Scientists develop genetic testing method for identifying corals

Basel, Switzerland – Scientists from the Swiss Gemological Institute SSEF and the University of Zurich have created a new genetic test for identifying corals that they say is a breakthrough in traceability.

A 2020 study initially found the presence of DNA in precious corals, leading the authors to conclude that genetic testing of precious coral jewelry could be used to identify its species.

SSEF began offering coral identification services in partnership with the Institute of Forensic Medicine that summer.

Building on the findings of 2020, the SSEF and the university’s Institute of Forensic Medicine developed the methodology for genetic testing of precious coral objects, with the aim of being able to separate materials protected by the international treaty called CITES from those who are not.

Four precious coral species used in the jewelry trade are listed on CITES Appendix III, which means they require species- and country-of-origin-specific documentation to be traded and transported across countries. international borders.

Until now, customs authorities have relied on the color of a coral specimen to indicate species identity, the SSEF said, noting that there are issues with this reliability since different species of corals can have similar color ranges.

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The result of the recent study is designed to help in this area – the team has developed a forensically validated genetic technique called Coral-ID, which uses near non-destructive sampling to identify species.

They tested Coral-ID on 20 samples that had been seized by Swiss customs authorities between 2009 and 2017 for lack of valid CITES documents.

Thirteen could be analyzed; three were from CITES-listed species, while 10 were from non-CITES-listed species.

The full report was published in the scientific journal Forensic Science International: Genetics and can be viewed online.

“The research shows the importance of conducting fundamental, peer-reviewed scientific research into the raw materials used in the jewelry industry. Genetic analysis of precious corals is clearly a very useful tool for achieving greater transparency in trade,” said SSEF Director Michael S. Krzemnicki.

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