The Swiss Gemmological Institute (SSEF) has introduced a new service to support the documentation of the origin and provenance of pearls, assisting the pearl trade in documenting origins and improving the traceability of pearls.
The service is supported by the SSEF’s deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) fingerprinting reference database and capabilities, which now include eight oyster species that produce the vast majority of pearls found in the natural and cultured pearl trade.
There are eight pearl species that can be distinguished conclusively by using these DNA fingerprinting methods, namely the Arabian/Persian Gulf, Atlantic, Akoya, South Sea, Tahitian black-lipped, Panama, Pipi and Rainbow-lipped pearl oysters.
DNA fingerprinting of pearls was first developed by the SSEF, in partnership with the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Zurich, in 2013.
The quasi on-destructive method has since been refined further and the amount of material that was required from the pearl for testing has been considerably reduced to an infinitesimal amount.
The SSEF says its research on species identification creates important opportunities to better understand historic pearl trading routes and the origins of notable pearls.
In combination with age dating technology – a service provided by the SSEF for pearls since 2017 – it is possible to gain previously inaccessible scientific insights into the formation of pearls.
“We are happy to build on decades of pearl research at the SSEF to launch this new service for the pearl trade.
"DNA fingerprinting will contribute to further documenting the origin and geographic provenance of historic natural pearls and traceability efforts in the cultured pearl trade,” says SSEF director Dr Michael Krzemnicki.