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The Four Cs’ of Traceability – tracing a diamond back to the mine, leaving no stone unturned

Cut, Colour, Clarity, and Carat: the grading system that delineates the quality and price of a given stone. Today, consumers are looking for something more trustworthy

This October, the American Jewelers known for their little blue box packaging — Tiffany & Co. — announced their decision to provide clients with certificates that show the step-by-step journey that its designs go through before reaching the retailer floor. «We are raising awareness among those who might not otherwise have considered the importance of diamond traceability. When choosing a diamond, that includes not only knowing its country of origin but the conditions and care with which it was crafted», said Andrew Hart, Senior Vice President Diamond & Jewelry Supply at Tiffany & Co, in response to their new traceability initiative. Much more is at stake when a diamond travels through the pipeline until it arrives in the hands of the consumer.

The diamond industry has been attributed to taboos and cliché images linked with blood diamonds and smuggling. Today, traceability offers a new approach to the process, restoring prestige while creating transparency to the diamond journey. David Block, CEO of Sarine Technologies, has worked with the company for almost twenty years, and has seen the evolution of diamond transparency within the industry first-hand. From secrecy to transparency in a matter of two decades, the industry has changed its entire strategy and, in part, due to the services Sarine provides. «Sarine believes that technology is the way forward to achieving full disclosure and a trustworthy diamond transformation from its rough form to the polished beautiful stone. Over the past two years, Sarine’s technologies are being used to track diamonds along the diamond pipeline from the mine to the consumer. One reason why the diamond industry holds the reputation that it does, is due to the cloudy journey of a diamond as it flows from a rough diamond in the mine through the manufactures and down to the retailer. Using advanced technology including artificial intelligence, Sarine can collect and then feed data into their established algorithms to declare that a certain diamond comes from the same rough piece it was mined from», explains Block. «Today, when you buy a diamond, you look at the 4 Cs’ that determine the diamond value at the market level» — he explains over a Zoom call — «It was a question of consistency in the grading process because we are all human beings and are influenced by human behavior. As a result, the team at Sarine Technologies developed Artificial Intelligence systems and machines that determine the cut, color, clarity, and light performance, which are used in Sarine AI-based grading labs today. «It is more consistent and therefore can be trusted by the consumer at a higher level than manually».

When it comes to traceability, Sarine believes that technology is the way forward to achieving full disclosure and a trustworthy product. The same technologies are used for tracking diamonds at a different point along the pipeline. «Imagine a Connect-the-Dots game we would play as kids, we can connect all the dots and say that a diamond came from a specific location, and went through this process and these manufactures and these wholesalers, and then each of the players on the pipeline can then show what they’re doing in terms of traceability». Sarine Technologies provides a fully automated and verifiable tracking of the diamond as it goes down the pipeline. Providing technology to the diamond industry for over 30 years and having over 100 million diamonds pass through its systems each year, Sarine can provide a fully automated and verifiable tracking of the diamond as it goes down the pipeline. Still, diamonds, unlike other products, transform from their initial appearance through each step in the process. «It changes from a rough diamond into a polished one, and tracking that is complicated. Because we have accumulated data about that diamond as it evolves from the rough diamond to the polished diamond, we’re able to do that», explains Block.

When it comes to Tiffany & Co. this process is easier to track as they are one of the few diamond entities within the pipeline that start almost as far back as the mine. «They have their own manufacturing and own retail, which is and doesn’t exist anywhere else at the scale that Tiffany does». They can internally track that diamond because it is all within their organization. Most other retail diamond brands do not manufacture their own diamonds or work directly with the mines, they buy products from a manufacturer. This is exactly where Sarine comes in. «What Tiffany can do in-house by itself, we can provide enabling technology that can allow the rest of the market to do the same at the same level of reliability that Tiffany can do internally», admits Block.

