Industry professionals have long maintained that the only way to transform diamond traceability and transparency is to have everyone march to the beat of the same drum. De Beers Group recognized this in June when it opened up its Tracr digital diamond-tracking platform to industry-wide participation.
Before that, it had been a De Beers flagship, drawing on blockchain technology to log diamonds at the company’s global mining sites and follow them through the value chain.
Now, high-profile participants include the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), Gemological Science International (GSI) and diamond jewelry retailer Brilliant Earth.
A shared experience
“We believe the diamond industry is desperate for a way to tell the rich story of natural diamonds at the point of sale,” says Tracr CEO Wes Tucker. “This requires a trusted, scalable digital solution where every actor in the value chain can share their part of this journey, from discovery to sale.”
Different companies throughout the diamond pipeline will use the Tracr platform differently. When rough sells to a manufacturer, the manufacturer takes ownership of the diamond’s tamper-proof “digital fingerprint,” according to Tracr, and can then add information and images about the cutting and polishing process to the blockchain.
Retailers, meanwhile, can look up any diamond in their inventory by its Tracr ID and use the interactive Tracr Diamond Experience tool to show customers the full history of the stone they’re buying.
That said, the size, scale and influence of the newly publicized Tracr participants have led some to wonder how suitable the platform is for smaller businesses with fewer resources. De Beers is quick to address this issue. “[Tracr’s] ultimate ambition is to support the entirety of the diamond industry, from the smallest miners all the way through to the largest,” a company spokesperson tells Rapaport Magazine.
While large luxury brands may use the platform to build ethical assurances into their supply chains, online retailers may employ it to enhance their digital storytelling or as a third-party tool in the sales consultation process.
As for the GIA, it sees its participation in Tracr as a service it can offer its business-to-business (B2B) clients to help boost consumer confidence. “When a diamond that has been traced from the source is submitted to the GIA for grading, it will have a Tracr ID, which will allow the GIA to match the polished stone to [its] Tracr record,” explains Pritesh Patel, the institute’s senior vice president and chief operating officer. “At a time when this information is more important than ever, Tracr has come forward with an industry solution that we are hopeful will attract more participants.”
Raising the incentive
At the time of this writing, De Beers has registered more than half of its production by value on Tracr, representing more than 1.3 million rough diamonds at the mining level and 110,000 at the manufacturer level. The group recognizes, however, that Tracr will only become an industry-wide tool if it can move beyond De Beers’ own supply. Onboarding competitor producers is the logical next step, and the miner has purposefully designed and tested the platform to achieve this.
If tempting other mining companies into the fold is the long game, Tracr’s short-term focus is on the other end of the supply chain: consumer-facing brands that can market the authentic provenance story behind their Tracr-registered stock. Tracr is also reportedly developing ways for consumers to add info to the blockchain themselves.
If shoppers begin opting for Tracr diamonds over their blockchain-free counterparts, more diamond businesses will have an incentive to participate in the program. This purchasing power will determine the Tracr landscape in the decades to come.
Image: Employee holding three rough diamonds in palm of hand at DBSSSA Building Kimberley South Africa. (Ben Perry/Armoury Films/De Beers)