To learn about cutting-edge breakthroughs that will define the future of the diamond industry, Solitaire spoke to David Block, CEO, Sarine Technology Group, who gave an insider’s perspective on the disruptive traceability solution the Sarine Diamond Journey, the revolutionary eGrading system, the potential for automated diamond cutting & polishing and much more.
Over the last 20 years at Sarine Technology Group CEO David Block has played an instrumental role in the initiation, development and introduction of many of the revolutionary innovations the Group has brought to the diamond industry. Under his guidance, Sarine’s diamond planning systems have become the de facto standard for diamond manufacturing with over 70 million diamonds planned on these each year. David holds a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from the Kellogg-Recanati School of Business, a joint degree from Northwestern University in the US and Tel Aviv University in Israel, and a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Academic College in Israel.
Israel has earned a strong reputation as a tech capital. What makes the country so successful as the birthplace of cutting-edge technology? How did being based in this high-tech ecosystem influence Sarine’s development?
Israel has over the past few decades positioned itself as one of the leading global centres for research and technology development. With the national spending on R&D reaching the highest in the world alongside Korea, at nearly 4.5% of GDP and nearly 9% of the workforce involved in technology-related jobs, Israel is often known as ‘Silicon Wadi’, the smaller brother of the US Silicon Valley (‘wadi’ being Hebrew for canyon). I believe that Israel’s leading position in technology is a combination of a number of factors. First, Israel is a very small country with no natural resources (or at least until recently with the discovery of natural gas) thereby creating a situation that Israel is ‘forced’ to focus on activities that do not require large areas of land, such as agriculture and heavy industry.
Another significant aspect is the mandatory service in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force), which fosters innovation, collaboration and pushing the limits in the development of complex, multidisciplinary projects under very challenging deadlines. In addition, the country’s geopolitical reality, having no allies surrounding it, has also created a countrywide mindset that excellence and innovation is an element of survival. Naturally, Sarine being part of this unique ecosystem strives to be at the cutting edge of innovation and technology within the diamond gemstone industry. Our employees, who are at the heart of our success, are ingrained with these characteristics that are crucial in becoming a leading technology company in the diamond industry and maintaining that leadership in the years to come.
The elimination of human error is viewed as a mark of progress. What about computer-based errors, how does Sarine ensure that those are kept to a minimum in its diamond systems?
Human intelligence is highly advanced as compared to even the best technology, but it does have its limitations. As the saying goes – ‘we are only human’ and are prone to error due to a variety of reasons – be it fatigue, stress, environmental conditions, emotion etc… Therefore, I do not see AI replacing human intelligence for any or all tasks, but I do see it replacing certain tasks that are performed today by people. One of the advantages of technology is that it can be highly consistent when doing a repetitive task such as diamond grading. Technology is also not flawless but is not impacted by the many parameters that do influence human grading. Technology-related error can be minimised by developing monitoring and secondary systems as well as advanced test modules, thereby making technology dramatically more consistent and reliable than the same process performed by humans.
Give us a detailed breakdown (as nerdy as you wish) about the technology/engineering that makes Sarine Diamond Journey possible.
When setting out to develop a traceability solution we wanted to ensure that it will not create significant overhead and cost (both time and money) on the industry in terms of technologies and processes that need to be implemented. If significant overhead would be required, the adoption and scale up of such a system may be slow or even impossible. The ‘Sarine Diamond Journey™’ traceability solution was therefore based on already existing Sarine technology that is being used today throughout the pipeline, scanning approximately 100 million diamonds each year. Utilising this vast infrastructure that has been built up over the past 30 years, we have developed advanced algorithms that use the data created by the existing technologies in order to create end-to-end traceability capabilities.
The Sarine Diamond Journey™ begins at the mine, where all the rough diamonds in a package are scanned, and a unique 3D model generated for each stone. The producer completes the rough diamond registration process by adding other important features and data about each stone, and then uploads the information to the Sarine cloud database. At the next stage, at the factory, each rough stone is scanned by the manufacturer, who inputs the package ID and producer name to the system. A verification algorithm matches the rough stone in the package to the scans created by the miner/producer. If the match is positive, the stone is registered with the manufacturer. Validation continues through all the stages of the production process.
