is unaffected by irradiation but are made slightly lighter under UV; yellow or yellow-green are unchanged under Ra, or, if anything, made slightly lighter.

Studies have shown that X-rays make hiddenites slightly darker, whereas radium rays take on a slightly lighter color.

It has also been observed that hiddenites, when heated in oxygen, become pale gray but greener when heated in reducing atmospheres.

Kunzites, under X-ray turn green, fading quickly under light, and even more quickly when heated to 200° – 250° C (392° – 482° F);

they have been observed to go green under UV, and from colorless to green under X-rays.

Under radium,Californiakunzite changes from variably from pink to colorless to green, and finally, blue, when heated or exposed to sunlight, before returning to pink – although darker than previous.

Kunzites when pink bleached at 500° C (932° F) and exposed to radium turned green, however when heated to 200° C (392° F) or exposed to sunlight, the pink returned.

The last pink did not bleach at all after heating for 24 hrs. at 250° C (482° F).