Art and Antiquities


SDI’s SpectraSure™ technology has a vast array of applications. SpectraSure™ can be used to track provenance, forensically identify stolen art and antiquities, but does not degrade with time, is archival safe, and can be embedded directly into contemprary inks and paints. With SpectraSure™, you can feel confident knowing your product is impossible to counterfeit.

The Problem


The international art market has grown steadily in value over the last sixty years, as a dwindling supply of in-demand artworks and an increase in the number of high value collectors have pushed art prices to stratospheric levels. It is no longer uncommon to find artworks valued over $1 million, while the most expensive pieces are valued at well over $100 million. The rapid increase in the value of art has increased the interest of organized crime in the trade. Estimated at between $2 billion – $6 billion the illicit market in art and antiquities is amongst the most lucrative that organized crime groups engage in.


The illicit art market can be divided into the broad areas: the diversion of antiquities, art counterfeiting, and fine art theft. The diversion of antiquities is the most common, and least organized, activity. Antiquities are easily stolen from museums or archeological sites and sold to collectors, often via online sites such as eBay. The ubiquity of artifacts, and lack of skill necessary to loot them makes the trade an ideal funding source for both criminal organizations and insurgent groups particularly in conflict zones, or fragile and developing states. The general dearth of legal sanctions and specialist law enforcement units dedicated to artifact trafficking makes the trade a nearly risk free endeavor.

Counterfeiting involves the creation of works that are either facsimiles of high-value art, or are done in the style of a highly valued artist. The resulting profits can be huge, with one syndicate in New York reportedly raking in $80 million from 63 counterfeited works. Counterfeiting operations rely both on skilled artists as well as respectable art dealers able to win the trust of buyers.


Contemporary Artist

Finally, fine art theft is most high profile and yet infrequent form of criminal activity in the art world. The increasing value of art has led many museums and galleries to upgrade their security systems. This has forced a professionalization in fine art theft, incentivizing the development of well-trained gangs that are able to disable security systems and strike quickly. While criminal gangs can achieve great success in stealing famous pieces of art, many, much like the Romanian gang, flounder when they attempt to sell it. Valuable art is easily recognizable, and stolen art is often tracked by organizations such as the Art Loss Register. Therefore, most successful art theft gangs have either pre-identified buyers for their stolen works, or are connected into the international illicit art market.


The Solution


SpectraSure™ is a non-organic taggant, unique in that, even whilst using sophisticated mass-spectrometry or nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, counterfeiters cannot discern and duplicate the mark. Unlike many other taggants, SpectraSure™ can be incorporated into the piece, applied to the piece (and its frame or packaging) and can be authenticated in real time, on-site, and on-demand. There is no need for long lead-time and costly laboratory analysis. The SpectraSure™ readers authenticate the mark in milliseconds.

The SpectraSure™ taggant does not decay over time, can be encoded for specific and targeted tracking activities, and can withstand environmental extremes far in excess of the item marked.






SpectraSure™ can be applied to fine art work and antiquities in a non-obtrusive, non-destructive manner that will not harm the underlying production.


Whether you require complete operation and maintenance of your SpectraSure™ system, supply of SpectraSure™ taggant and readers, or a tailored approach, the SDI team can help. For more information and to initiate the SpectraSure™ process, contact us directly using any of our convenient methods.