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Can Airport Scanners Detect Diamonds?

Can Airport Scanners Detect Diamonds?

Traveling can be a stressful experience. You have to find a hotel and hope that it will be as nice as the pictures. You have to make sure you have enough cash, or else you’ll have to use foreign ATMs. Plus, there are so many things that could go wrong! 

But we feel that the most stressful part happens at the airports. You have to wait at every line known to man – and it doesn’t help that your flight probably got delayed. Somehow, it always does. 

The part we want to focus on the most, though, is getting scanned. You’re never sure what you can and cannot bring with you, so we did a little research and figured out that there’s a question that a lot of people are asking.

Can you bring diamonds to the airport? And more importantly, can airport scanners detect diamonds? If you were wondering about gems and airports, we’re here to give you some answers. Let’s get started! 

Can Airport Scanners Detect Diamonds?

Let’s get the simple answer out of the way: 

NO, airport scanners can’t detect diamonds or any other types of gemstones that you may have on or with you. 

Okay, airport security is a bit more complicated than that. What they can’t do is show the security officers that you have a diamond on you. What they can do is show them that you have an object with – or on you – and how dense and big that object is. 

The important thing is that the standard scanners used by the TSA in most airports are there for possible weapons.

See, the priority here is safety, not contraband. 

Sure, you might think that diamonds are going to be on their radar because they’re often stolen and sold and smuggled. But the truth is that, unless you have a diamond-covered gun or knife, the scanners are not going to care that much that you’re carrying some stones with you.

Today, airports take screening and security checks incredibly seriously, and for a good reason. The standard for these checks was set back in the seventies after a decade of hijackings and smuggling incidents that left flyers scared to fly. 

In the period between 1959 and 1970, there were approximately 160 hijackings per year. It got so bad that the US government simply didn’t know what else to do to lower the number. 

And we’re only talking about lowering the average here, mind you. The idea of there being no hijacking at all was almost ridiculous. 

In 1968, the thought of metal detectors and X-Ray scanners being used in airports was first brought to Congress. After two years of voting and legislating, New Orleans got the first metal detector implemented in 1970.

Interestingly enough, the idea was taken from the US incarceration system; most prisons had metal detectors that all visitors had to go through upon entry. At some point, a couple of senators figured that it’s time to start taking airport safety as seriously as it was taken in prisons – and they really knocked it out of the park!

Airlines, in general, started giving specific orders to their airborne staff, instructing them to give in to any demands that the hijackers made. That lowered the number of injuries and victims, but it hardly got people back in their seats and to flights. 

The scanners were there to put the same amount of fear into potential hijackers that the regular people had in them for years on end. And it worked! 

But what does it have to do with diamonds? Well, knowing how these scanners work is pretty essential for figuring out what they would do while scanning a diamond. 

Now, we know that you’re not committing a crime by having a gem on you while traveling; there is nothing to it. 

But these scanners are using some serious technologies – and it’s essential to know if you and your gems are safe. We’ll get back to that. For now, let’s dive deeper into what these machines can actually do for airport security. 

See Also: Do Diamonds Set Off Metal Detectors?

What Can These Scanners Detect?

Alright, so, do diamonds show up on airport scanners? 

No, they don’t. 

But what does show up? 

It’s a fair question, and it’s pretty normal for us to wonder whether it’s worth it to get zapped with radiation before a nice trip. Well, let us just set the record straight: The radiation won’t put you in any sort of danger.

We understand why it would seem dangerous, but the scanners that are based on X-Rays don’t emit any kinds of dangerous radiation levels. While we’re on the subject, not all detectors have X-Rays in them, either. 

There are a couple of machines – and they all detect specific objects. So, what are they? Well, it’s pretty simple; they detect anything that is – or can be turned into – a weapon. 

Now, since most weapons are made out of similar materials, most scanners work in a couple of major ways. 

We have baggage scanners and body scanners. Then, the latter branches out into a couple of different categories – but we’ll get to that in a moment. 

Sure, you probably heard about some others, but those are usually either specialized ones that get used by the government or just good old-fashioned rumors. The truth is that airport security knows what to look for – weapons and contraband. 

That’s about it. Weapons are the obvious priority – but hey, smuggling is a pretty darn serious crime, too. And let’s face the facts: Diamonds are involved in a lot of criminal activity around the world. 

Not your diamonds, of course – but you can understand why airports would check either way.

Here’s a quick scanner guide for you, just so you can know what’s happening at the airport and, more importantly, why it’s happening! 

Let’s figure out exactly how these scanners work.

Baggage Scanners

The regular baggage scanner you’d put your luggage through is based on X-ray technology. 

Here’s how it works: The machines are encased in a lead casing that prevents the particles (X-rays) from escaping, which give as clean of a picture as possible. 

These scanners really won’t give the most accurate images of the contents of your luggage. But they’ll give the security enough information to work with as it can show dense objects that could be dangerous. 

The point of the scan is just to let security know whether or not they should open the bags and inspect further.

Two X-ray panels fire particles through the baggage; one fires them while the other receives or vice-versa. How quickly the particles manage to go through the object tells us how dense they are. 

Now, that may not seem very precise, but it does a better job than you think. 

See, we know how dense certain materials are, and we know what weapons or dangerous objects are made of – usually, that is. Metals and plastics have different densities, which means that they show up differently on the resulting images. 

And diamonds, as we all know, are pretty darn dense. 

So, while these machines might not tell security that you have diamonds in your bag, they will tell them that there are some INCREDIBLY dense objects on the inside. 

