By Brecken Branstrator
SSEF said iconic natural pearls, like "Le Peregrina," seen here, could be tested using DNA fingerprinting technology to document their origins and provenance. (Photo credit: SSEF)
Basel, Switzerland—Following an announcement it now offers a service to identify coral species, the Swiss Gemmological Institute (SSEF) is also using DNA fingerprinting to identify pearl species.

The method of using DNA fingerprinting for pearls was first developed by the lab in partnership with public research university ETH Zurich, and reports about the research the two conducted was published in an academic journal in 2013.

The method of obtaining DNA material from the pearl has been refined since then, and the amount of material required for testing has been “considerably reduced to an infinitesimal amount,” SSEF said.

The new service of identifying a pearl’s species has been made possible through a “substantial” expansion of the lab’s DNA fingerprinting reference database and capabilities, which now include eight oyster species producing most pearls found in the natural and cultured pearl trade, SSEF said.

There are eight pearl species that now can be identified conclusively using SSEF’s DNA fingerprinting methods:

--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); and
--Pteria sterna (rainbow-lipped pearl oyster).

The new service is offered in partnership with the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Zurich.

RELATED CONTENT: SSEF Now Offers Coral ‘DNA Fingerprinting’ Services

SSEF said its research into species identification helps better understand historic pearl trading routes and the origins of notable pearls, and when combined with the pearl age-dating technology the lab has offered since 2017 can provide scientific insights into the formation of pearls.

For more information about pearl DNA fingerprinting, check out the recently published journal article on

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