SSEF issues alert on keshis described as natural

The following brief appears courtesy of National Jeweler

Basel, Switzerland–The Swiss Gemmological Insititute (SSEF) in Basel, Switzerland, says that large quantities of saltwater pearls it has received for certification in recent weeks turned out to be cultured keshi pearls, despite being described as natural keshi pearls.

In a press release issued Monday, SSEF director Michael Krzemnicki described the pearls as being generally characterized “by an almost perfect appearance and are often accompanied by reports describing them as natural pearls.”

However, the appearance of the keshi pearls has raised doubt amongst many natural pearl dealers (because of their rarity, natural pearls command higher prices than cultured pearls), and those concerns were warranted, according to the lab tests performed by SSEF, the release said.

The lab tested the pearls using the most advanced forms of technology, including X-ray radiography, X-ray luminescence, X-ray micro tomography and radiocarbon age dating, and many were actually identified as bead-less cultured pearls. Although the pearls do not show one distinct feature that explicitly characterizes them as cultured, a combination of internal and external structures enabled the lab’s team of gemologists to conclusively identify the material, according to the lab release.

“The arrival of large quantities of these new saltwater pearls, whose quality is far better than that of many natural pearls, represents a great danger to the natural pearl market,” the lab stated in its release.  “Following the sudden increase of this material on the market, the SSEF has taken a number of measures to protect the natural pearl trade. The SSEF has adapted its pearl certification policy and is collaboratively promoting transparent standards at an international level.”

An important step is the use of more rigorous and specified definitions for natural and cultured pearls, the release stated. A natural pearl is a pearl that formed in a wild oyster (mussel) and is living in its natural habitat. It formed without any human intervention. By contrast, any pearl stemming from a pearl cultivation farm is a cultured pearl.

Find the full article on the SSEF website by clicking here. Further information and details regarding these new pearls and SSEF’s adapted pearl certification policy can be found under or by contacting


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