The Swiss-based Gübelin Gem Lab has announced that it has perfected a technology to allow the tracking of an emerald from the mine to the consumer marketplace.
The technology, which Gübelin calls the ‘Emerald Paternity Test’, impregnates emeralds at the mine with customised DNA-based nanoparticles that survive enabling the usual procedures, which an emerald undergoes before reaching the end consumer, such as cleaning, cutting, polishing, transportation and setting. The nanoparticles can be retrieved and decoded at any stage along the supply chain.
According to Gübelin, the technology offers miners — both big corporates and cooperatives of small and artisanal miners —as well as governments, trade organisations, industry watchdogs, jewellery brands and final customers, a completely new level of transparency when sourcing emeralds, instilling confidence and creating trust.
Gübelin says this is the first time nanotechnology — the branch of technology that deals with dimensions of less than 100 nanometres — has been used in such a context. The size of these particles makes them invisible to optical microscopes, therefore not affecting the appearance, quality and properties of the stone in any way.
Gübelin invited coloured gemstone producer Gemfields, which majority owns the Kagem emerald mine in Zambia, to join the project as a test partner. Gübelin says Gemfields, which already has a robust supply chain and established standards of responsible sourcing, was chosen to help provide the testing conditions for the technology in the field.
Gübelin Gem Lab Managing Director Daniel Nyfeler stated, “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. It enables a new level of transparency for the gemstone trade. Partnering with Gemfields for the feasibility study was an obvious choice, as it is not only an industry leader, but a forward thinking company, and hence a perfect partner to test a ground-breaking idea such as this paternity test for emeralds.”
Gemfields CEO Ian Harebottle added, “Embracing innovation, technology and increased transparency is at the heart of our approach. 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.”