RFID Device Embedded in South Sea Bead Cultured Pearl Necklaces

RFID Device Embedded in South Sea Bead Cultured Pearl Necklaces

RFID Device Embedded in South Sea Bead Cultured Pearl Necklaces

New technologies are increasingly being applied to cultured pearls. The most striking feature was the presence of some electronic components within a few of the pearls. They were visible as opaque white squares with a stepped pattern in keeping with previously examined samples containing radio-frequency identification (RFID) devices (H.A. Hänni and L.E. Cartier, “Tracing cultured pearls from farm to consumer: A review of potential methods and solutions,” Journal of Gemmology, Vol. 33, No. 7-8, 2013, pp. 239–246; Spring 2020 Lab Notes, pp. 134–136). Interestingly, only a single pearl in strand A (figure 1, B–D) and five pearls in strand B (figure 2, B–D) contained an RFID device. The device is usually positioned off the center of the bead to avoid being drilled.

GIA’s Hong Kong lab has also begun seeing similar features in recent submissions (figure 3, A–B). The team compared the RTX data with some known bead cultured pearls containing an RFID device (figure 3, C–D) and confirmed that they were identical. The previous studies mentioned earlier describing RFID devices in bead cultured pearls have shown that these nuclei are produced by a patented pearl technology invented by Fukui Shell Nucleus Factory, which also supplies laminated beads to certain pearl farms. This explains the link between the laminating technique and its application in the production of RFID shell beads.

The use of RFID shell beads is known to assist in the storage of certain data such as a pearl farm’s location, mollusk data, and harvest date. However, a specific RFID reader is required to retrieve the data, so we were unable to obtain the information stored within these particular devices. Since the RFID devices do not influence their external appearance, the pearls containing a shell bead nucleus with such components are still identified as bead cultured pearls.

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