Jewellery firms partner with IBM on industry blockchain initiative

A group of five gold and diamond industry companies, and an independent laboratory, have joined forced with technology firm IBM to develop the first cross-industry initiative to use blockchain technology to track the origin of jewellery and ensure it is ethically sourced.

The blockchain collaboration, known as TrustChain, will track and authenticate diamonds, precious metals and jewellery at all stages of the global supply chain, from the mine to the retailer.

This is a unique collaboration which leverages IBM’s technology and the UL, independent third-party verification, together with five diamond and jewellery companies that represent the entire supply chain:  diamond supplier Rio Tinto Diamonds; precious metal supplier, Leach Garner; precious metal refinery, Asahi Refinery; US jewellery retailer, Helzberg; and global jewellery manufacturer, the Richline Group.

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This consortium has been working together since the beginning of 2017 and is now, having completed a proof of concept, ready to communicate with the diamond and jewellery industry to increase awareness and understanding around the potential of blockchain technology.

According to a joint statement by the companies involved, the technology will initially help track six styles of diamond and gold engagement rings and is expected to be available to consumers by the end of 2018.

Blockchain, which first emerged as the system powering crypto currency bitcoin, is a shared database that is maintained by a network of computers connected to the internet. Because it makes it easier for multiple parties to jointly create and update tamper-proof records, the firms involved in the project believe it is well suited to securely and efficiently track and prove the origin and ethical sourcing of jewellery.

TrustChain has just completed its first proof-of-concept test, in which gold went from a mine in South Dakota to a refinery in Utah, to a fabricator in Massachusetts that converted the gold into casting nuggets and grains. Those then went to a manufacturer in India that made engagement rings and set diamonds in them. The rings went to a distribution facility and then to Helzberg in the US. UL, which helps companies ensure responsible purchases, monitored the transactions throughout the process.

Other responsible jewelry firms, suppliers and retailers, will be welcomed to join the initative in 2019.

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