Are green diamonds radioactive or dangerous?

Earlier this year, at Christie’s Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels auction, a remarkable natural green diamond, the Aurora Green, sold for $16.8million. This 5.03ct fancy vivid green of VS clarity set two new diamond records when it was purchased by Chinese retailer Chow Tai Fook.

Given that natural green diamonds are exceptionally rare, very little is known about them and, as is the case with much of our industry, a number of misconceptions exist. We’d like to help clear those up.

Natural green diamonds occur as a result of exposure of the diamond to natural sources of radiation. Often the proximity to radioactive sources leaves only slight green spots or a green coating, both of which are removed during the diamond cutting and colouring process. In rare occasions, the uranium-bearing source in proximity to the diamond will be strong enough to turn the whole diamond a uniform-green colour.

A common concern is that if the green colour is caused by radioactive material, won’t the diamond itself be radioactive?

The answer, of course, is no.

Geologically speaking, diamonds are millions to billions of years old (some diamonds from Cullinan Mine have been dated at 3.6 billion years old) and kimberlites, the carrier rock of diamonds, are often around 100 million years old. It’s safe to say that hundreds of thousands of years later, naturally green diamonds are not radioactive.

The world’s most famous green diamond is, of course the Dresden Green, weighing approximately 41cts and residing in the Green Vault, a museum in Dresden, Germany.