Natural pearls are some of the oldest gems collected by mankind. Natural pearls continue today to be desired objects at auction. SSEF has tested many of the world’s most iconic natural pearls in recent years. Our expertise in pearl testing rests on continuous research and expeditions to natural pearl sources and cultured pearl farms worldwide.
We test different types of pearls objects
- Single or multiple loose pearls
- Pearls mounted in jewellery
- Pearl necklaces
We distinguish between natural and cultured pearls, freshwater or saltwater pearls, possible treatments on a pearl and whether a pearl has been worked or not. SSEF does not comment on the species from which a pearl may have come from. Since 2017, we offer radiocarbon age dating of pearls as a service to clients (click here for more information).
Explore our research library
Natural pearl necklace with one imitation pearl
Our testing not only revealed the presence of 40 natural pearls of a quite remarkable diameter (8-11 mm), but in addition one imitation pearl consisting of a plastic bead covered by a ‘lacquer’ coating that seeks to mimic a pearly lustre.
Pair of sautoirs by René Lalique
René Lalique (1860-1945) was one of the most ingenious and creative designers of jewellery and glass objects at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. He significantly contributed to the Art Nouveau and Art Déco periods.
Cultured pearls in a bracelet of historic design
An antique-style bracelet with diamonds and pearls was recently submitted to SSEF for testing (Figure 1). Despite the complex setting, we were able to analyse all the pearls and found, that five of the pearls in this bracelet were in fact beaded cultured pearls (Akoya type), whereas the remaining 26
Natural pearls dyed green
The body colour of pearls is normally related to the presence of natural colour pigments produced by the mollusc during pearl formation. Another option is to colour pearls artificially, with dyeing being the most readily available method. Often applied to rather low-quality freshwater cultured pearl
DNA fingerprinting and age dating of pearls and corals at SSEF
Pearl testing was long limited to determining whether a pearl is natural or cultured, and whether a pearl has been treated or not. As we have considerably invested in pearl research in recent years, we have achieved significant breakthroughs, namely DNA fingerprinting for species identification and
New pearl oyster species: pinctada persica
We recently tested a pearl jewellery set that consisted of 63 natural pearls, with 61 of them being strung on a thread and two additional loose natural pearls. To our knowledge, this is the first time that pearls from Pinctada persica have been reported.
The Queen Mary Pearl
First published in Facette 26 (May 2020) As a foremost authority in the testing of natural pearls, the SSEF has had the chance in the past few decades to see and analyse the most unique and outstanding natural pearls in the market, many of them of historic provenance, such as the Peregrina
One natural pearl in a cultured pearl necklace
Testing pearl necklaces can be rather painstaking work, as at least two gemmologists at SSEF meticulously and individually check a necklace pearl by pearl, with the aim of finding one (or more) cultured pearl(s) possibly hidden somewhere in the strand. Countless natural pearl necklaces tested at SSE
DNA Fingerprinting of Pearls, Corals and Ivory: Research Update
SSEF pioneered DNA fingerprinting of pearls in 2013, in collaboration with scientists from ETH Zürich. This was the first published report of oyster DNA extraction from a pearl, allowing us to trace and fingerprint pearls of unknown origin and match them to the specific oyster species in which they
Chasing Cultured Pearls at SSEF: Cultured Pearls using a Natural Pearl as a Bead
As a leading pearl testing laboratory worldwide, the SSEF has analysed in the past few months a large number of pearls for our clients. Besides natural pearls of impressive size or historic provenance (e.g. the pearl pendant of Marie Antoinette and the so called Dodge pearls), we regularly identify
Pipi Pearls from the Pacific
first published in Facette 21 (February 2014) In 2013, SSEF received a lot of beautiful small so-called Pipi- pearls from the Pacific. These natural pearls are generally rather small, up to about 8 mm in diameter. This is not astonishing as they are formed within the rather small shell of the P
Research on Golden Cultured Pearls
In February 2016 Dr. Laurent Cartier had the opportunity of visiting Jewelmer pearl farms near Palawan Island in the Philippines and observing the different culturing techniques required to harvest golden South Sea pearls.