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In what has been labeled as a "true game-changer" for the colored-gemstone market, a Switzerland-based laboratory is using DNA-based nanoparticles to mark emeralds with an invisible imprint that will provide proof of their origin anywhere along the supply chain.
The particles, which are smaller than 100 nanometers in size, will be applied to rough emerald crystals at mining sites. The particles are so small that they can only be seen with an electron microscope. A human hair, by comparison, is 100,000 nanometers wide.
Gübelin Gem Lab explained that the particles will remain intact throughout the cleaning, cutting, polishing and setting processes. What's more, they will have no effect on the appearance or properties of the gemstones. For now, Gübelin will be focusing on emeralds because the particles are able to adhere to the natural fissures unique to the gemstone.
“This technology offers all stakeholders along the entire supply chain, from the miner to the final customers, proof of the exact source of emeralds, instilling confidence and creating trust,” said Daniel Nyfeler, Gübelin’s managing director. “It enables a new level of transparency for the gemstone trade.”
Gübelin is calling its ground-breaking traceable technology the "Emerald Paternity Test" due to the fact that each mine will have a unique DNA tag.
Partnering with Gübelin to test the nanotechnology is Gemfields, the London-based majority owner of Kagem, the world’s largest emerald mine in Zambia.
“Embracing innovation, technology and increased transparency is at the heart of our approach," noted Ian Harebottle, chief executive officer of Gemfields. "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.”
Credit: Photo by Parent Géry (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.