The Swiss-based Gübelin Gem Lab has introduced “the Emerald Paternity Test” – a technology that, according to the lab, tracks “the provenance of emeralds back to the exact mine”.
So far, Gübelin explains, companies in the jewellery industry rely on “a mixture of trust and self-declaration by mining companies”. Gübelin’s new emerald test enables companies to track the stone they purchase directly to the mine, thereby increasing transparency in the industry.
The Emerald Paternity Test uses nanotechnology and the customization of DNA. The emeralds at the mine are impregnated with DNA-based, nano-sized particles, of a diametre of about 100 nanometres. These particles feature “information on the mining location, the miner and the mining time is encrypted and stored in the DNA, and encapsulated in a sphere of amorphous silica to resist the influence of cutting, polishing and repeated treatment. By means of a carrier liquid, these particles are applied on the rough emerald crystals, penetrating even the tiniest fissures, and tightly adhering to their walls. The nanoparticles can be retrieved, the information contained in the DNA read out and decoded at any later stage during the lifetime of the emerald, disclosing the paternity of the emerald”.
Whenever required, the stone can be submitted to an authorised lab to conduct the paternity test. And the client gets transparency about the exact place where the emerald was unearthed.
The particles, Gübelin emphasizes, “are invisible even to the best optical microscope and induces no optical effect whatsoever”.
According to Gem Konnect, Gübelin invited colored gemstone producer Gemfields to join the project as a test partner, and the reaction is certainly enthusiastic: ““Embracing innovation, technology and increased transparency is at the heart of our approach”, said Gemfields CEO Ian Harebottle, “We were therefore thrilled to assist Gübelin in the testing of this new technology and we are very excited about the outcome as it offers a multitude of benefits to the industry and the consumer”.
Will this new approach to emerald-tracking be used in the future with other precious stones, such as diamonds? Only time will tell.