The Jewelry Insider

July 10, 2010

Warning about Mail Irradiation

Warning From The Gemological Institute Of America: Protect Your Gemstone Jewelry Against New Mail-Radiation Procedures On November 28, 2001, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) issued a
warning to the trade, noting that the irradiation process, designed to eradicate anthrax spores and other biological agents that might be contained in the U.S. mail, used by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) could affect the appearance of some gemstones. According to the results of a preliminary study released by the GIA, the process, in most cases, produced dramatic changes in the color of the gem materials tested.

The jewelry industry relies heavily on the USPS to ship gems and jewelry. It is also customary for consumers to ship their jewelry pieces to be repaired or serviced via registered mail insured, which is the securest method of transportation for any jewelry item.

According to GIA President, William E. Boyajian, “The GIA strives to remain on top of issues that can affect the gem and jewelry industry and the public. When [the GIA] became aware of the U.S. Postal Service’s proposed ‘sanitization’ of mail using ionizing radiation, the GIA immediately began investigating the potential impact of this process on gems shipped through the USPS.” Boyajian further argues, “the industry uses the U.S. mail heavily to ship gems and jewelry nationwide, so the potential impact of irradiation on high volumes of mail is obviously a major concern, and [the GIA] believed it was important to conduct this research.”

The study was conducted with the cooperation of SureBeam, manufacturer of the irradiation equipment used by the USPS, and subsidiary of Titan Corporation, of San Diego. The equipment is a type of linear accelerator that creates a beam of high-energy electrons typically used to kill the microorganisms that can contaminate food such as salmonella. Shane McClure, Director of West Coast Identification Services for the GIA Gem Trade Laboratory led much of the research study, with the help of Thomas M. Moses and John I. Koivula.

While GIA says there is absolutely no need to stop using the USPS for your jewelry and gem shipping needs – remember shipping registered insured mail is still the safest and securest way for you to send your jewelry to be serviced or repaired, or send a gift to your loved ones – would like to give you some facts, which can help you ask your jeweler and postmaster educated
questions, and take necessary steps to ensure that the beauty and value of your heirlooms and keepsakes are preserved.

According to the GIA, John Dunlap, Manager of Materials Handling and Deployment for the USPS Engineering Group, which oversees mail sanitization operations, stated that “the USPS is only currently scanning a small amount of mail, which is limited to letters and other flat mail, and that probably nothing will be done to packages that are sent registered or certified, since [the USPS] requires information from the sender.”

Therefore, when shipping your items, be sure to send via registered insured mail, which is how your jewelry should be mailed to begin with.

Make sure that when speaking to your jeweler, buying on-line or through mail order, you know how your package will be sent to you and how your purchases will be packed. Most other mail and package couriers such as FedEx, UPS and Brinks do not currently use radiation processes but all have imposed stricter shipping regulations since September 11, and some are no longer transporting envelopes.

When shipping any jewelry make sure that you keep a record of shipping, ask for proof of receipt, and keep copies of the warranty, certificate of origin, and any other appraisals you may have received for your jewelry (most of the time, you will be required to send along with your jewelry the warranty or certificate so as not to be charged for the repair or service if under warranty). Also, make sure that your insurance company has a record of these. You may also decide to take a picture of your jewelry for any insurance claims.

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