Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Building trust by enhancing transparency in gemstone journeys

Published: Dec 20, 2019 02:01:23 PM IST
Updated: Jan 24, 2020 03:19:16 PM IST

Building trust by enhancing transparency in gemstone journeys
There is no disputing the growing preference for responsibly sourced gemstones. Yet until relatively recently, there was no reliable way to trace their journeys. Those patrons who sought to purchase pieces that were mindfully mined and marketed, were always left uncertain about the genuineness of claims of responsible sourcing. Another concern with regard to precious stones has been their authenticity. Despite certification and precautions during transfers from one owner to the next, there were cases of fraud.

Within this milieu, Gemfields, as a world-leading supplier of responsibly sourced coloured gemstones, has been developing innovative technology to eliminate these concerns. In partnership with the Gübelin Gem Lab, a state-of-the-art gemstone analysis laboratory, Gemfields has facilitated traceability along every stage of the value chain and provides seamless documentation. These technologies go a long way towards allaying the concerns of consumers who would like to be assured about the origins of gemstones they purchase and the sanctity of their journeys.

Traceability technology
In a game-changing breakthrough in the coloured gemstone industry, Gemfields has partnered with the Gübelin Gem Lab to adopt traceability technology, which creates independent proof of the provenance of emeralds. This test, called the Emerald Paternity Test, relies on customised DNA-based nanoparticles, infused into the natural fractures of emeralds, to trace them back to the exact place of mining. Taking into account the fact that an emerald undergoes various processes before reaching the end consumer, such as cleaning, cutting, polishing, transportation, setting, etc., the test has been developed specifically to survive all these. The nanoparticles can be retrieved and decoded at any stage along the supply chain.

From miners (both big corporates and cooperatives of small and artisanal miners) and governments to trade organisations, industry watchdogs, jewellery brands and final customers, this technology offers all stakeholders a completely new level of transparency when sourcing gemstones, instilling confidence and creating trust.

Building trust by enhancing transparency in gemstone journeys
Digital and decentralised recordkeeping
In addition to the Paternity Test, another of Gübelin’s Provenance Proof technologies that Gemfields endorses and applies is Provenance Proof Blockchain. This technology enables security, along with transparency and traceability.

Based on a decentralized ledger, the Provenance Proof Blockchain allows all stages along the value chain to be traced, for any type of gemstone. The prime advantage of the blockchain is its high degree of security and seamless documentation of the data.

In fact, this technology enables information to be encoded and backed up on multiple servers worldwide. Any new entry that is made on a gemstone is checked for its legitimacy before being entered. This helps to prevent the data from being altered, deleted or manipulated. As a result, the individual history of each gemstone from the mine to the final customer can be stored permanently and securely. At the backend of this technology, sophisticated algorithms check that the new data is not conflicting with any existing data, and that the person entering it is authorised.

Provenance Proof Blockchain is now available and accessible to all participants in the precious gem and jewellery industry, free of charge. However, the visibility into the history of a specific gemstone is granted only to those who own the gemstone or hold it in their custody. Once the gem passes to the next owner, the exclusive right to see the existing blockchain data is handed over to this person or company, along with the permission to enter new data on that specific gemstone. As a precaution, before access to the platform is granted to new users, they are subject to a KYC / background check, based on the user name and other credentials.

With this integrative solution, all stakeholders – even artisanal and small-scale miners – can be involved and contribute their share of efforts towards the larger mission of creating more transparency, credibility and integrity in the world of gemstones.

Next level responsibility
Gemfields is the industry’s first company to offer coloured gemstones with Gübelin’s Provenance Proof technologies. These not only cite the gemstone’s place of origin, but also set up an encrypted record of a gemstone’s journey as it changes hands from mine to consumer, providing a marked improvement in gemstone traceability and transparency across the industry.

All these initiatives are driven by Gemfields’ belief that coloured gemstones should be mined and marketed responsibly, on the strength of three key values - legitimacy, transparency and integrity.

Taking responsibility above and beyond introducing technology and taking a leading role in modernising the coloured gemstone sector, Gemfields constantly aims to operate in a way that contributes positively to national economies, by building positive impact and lasting livelihoods for the communities around its mines.

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