DNA Fingerprinting of Pearls

Late last year, a scientific development in the pearl world was made. It is now possible to extract DNA from pearls (in a very non-damaging manner) to track which original species of oyster that produced the pearl. It only takes about 10 millimeters of material that is drilled from a pre-existing hole in the gem to be able to extract enough usable DNA.

DNA being extracted from a South Sea Pearl
A scientist uses a very small drill to remove DNA from this pre-drilled pearl.

So…why would we want to do this?

Historians are interested in this process because it can tell us more about historically significant gems. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what animal produced the gems worn by queens of the past? Also, it gives jewelers and owners of pearl jewelry a reliable way to know more about the jewelry they sell and to gain insight into the provenance of each priceless gem. It’s a pretty amazing concept, when you think about it! Scientists are already planning the next step of this process, which would be about tracking the region, and perhaps even the specific lagoon, lake, or river where your pearl was produced!

PLoS ONE Scientific Journal

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