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Smoky Quartz Natural or Irradiated Here is Everything You Need To Know

Posted by Ana Satya on

Is your Smoky Quartz 100% Natural? How do you know if the Smoky Quartz that you purchased or want to buy is natural or not? On this post, I want to go more in depth to explain the difference between natural Smoky Quartz and Irradiated Quartz. I also created a video that can be found at the bottom of this article. 


Smoky quartz is a color-variety of crystalline quartz. It ranges from a light yellowish brown to a brown that is so dark that it appears to be black. Less-desirable specimens have a grayish brown color.

The color of smoky quartz is produced when natural radiation, emitted from the surrounding rock, activates color centers around aluminum impurities within the crystalline quartz.

On the contrary "faked" Smokey Quartz is artificially created by irradiation in a laboratory. Clear Quartz is irradiated in order to change the color and be sold as Smoky Quartz. 

So to be clear here, Smokey Quartz can be naturally irradiated by nature or artificially irradiated by man in a lab.

Another way to know if your Smokey Quartz is really made by nature or artificially irradiated by man, is to know the location of the specimen. For example it is well known that mostly all Arkansas Smoky Quartz is artificially irradiated, so if your Smokey Quartz comes from Arkansas, chances are is not naturally formed. Same things goes for Smokey Quartz coming from China. On the contrary, if your specimen comes from Namibia it's provably natural. This is another little tip that will help you to determine is your Smokey Quartz is 100% natural or not.

On the video that I created below you can see clearly the difference between natural Smokey Quartz and artificially  irradiated Quartz. The bottom of the crystal is completely white (clear quartz) while the color at the top is brown dark almost black. This is a clear indication that this is a clear quartz that has been irradiated artificially. 

Now, sellers are supposed to disclose if their Smokey Quartz is natural or irradiated, but many don't do this and sell artificially irradiated Quartz as Natural Smokey Quartz. Also keep in mind that just because it is artificially irradiated doesn't mean it has to be cheap when it comes to price. Here is an example of a legit seller that does clearly specify on his store that the Smokey Quartz they sell is artificially irradiated, they are honest and for this, they get my respect. You can also see how the prices are not cheap just because the Quartz has been irradiated. 

So now that you know the difference between natural Smokey Quartz and artificially irradiated Smokey Quartz, let's talk about safety concerns when it comes to the irradiation process. If you ask me personally, I always try to stay away from irradiated crystals, most common are Smokey Quartz, Red/Pink Tourmaline, Emeralds and Blue Topaz. 

There are three main ways to irradiate gemstones. Each method uses a different facility and can have different effects on gemstones.

  • Neutron Bombardment โ€“ Use of a nuclear reactor
  • Electron (Beta) Bombardment โ€“ Use of an accelerator
  • Gamma radiation โ€“ Use of a cobalt-60 facility (these facilities are commonly used to sterilize medical equipment)

The HPS and the UNS (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) states clearly on their websites that there is no danger to receiving any radiation from using radiated crystals.For most people the concern is to know for certainty if irradiated Crystals and Gemstones can be radioactive. 

The longer a gemstone is exposed to irradiation the more chance of the stone becoming radioactive. The reason why gemstones become radioactive is if impurities within the gemstone become active. Stones treated with either electron or neutron irradiation will remain radioactive for a period of time. Stones treated with gamma radiation will not become radioactive. 

With irradiated gemstones, there is a possibility that some of the nonradioactive atoms in the crystal could be made radioactive. Whether this happens depends on the composition of the crystal and the type of radiation used. Although the irradiation of gemstones can leave some residual radioactivity, the levels are well-monitored. The US, and other gem irradiating nations, have strict regulations for the holding and testing of irradiated gems to assure that they are not released to the public until they are safe to handle and wear. Having said this, it's also important to note that it's not a 100% guarantee that these regulatory methods or tests are rigorously are followed. Myself personally I prefer to use always 100% natural Crystals and not use Irradiated ones, but that is just me.

Here are a couple of excellent documents that explains a lot more in detail the process of irradiation:

1- Radioactive and Radiation Treated Gemstones by the Gemological Institute Of America

2- Effects of Radiation on Quartz by the Mineralogical Society Of America

I hope this article was of any help to you, thank you for reading it and make sure to watch the video I made fpr some great examples of natural Smokey Quartz versus artificially irradiated quartz.

Much Love always

Ana Satya

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