In response, Tiffany’s Andrew Hart says, «We know more about the provenance of our diamonds than anyone else. We do not mine ourselves, but we have direct supply agreements with mines or suppliers. We have our own diamond cutting and polishing workshops and manufacturing facilities, which help us maintain a safe, healthy, and welcoming work environment, contribute to local economies and improve traceability. So, we have not only this transparency throughout the supply chain, but we are setting high standards for the way we operate those workshops». The company intends «to pay a living wage to skilled workers and provide a safe workplace for our employees. Because of our vertical integration, we can create an in-class environment for the people working in all of our diamond and jewelry workshops around the world. This gives us the confidence that our diamonds are made to our exacting standards, and it also supports the economic potential of these regions because we are investing in local communities. We hire and train local artisans».

Zortman Landusky gold mining complex Montana by Eworks 1
Zortman Landusky gold mining complex Montana. Eworks IRMA

Block claims: «Most people in the retail side do not realize the effort that the players in the industry make towards ensuring the development communities where there are mines. Ensuring the development of local communities where there are manufacturers. Effort and money are spent on environmental protection. You are digging a hole in the ground but many people do not know that for every hector that they do mining operations in, they contribute to the preservation of six to ten times that amount in other areas». When it comes to the mines around the world, Alrosa in Russia, the crater-like mine uses recycled water for most of their mining operations. Star Rays, the Indian diamond manufacturers, have also announced their plans to become carbon-neutral, meaning having no net contribution of carbon to the atmosphere. Another company going down this path is the Canadian manufacturer, Pandora.

For Tiffany & Co., transparency and responsible sourcing have long been a fundamental part of their commitment to sustainability. «We have been investing in the sustainable and vertical integration of our supply chain for nearly twenty years and are now driving forward a new level of transparency by sharing the full craftsmanship journey of our diamonds». When it comes to purchasing diamonds, Hart says, «Consumers feel empowered when their purchases make a statement and have an impact. People recognize that both their buying habits and their advocacy matter. This is one of the reasons why we decided to launch the Diamond Craft Journey. By bringing stone-specific geographic information to the baseline, website, and diamond certificate, we are encouraging our customers to make informed, responsible purchasing decisions. Knowing the origin of our metals and gemstones is key to ensuring that the mines we are sourcing from are operated in environmentally and socially responsible ways. That goes further than where a diamond was unearthed and continues until it makes its way to the Blue Box», says Andrew Hart.

«In the end», explains David Block from their headquarters in Israel, «traceability is not for the retailer, it’s for the consumer». Sarine provides their services through manufacturers and retailers, but consumers are the ones looking to know more about where their products come from. Sarine provides retailers with an inclusive three-dimensional rough diamond model for their customers to take with them when they purchase a diamond ring. «They get the actual replica of the rough diamond that it came from and the digital representation of how that diamond was designed from that rough diamond». From rough to polished, no stone is left unturned when it comes to an understanding where the diamond originated from and how that mine takes care of the community and environment around it. Sarine have just launched their diamond journey and traceability process in a short film:

Still, Block explains, «the diamond industry has to bring transparency and be able to be aligned with consumer demand. The industry  is slowly changing but it needs to change faster to create confidence at the consumer level and technology is playing a part in enabling the industry to change. A lot of players in the industry are looking at what Tiffany is doing because once Tiffany takes a step and does something, that pushes the industry into that direction in the high retailers that are competing with them and part of what they’re doing becomes an integral part of what needs to be done for each diamond», admits Block.

Andrew Hart: «My hope is that consumers will come to expect to know not only a diamond’s provenance, but where it was crafted from rough stone to polished gem, and set in jewelry. As more and more ask, the industry will evolve and adapt to satisfy rising demands for transparency». With the consumer in mind at all times, both recognize that now more than ever, there is a need for change when it comes to sourcing and producing diamonds. «The jewelry industry can be a force for positive change, and as a company that uses mined materials, we have an opportunity to improve the jewelry sourcing and production landscape», said Hart. Working closely with retailers – these trends are becoming important and visible today for the diamond industry. Finally, Block says «Today’s consumer is demanding more than a decade ago and wanting increased transparency from the products they buy. This is something that is quickly turning from a want to a necessity and I have no doubt that as an industry providing luxury products we are obligated to provide this to them. Technology has evolved to the point that this is now possible, so I am sure we will be seeing even further transparency in the near future».

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