De Beers presses go on diamond traceability system

Diamond company De Beers has been developing a blockchain system to track its stones through the supply chain for some time, and has now activated it in response to the Russian aggression in Ukraine.

The company’s chief executive Bruce Cleaver told Reuters that Western customers want to make sure that diamonds they purchase do not come from Russia.

UK-based De Beers has been working on the system, called Tracr, since 2018 and has already registered a quarter of its total production by value on the blockchain. Each diamond is given a unique ID when it is mined, which allows a chain of custody to be generated for the item all the way to the retailer.

Each transaction in the supply chain is record immutably on the blockchain and cannot be tampered with, according to De Beers, guaranteeing the provenance of a diamond and tis authenticity.

The launch comes as wide-ranging sanctions have been imposed on Russian companies, including the Alrosa group, which is the world's largest producer of diamonds with revenues of more than $3 billion a year in 2020.

Reuters notes that jewellery retailers including Signet and Tiffany have halted the use of Russian diamonds in their products.

Diamond traceability is an important measure used to tackle the illicit trade in conflict or blood diamonds, which are mined in war zones and have been used to fund oppressive activities in countries like Angola, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau.

Tracr has been set up as an independent business, selling access to the platform - which can register 1 million diamonds per week – to producers like De Beers.

Its deployment "will underpin confidence in natural diamonds and represents the first step in a technological transformation that will enhance standards and raise expectations of what we are capable of providing to our end clients," said Cleaver.

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