We studied the characteristics of the optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) signal of single-grain quartz from three sites in China, Italy, and Libya, including the brightness, decay curve and dose response curve (DRC) shapes, recuperation, and reproducibility. We demonstrate the large variation in OSL behaviors for individual quartz grains of different samples from different regions, and show that recuperation, sensitivity change, and reproducibility are independent of the brightness and decay curve shape of the OSL signals. The single-grain DRCs can be divided into at least eight groups with different characteristic saturation doses (D0), and a standardized growth curve (SGC) can be established for each of the DRC groups. There is no distinctive difference in the shape of OSL decay curves among different DRC groups, but samples from different regions have a difference in the OSL sensitivities and decay shapes for different groups. Many of the quartz grains have low D0 values (30–50 Gy), and more than 99% of the grains have D0 values of <200 Gy. Our results raise caution against the dating of samples with equivalent dose values higher than 100 Gy, if there are many low-D0 and ‘saturated’ grains.