Reliable proof of provenance is here.
The Physical Tracers are available for the entire industry.
Mining companies and cooperatives, small and big, are key to achieve a new level of transparency. They unearth the rough crystals and start the journey of the gems. And it is ideal to kick off the Physical Tracers with them to enable traceability in gemstones.
Industry and trade associations, civil society organisations, NGOs and other outfits overseeing the gems and jewellery industry can directly or indirectly use this technology to facilitate and check the industry's implementation of policies and standards.
Governmental bodies can use the technology to promote and monitor their domestic production, control exports and support the marketing and branding of their country's gems by distinguishing them from gems of other countries.
Jewellery manufacturers can show consumers their commitments to manufacturing transparent products by proving that the gemstones they use in their jewellery are traceable. They can apply these Physical Tracers as a proof against counterfeit products.
Jewellery retailers have a new way to tell a verifiable and more complete story of the jewellery they sell. The client can verify the provenance claim made by the retailer, which connects the consumer more deeply and intimately to the product, fostering trust and loyalty.
End consumers can fully trust the claims made by jewellery brands, knowing that the provenance of a gemstone is now verifiable through physical tracing. In addition to that, verifiable traceability also renders the gem retains its resale value.
The emeralds are immersed in an ethanol-based liquid containing the nanolabels. The suspended nanolabels penetrate eye-visible, microscopic or even submicroscopic fissures and adhere to the walls of all these fissures. The exact chemical mechanism behind this process is a proprietary procedure protected by an international patent.
The nanolabels (Physical Tracers) consist of synthetic DNA encapsulated into amorphous silica spheres. As a biological molecule, DNA is not a very stable material, and degrades when exposed to sunlight, heat or humidity. To protect it from such degradation, it needs to be protected. In our nanolabels, the DNA is encapsulated into silica, comparable to the process of fossilisation.
DNA makes an excellent medium for storing client-specific information due to its nano size, which makes them invisible to even the best optical microscopes out there after they have been tagged on a rough gem. This explains why DNA has always been the favourite method of mother nature for storing information in extremely small volumes of space. Furthermore, the nature of the DNA structure allows for an infinite number of unique codes to be written which makes it suitable for a long-term, global application.
The synthetic DNA sequences used in our nanolabels are identical to natural DNA fragments found in many fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, through the daily intake of food, humans' digestion is shown to have no issues in processing even a large volume of DNAs. Concerning that, nanolabels that accidentally get swallowed are therefore not going to cause any known health risk. And yes, our nanolabels are perfectly vegan!
Even for people working with the nanolabels daily, for instance, those involved in applying the Physical Tracers onto the rough crystals are not exposed to any known health risk according to the current state of knowledge. In addition, as the nanolabels are suspended in a liquid, the nanolabels are not airborne and therefore not prone to cause any lung disease such as silicosis.
According to research findings, the amount of nanolabels getting airborne during the cutting process is usually moderate and does not imply an increased health risk for the cutter. Likewise, no health risk arising from the nanolabels in connection with the handling, setting, cleaning, oiling of the gems, and finally wearing jewellery with gems containing our nanolabels could be proven. Furthermore, according to the requirements defined by the European Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), these nanolabels contain nothing considered persistent, bioaccumulative, or toxic.
It is up to the market or a trade authority such as CIBJO to decide if the application of the Physical Tracers is considered as a treatment. Provenance Proof does not consider this process as a treatment as treatment refers to any process excluding cutting and polishing that alters the appearance in the hope of improving its colour or clarity. Our studies could not prove such an alteration due to the application of our Physical Tracers. Furthermore, the nanolabels are invisible even to the best optical microscope. For instance, they have no discernible effect on the appearance (including colour and clarity), weight, value, or properties of the emerald in the case of the Emerald Paternity Test.
The carrier liquid used for transporting the nanolabels into the fissures is ethanol, i.e. standard alcohol that evaporates completely within a few minutes, leaving no traces whatsoever.
Rough gems that are completely free of any fissures might not be suitable for the application of the Physical Tracers, as all particles might get removed during the cutting and cleaning process. However, based on our recent experiences with the technology in the case of the Emerald Paternity Test for example, the few emeralds that are loupe clean still feature sufficient fissures of submicroscopic dimensions for the nanolabels to enter them and adhere to their walls, enabling a later paternity test.
The particles found within the fissures are removed from the walls using a proprietary buffer solution. The retrieved DNA fragments are analysed using quantitative PCR (qPCR), a standard method applied for reading DNA. The analysed DNA is then decoded to determine the client-specific information, such as the identity of the owner, the mining location, the mining period etc. Provenance Proof is the custodian of the information encrypted into the DNA and the sole party in charge of decoding this information.
Emeralds can be submitted to Provenance Proof or any Gübelin Gem Lab in Switzerland, Hong Kong or New York to perform the Emerald Paternity Test, i.e. retrieving and analysing the nanolabels. We foresee contracting a few other analytical laboratories that get entrusted with the extraction of the nanolabels. The decoding of the information stored in the nanolabels remains exclusively with Provenance Proof.
In principle, it is not difficult to reproduce a known DNA sequence. So how can we assure that the information in the DNA-based nanolabels is not copied, reproduced and misused on other gems other than the one made for? Firstly, the intellectual property of the nanolabels and the application for emeralds are protected by different international patents, making a possible unauthorised application illegal. Better protection arises from increasing technological challenges a counterfeiter would have to overcome. The highest level of security stems from the fact that the technology is based on a key-lock system, meaning that reading the DNA sequence is only possible with a key specific for that sequence. Hence, the information is made inaccessible and kept under careful custody in a bank vault. Therefore, our physical tracers are fairly secure against counterfeiting.
The nanolabels used in the Physical Tracers contain information specific to a mine, a mining company and a mining period. Therefore, these Physical Tracers must only be applied to the correct gems. Furthermore, to minimise the risk of having the nanolabels applied on the wrong gems, the application of the Physical Tracers is strictly allowed to be operated only by independent and professional auditors assigned by Provenance Proof.