The Swiss Gemmological Institute SSEF is introducing a new service that uses DNA fingerprinting technology to identify pearl species.
Developed in partnership with the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Zurich, the service is an expansion of SSEF’s DNA fingerprinting reference database and capabilities, which now include eight oyster species that produce majority of pearls found in the natural and cultured pearl trade.
The pearl species that can be distinguished conclusively using these DNA fingerprinting methods are:
• Pinctada radiata (Arabian/Persian Gulf and Ceylon pearl oyster)
• Pinctada imbricata (Atlantic pearl oyster)
• Pinctada fucata/martensii (Akoya pearl oyster)
• Pinctada maxima (South Sea pearl oyster)
• Pinctada margaritifera (Tahitian black-lipped pearl oyster)
• Pinctada mazatlanica (Panama pearl oyster)
• Pinctada maculata (Pipi pearl oyster)
• Pteria sterna (Rainbow-lipped pearl oyster)
DNA fingerprinting of pearls was first developed by SSEF with partners at ETH Zurich. The quasi non-destructive method has since been refined further, and the amount of material required from the pearl for testing has been considerably reduced to an infinitesimal amount, according to SSEF.
SSEF’s 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 provided by SSEF since 2017, it is possible to gain previously inaccessible scientific insights into the formation of pearls.
Dr. Michael S. Krzemnicki, director of SSEF, commented, “DNA fingerprinting will contribute to further documenting the origin and geographic provenance of historic natural pearls and traceability efforts in the cultured pearl trade.”