IBM announces blockchain network to track and authenticate diamonds

IBM TrustChain

IBM TrustChain

IBM has announced TrustChain, a blockchain network that tracks and authenticates diamonds and precious metals from mine to market.

Working alongside a group of leaders in the gold and diamond industry – Asahi Refining, Helzberg Diamonds, LeachGarner, Richline Group and UL – the solution aims to bring transparency and provenance to the consumer by creating a trusted database that tracks every step of the supply chain.

“This initiative is important for our industry as we seek to raise the collective responsibility and provenance practices to new heights.” said Mark Hanna, chief marketing officer of Richline. “TrustChain is the first blockchain of its kind within our industry, designed as a solution that marries IBM’s leading blockchain technology with responsible sourcing, verification and governance by third party organizations, led by UL as the administrator.”

The technology aims to give consumers answers to common questions when buying jewellery, such as how the metal was mined and whether it was sourced from an ethical region. A participating brand will be able to pull up information on the full history of an engagement ring, per example, and that information is then available on a customer-facing web database.

At present, TrustChain is piloting the tracking of six different styles of diamond and gold engagement rings on the blockchain platform.

A public-facing interface that would allow consumers to scan a QR code to pull up more information is in the works, Jason Kelley, the GM of blockchain services at IBM, told TechCrunch.

IBM TrustChain

IBM TrustChain

To add another level of security, the IBM network has a mechanism for the participants of that chain to check the validity of each transaction, every step of the way, as a consensus. If there is a dispute, Kelley tells TechCrunch, a participant can click on a trusted chain and see what has happened immediately, which reduces the number of steps traditionally involved in a process like this.

Besides the enormous surge of interest in blockchain, examples of the technology being deployed have thus far been scarce. Major retailers such as Walmart and most recently, Starbucks, have been piloting the technology in order to provide consumers with the information they crave, yet still on a smaller scale.

Diamonds and precious metals is clearly an industry with a large demand for this type of technology, as seen by De Beers announcing it is also working on a blockchain program earlier this year. For luxury in particular, the benefits that the technology brings to consumers will increase the pressure for brands to be more open about their production practices and, eventually, more sustainable in their choice of suppliers.