Innovation

De Beers tracks first diamonds with blockchain, potentially limiting fraud

The Tracr program will use blockchain technology to source and monitor diamonds throughout the supply chain.

Diamond conglomerate De Beers announced the success of their new blockchain-backed platform Tracr, which helped track 100 high-value diamonds throughout their journey from mines to stores, according to a report from Mining Review Africa.

Tracr's unveiling comes only weeks after precious jewel and mineral companies joined forces with IBM to create TrustChain, a similar effort using blockchain technology to determine not just the provenance of their gems, but whether they were mined and processed in an ethical way.

With Tracr, diamonds will be given a "Global Diamond ID" that records carat, color, clarity, and other attributes, the report said. The ID number is used to track the diamond through the supply chain and verify both its source and end destination.

De Beers joined with five other major diamond companies on the groundbreaking project, including KGK Group, Rosy Blue NV, Diacore, Diarough, and Venus Jewel, using BCG Digital Ventures to create the platform itself.

As noted in the report, the hope of De Beers is that the platform will give consumers confidence that the diamonds they are purchasing are real and did not come from conflict mines. Similar to TrustChain, De Beers believes Tracr's industry-wide systems will clean up the supply chain and certify a diamond's origins.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the blockchain (Tech Pro Research)

Jewelry conglomerates and mining companies have long kept their own records to prove their goods were real, but much of it was kept internally and relegated to paper, which made it difficult to search through.

In a statement, De Beers explained that Tracr would create an "immutable and secure digital trail...for a selection of rough diamonds mined by De Beers as they moved from the mine to cutter and polisher, then through to a jeweler."

The initial project began in January and has been in testing since then. De Beers believes the platform will be ready by the end of the year and will be open to any diamond companies interested in the project.

"The Tracr project team has demonstrated that it can successfully track a diamond through the value chain, providing asset-traceability assurance in a way that was not possible before," De Beers Group CEO Bruce Cleaver said in the statement. "This is a significant breakthrough made achievable by the close engagement of the pilot participants who share our commitment to industry progress and innovation. We look forward to sharing the platform with more partners in the coming months and capturing their insights before ultimately making this technology available to the broader industry."

More and more industries are turning to blockchain technology to track and source their products, with logistics companies and even livestock conglomerates buying into it in recent months.

But blockchain has gained steam in the precious jewel industry specifically because of overwhelming consumer demand for diamonds and gems that have not contributed to political violence, child labor, or environmental destruction.

"Consumers care deeply about the quality and source of the jewelry they purchase," Bridget van Kralingen, IBM Senior Vice President of Global Industries, Platforms and Blockchain, said in a release on another jewel and gem-related blockchain project. "This is evidenced by the fact that 66 percent of consumers globally are willing to spend more to support sustainable brands."

IBM's TrustChain and this latest effort from De Beers showcase how much of an impact that blockchain could stand to have on global supply chains.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:
  • Diamond giant De Beers has successfully tested Tracr, their new platform that uses blockchain technology to source and track diamonds throughout the supply chain
  • Other diamond companies have joined the effort, and the platform will be available to all diamond companies by the end of the year.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/Coral222

About Jonathan Greig

Jonathan Greig is a freelance journalist based in New York City. He recently returned to the United States after reporting from South Africa, Jordan, and Cambodia since 2013.

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