Cutting edge science used to ID natural pearls

It is now possible to obtain DNA from pearls - providing more information about their origins.

It is now possible to obtain DNA from pearls - providing more information about their origins.

It is now possible to obtain DNA from pearls - providing more information about their origins.
Traditionally, Bahraini pearl merchants have been able to spot a natural pearl just by looking at it.

Pearl dealers are turning to cutting edge science to help them distinguish between cultured pearls and the natural kind. Natural pearls continue to fetch high prices, but methods for culturing them have become so sophisticated that it is increasingly difficult to tell between them.


As Ali Safar takes a pearl out of the X-ray machine, he looks carefully at it before passing the large luminescent bead to an analyst who scrutinises it through a microscope.

The Directorate of Precious Metals and Gemstone Testing in Bahrain can produce crystal clear images but as Ali Safar says, detecting a cultured pearl is not straightforward.

"Today we see cultured pearls that have virtually the same structure as a natural pearl," he explains. "The means of producing cultured pearls have become ever more sophisticated so as to mimic the real thing."

Whereas in the past Bahraini pearl merchants such as the Al Mahmouds would have been able to spot a natural pearl just by looking at it, today's market is more complex.

Making the distinction is important in Bahrain, where it is forbidden to trade in cultured pearls.

But it is also a distinction that is challenging the Swiss Gemmological Institute (SSEF) and in particular its director Michael Krzemnicki who is called on by the major auction houses to provide certificates stating whether a pearl is natural or cultured along with additional information about shape, size, colour and hue.

Read entire article Cutting edge science used to ID natural pearls here.

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