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UV Light in Gemology (1)

UV Light in Gemology (1)

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Published by Agianto Mutiadjaja
Introduction to UV light types and the importance of a UV filter
Introduction to UV light types and the importance of a UV filter

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: Agianto Mutiadjaja on Apr 21, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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UV Light in Gemology (1):
Introduction of UV Light Types and the Importance of UV Filter 
By Agianto Mutiadjaja
Probably none of us is unfamiliar with Ultraviolet light or in short UV light. Wewould avoid the overexposure of sunlight because of the UV radiation that itposses to avoid skin damage (sunburn or even skin cancer). UV light may alsocause premature aging of skin due to collagen degradation. Many things candeteriorate (solarization and/or color fading) because of its irradiation. However,some amount of it is essential for our body to produce natural vitamin D which isneeded for healthy bones and teeth. In the West, some may even go to salonsand beauty parlors for sun tanning using UV lamps.In addition, UV light has also many other usefulness. It is often used for securityagainst counterfeits. UV black light is a bank teller’s best friend for detectingcounterfeit money. Criminal investigators and pest exterminators use UV lightbecause household stains (semen or saliva) and urine of mice and rats glowunder it. UV light can also attract insects and often used in insect killing devices.In water treatment and other health care facility UV light is used for its germicidaleffect. Nowadays, UV curing, a photochemical process technology has beenmore favorably used for the drying of inks, coatings and adhesives.But what actually is a UV light?UV light is part of the electromagnetic wave just like the white visible light we arefamiliar with. But it has a shorter wavelength that has limited our eyes to see it.Wavelength is the distance between two corresponding point on a wave (ex.peak to peak or trough to trough) and is usually expressed in nanometers (1 nm= 10
m). To be exact, UV light has a wavelength range of 10 to 400 nm, whichis in between the visible light (400 to 700 nm) and X-ray (0.01 to 10 nm).However, most scientists often regard UV range as 200 to 400 nm only becausethe range below 200 nm (known as Vacuum UV) is being absorbed by air, andthus it does not exist practically.UV light is further scientifically categorized into three types according to their wavelength range: Near UV light (315-400 nm), Far UV light (280-315 nm) andExtreme UV light (200-280 nm). Sometimes, mostly in commercial use, they are
named UVA, UVB and UVC lights accordingly. UVA light in the range of 345 to400 nm is often called black light. In Mineralogy, they are better known as Long-wave UV (LWUV), Mid-wave UV (MWUV) and Short-wave UV (SWUV) lightsaccordingly.In Gemology, we are more familiar with the SWUV and LWUV lights only. Somegemstones fluoresce or glow a visible light under these UV light types. Thepresence, intensity and/or color of the fluorescence (or luminescence) of agemstone may provide indication of locality, originality (natural, synthetic or imitation) and treatment of the gemstone (will be discussed in other PDFs).Wavelength is inversely proportional to frequency:
= c
is frequency (in seconds), c is the speed of light (3 × 10
), and
iswavelength (in meters).Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event (a wave cycle) atcertain point during a specific time interval and it is directly related to energy:
= h
is energy (in joules), h is Planck’s constant (6.62 × 10
Js), and
isfrequency (in seconds).Therefore, LWUV light has the least energy while SWUV light has the mostenergy. In fact, SWUV light is ionizing – can break chemical bonds just like itscousin X-ray but less intense. The effect of UV light on human skin: LWUV lightcan cause sun tanning, MWUV light can cause sun burning and SWUV light cancause cancer and mutation.There are many commercially available UV light sources for gemstones andmineral purposes. Most of them are big for display and/or field use with electricalor rechargeable battery operation. At present, there are even many small UVLEDs being offered.Below are two small affordable handheld (battery operated) UV light sourcewhich suffice for our discussion: on the left from UV-Tool and on the right fromUVP (
they are chosen because of availability 
Below are 4Watts (or 4W) bi-pin (or 2-pin) UV light bulbs or tubes being used bythe above UV lamp assemblies: The first one (a special combination of SWUVand LWUV) is used by UVP and the rest (2
MWUV and 4
LWUV)are used interchangeably by UV-Tool.These bulbs are low pressure mercury vapor (may also contain an inert gas -argon) metal (tungsten) filament tube. They are different only on the phosphor and glass used. The SWUV bulb (commercially called germicidal lamp) has nophosphor on the glass envelope – and may emit a strong smell of ozone. Theviolet UV-Tool LWUV bulb (commercially called Black Light Blue or just BLBlamp) has an integral filter in the glass envelope (
when the LWUV bulb is whitelike the UVP - with no filter, it is commercially called Black Light or BL lamp
).So far there is no UV bulb that does not emit some visible light. The visible lightemitted may be reflected by the tested gem which may interfere with thefluorescence light. For better judgment of the presence, intensity and/or color of the fluorescence of a tested gemstone or mineral, a special UV filter is needed toreduce (absorb) the visible light portion. And these filters may be the mostexpensive part of a UV lamp assembly. Below are filters used by our chosenassemblies:

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