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Both Gemlab and SSEF last month issued reports on cultured pearls masquerading as natural. As the demand for natural pearls has grown, large quantities of pearls purported to be natural have been sent to the labs for certification. They are characterized by a perfect appearance outside and by the absence of any structure under radiography, or by an internal structure that is convincing—or at least confusing.
One theory is that cultured pearls are being bought in quantity and then x-rayed; those that pass the test are then marketed as natural. Such a situation poses challenges for the labs, and SSEF and Gemlab take you through cutting-edge technical methodology in order to make determinations. Sometimes the conclusion is impossible, but the development of new identification techniques is on a parallel path with the designs of those who would want to outsmart the detectives.
“A Difficult New Type of Cultured Pearl Entering the Market” from Gemlab’s Gemnotes, Vol. 1, No. 1
“‘Keshi’ cultured pearls are entering the natural pearl market” from SSEF Newsletter May 2010, and an Addendum.
See also SSEF’s Michael Krzemnicki’s presentation on x-ray micro computed tomography for an overview of the procedure.
Thanks to Pala International for doing the legwork...