Luckily, as we mentioned, most weapons aren’t made out of diamonds. So, security won’t really care if you have them. Baggage scanners are pretty much the same things as X-ray body scanners – just in a different format. Don’t worry, though; both of them are perfectly safe for you and your luggage. 

So you, your clothes, and your diamonds will be completely safe from the radiation! We know that the word “radiation” alone sounds a bit scary, but we can assure you, these are professionals, and their primary job is to keep you safe.

Read More: Do Real Diamonds Show Up On X-ray?

Body Scanners

As for body scanners, they come in two variants – millimeter-wave scanners and backscatter X-ray scanners. Both of them serve a specific purpose, and you probably won’t go through both of them at the same time – unless you’ve got something to hide.

MW scanners are definitely more common these days, as airports figured out that people don’t really like getting X-rayed every now and again. Go figure. 

But they’re still present in select airports because they do offer a much more exact scan than the other machines do. 

Millimeter-Wave Scanners

Millimeter-wave scanners are based on electromagnetic fields. You can call them just plain old metal detectors, though that would be doing them a pretty big disservice. 

These machines are pretty clever, although they don’t give security a detailed picture to work with – instead, they just highlight spots that need further investigation.

If you’re a frequent flyer, you know that these machines haven’t been in airports that long. As a matter of fact, airports started using them back in 2013, which makes them the new kids on the block – even though the technology’s pretty old-fashioned. 

The main reason that these scanners were implemented is to respect people’s privacy a bit more, considering that airport security developed a bit of a reputation over the years of being too rough. 

They are an alternative to being searched by a guard. So, if you don’t have anything suspicious on you, you’ll pretty much just walk through them.

They give a rough outline of the person that’s getting scanned, and they only show certain spots that could contain dangerous objects. The scanners just bounce electromagnetic waves off you, and they pretty much don’t care at all about any diamonds you may have. 

Backscatter X-Ray Scanners

This next type of scanner is one of the more serious machines on the list. So much so that it’s not even used very often in airports today. Not because it doesn’t work, though. 

As a matter of fact, the problem is just the opposite – it works too well!

The backscatter scanner shoots ionized X-rays that get deflected by the body, so the principle is similar to the baggage scanner. Well, it might even be too similar. 

See, there are a couple of reasons that these scanners are no longer in every airport.

Firstly, they create a highly detailed image of the person that’s getting scanned. So detailed that people started getting very uncomfortable knowing that they were getting scanned with devices that go through their clothes – and that this was viewed by security without their permission. 

Now, the backscatter scan isn’t always used as the first option. Rather, it’s a kind of the second scan that security does before actually searching the person.

Because these scans give the most detailed image, they can pretty much detect anything that’s not your body. So, if you have any weapons on you, you may as well give them up before going in for the scan. 

But you’re not here to talk about weapons; you’re here to talk about gems.

And if you’re still wondering, yes, backscatter scanners can pick up on your diamonds. They can tell security if you have a diamond, how big it is, and what the cut looks like – but as we already mentioned, they have no use for this information.

Unless there’s a specific diamond that’s gone missing and is presumed stolen – and you happen to have it on you – there is nothing to worry about here. 

Sure, these scanners can shoot X-rays through you and any gem you may be carrying. But hey, it’s your gem – and they’ve got nothing to do with it.

Can Diamonds Change Color When Scanned?

If you’ve ever heard of a diamond treatment called irradiation, you could be wondering if these X-rays can change my diamond color. 

Sure, it’s obvious that the radiation in these scanners is relatively low as they need to be safe to use while scanning people. But you might have some small diamonds on your ring or in your necklaces. 

What about those?

Firstly, let’s take a look at what irradiation actually is. 

It’s true; diamonds can change color if they get exposed to enough radiation. Heck, even natural green diamonds are just the result of getting exposed to about a millennia of radiation while they were getting formed. 

Not only that, this process is possible in nature as well as in a laboratory. 

So, does it mean that your translucent colorless diamonds aren’t safe? Well, not really. 

While it is true that diamonds obtain certain colors when exposed to particular types of radiation, It’s not the same radiation that gets used in airport scanners. 

The only way you’d be able to change the color of your diamond is if you left it in the scanner for days on end. Even then, it might not be enough for your engagement ring to start going green or pink!

Read Also: What Colors Do Real Diamonds Shine?

Do Diamonds Have To Be Reported Before A Flight?

Alright, diamonds can get detected by some heavy-duty scanners, and they can pass unnoticed in others. But does it even matter? 

We’ve mentioned that you don’t have to report diamonds when traveling – so why does it matter whether or not a security scanner at an airport can see you carrying one?

Well, while it is your right to carry a diamond, or any other gem, for that matter, when traveling – there still are a couple of things you should note. 

First of all, not all countries have the same laws in place when it comes to what you can and cannot carry. If you’re traveling domestically, you should be fine unless there was a diamond heist somewhere close recently. 

So, while you don’t have to report a diamond on your engagement ring, for instance, it might be a good idea to tell security that you have a rough diamond on you – and where you got it from, too. 

That is more of a precaution than it is something you have to do. If diamonds are missing from somewhere close, scanners picking up on them, and you not reporting their presence could be suspicious. 

Learn More:

Final Words

So, there you have it! 

While the standard airport scanner might not pick up on all the gems you’re carrying, it will catch anything else that might be suspicious. The safety precautions may seem a bit too much on the surface – but they do their job well.

So, pack your diamonds and everything else, dress comfortably, and rest assured that your gem won’t cause any problems at the airport. You and your diamonds, regardless of how many you decide to bring – are ready to take off – safe travels!

Related Read: Can You Bring Diamonds On A Plane?