Gübelin Gem Lab has launched an Emerald Paternity Test - new traceability technology enabling independent proof of provenance for emeralds. We asked Raphael Gübelin, CEO of Gübelin, what this means for the industry.

What is the significance of this test?

This new technology allows a truly independent proof-of-provenance testing for emeralds. We have been able to customise DNA-based nanoparticles enabling traceability of emeralds back to the exact place of mining. In other words, [it is] a true paternity test for emeralds.

This test is a game-changer for the coloured gemstone industry. It is the first of a series of technologies and services dedicated to bringing more transparency into the gemstone industry, united under the Provenance Proof label.

How does this technology work?

This technology uses DNA-based nanoparticles that are applied directly at the mine on the rough crystals. Developed specifically to survive the usual procedures, which an emerald is subjected to before reaching the end consumer [such as cleaning, cutting, polishing, transport, setting], the nanoparticles can be retrieved and decoded at any stage along the supply chain.

What benefits can this test bring to the gemstone industry?

This technology gives miners [big corporates and co-operatives of small and artisanal miners], governments, trade organisations, industry watchdogs, jewellery brands and final customers a tool to offer a completely new level of transparency to the source of emeralds, instilling confidence and creating trust. This could also offer additional security against theft and fraudulence. We have filed a patent for the application of nanoparticles in gemstones, and we can now ensure that the technology is accessible to the entire industry.

Is this considered a first in the gem industry?

Yes, because 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 small size of these particles makes them invisible even to the best optical microscope, hence not affecting the appearance, quality and properties of the stone whatsoever. This is a prerequisite to get acceptance of this technology in the trade.

Who else is involved in this project?

The Gübelin Gem Lab has invited Gemfields as it is a leading producer of responsibly sourced coloured gemstones, to partner with us for the initial phase of this project, and has provided valuable help during the feasibility study. Gemfields is also an out-of-the-box thinking company, hence a perfect partner to test a groundbreaking idea such as this paternity test for emeralds.