The Wonder Of Science And Pearl DNA

The Wonder Of Science And Pearl DNA

In late 2103 in Basal, Switzerland leading scientists made a huge break though in the science of pearls.  Joana Meyer from the ETH Institute of Integrative Biology Group and Laurent Cartier from the Swiss Gemmological Institute, succeeded in extracting DNA from pearls to identify their original species of oyster.


The Process

The study took over two years of dedicated research. The process involved the extraction of oyster DNA (10 milligrams) directly from a pearl using a micro-drilling technique.  According to researchers this allowed them to “obtain a small amount of DNA while maintaining the commercial value of the pearl”.

The DNA sample was then studied for unique traits to identify the species of oyster that produced the pearl. After repeated tests of extraction and testing process, scientists were successful in identifying pearls created by three different species of oyster. Including the Pinctada margaritifera (pearls from akoya oysters ),the  Pinctada maxima and the Pinctada radiata.

The Next Stage – Radiocarbon To Determine The Age Of A Pearl

Researchers have used radiocarbon dating to analyse the age of a pearl. Therefore, making it possible to identify the local origin of a pearl. Quite extraordinary to be able to identify the region or EVEN the specific pool or lagoon the pearl was found.

This study has been published in the scientific journal Radiocarbon and involves measuring the ratio of radioactive carbon to normal carbon in the nacre.

The Importance For Pearls And Pearl Jewellery

The significance and importance of this research and the developments are huge for the scientific world, for historians and for the gemmology industry. Determining the age and origin of pearls and pearl jewellery will make it easier to value pearls. And to expose anyone attempting to pass off a cultured pearl as a natural pearl.

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To find out more have a look at:


Joana B Meyer, Laurent E. Cartier, Eric A. Pinto-Figuero, Michael  S. Krzemnicki, Henry A. Hanni, Bruce A McDonald. DNA Fingerprinting of Pearls to Determine their Origins. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (10)

Michael Krzemnicki. Age Determination of Pearls; A New Approach for Pearl Testing and Identification.  Radiocarbon , 2013;55

TH Zurich. “Genetic Fingerprinting of pearls developed” Science Daily 2013