Every time the diamond is processed in a Sarine device, from planning to sawing to polishing, the system validates it according to scans and ID features previously recorded, and verification is automatically registered at every stage. This ensures continuous matching and validation throughout the transformation process from rough to polished, completely integrated in existing workflows with no interruption or added costs. When the polished plan is finalised, the system captures multiple features of the rough part and the polished part to enable matching of the original rough to the final polished stone. Once polishing is complete, the polished stone is matched against the final plan for validation. The polished diamonds then travel to Sarine’s AI lab, where the polished validation stage matches the diamond’s unique properties, such as proportions, inclusions and other features, to those registered during the final planning stage. This verifies that the polished stone is indeed derived from a specific rough stone.
From mine to manufacturer to AI lab, now the diamond goes to the jewellery retailer, with the generation of a customisable printed or digital Sarine Diamond Journey™ report that provides all the validated information gathered and recorded along the traceability journey, presented to customers with the branding of the retail store to enhance the purchase experience.
TruMatch is an optional add-on to the Sarine Diamond Journey, an in-store device that scans mounted or loose diamonds, matching them to their unique traceability report. Fingerprinting technology based on engraved QR code on the polished diamond enables real-time validation of the diamond’s ID and traceability journey to customers on the spot, boosting their confidence and smoothing the sales process.
Tell us about the industry response to your AI-based Diamond Lab and the technology involved there?
Diamond grading is about to change forever! Remember the days when you wanted to watch a movie and needed to drive to the video store to rent one (if you are younger than 30 you probably won’t remember…). Today everything is available instantly on your digital device, be it your smart TV in the comfort of your living room or on your mobile phone on the train on the way to work. Netflix changed the game forever and there is no going back to the old Blockbuster days.
After several years developing, testing and using our advanced AI grading technologies in our labs in Israel and India we are now ready to move ahead to the next stage – ‘’eGrading™’. eGrading is an ecosystem that uses our revolutionary grading technology and will enable grading polished diamonds accurately, consistently, efficiently and cost-effectively in the comfort of your factory or office without the need for the time-consuming and expensive process of shipping them to and back from an external grading lab. Our technology is an AI-based system that uses machine learning to ‘teach’ our algorithms to grade diamonds consistently according to any grading standard. As GIA is the global standard today, our machine learning is based on the GIA grading system but we can teach it any standard as can be seen from our work with Tiffany & Co. to adapt our system to their stringent standards. The days of digital and virtual grading are now just a step away.
Sarine has an ongoing patent-infringement case in India. How difficult is it to protect technology from spurious, illegal copycats?
Sarine has invested over the last decade ~$100 million on R&D and will continue investing significantly in R&D to create new and innovative products and services for the diamond industry. Without new developments, our industry will stagnate and eventually be unable to compete with other luxury segments or products. Such companies who sell pirated technology, infringing on our patents and copyrights do not invest on developing their own technologies and therefore customers ‘betting’ on such technologies will find themselves eventually left behind without the ability to access new and more advanced technologies as they are introduced. Sarine is both continuously innovating in order to provide more benefit to our loyal clients as well as having a zero tolerance policy on dealing with IP infringement. When our clients buy a Sarine product or service a significant part of the price is actually investing into their future ability to get at the cutting edge of technology. There is no doubt that piracy negatively affects not only Sarine, but the industry as a whole by diverting time and resources to fighting piracy rather than developments that can further benefit the industry.
In relation to diamonds, are there any promising new tech developments or disruptions on the horizon that you are genuinely excited about?!
We are extremely excited about our new eGrading technology which we are starting to roll out later this year. We believe eGrading will be a game changer for diamond grading by dramatically reducing time and cost as well as bringing diamond grading into the digital age. Sarine as the world’s leading diamond technology company is always working on the next or future technology for the diamond industry. Just look at the last 30 years of developments and you can rest assured that we are already working on the next revolutionary technology….
With origin and provenance becoming such an important subject in the diamond industry, and diamonds literally being able to tell stories: 1) Are there any technology breakthroughs still to be achieved in this area? 2) Should men everywhere be worried about diamonds revealing the names of all the women they were gifted to?
Traceability is still a very new subject that will mature over the next few years until it becomes as commonplace as the 4Cs. There is still a lot we can do from a technology perspective and later this year we will be introducing a very significant development in this field. Sarine will continue to invest significantly in our ‘Diamond Journey’ traceability solution as the demand for traceability grows from the consumer. Regarding your question to what information will be made available I don’t see any need for concern. Traceability at this stage is mainly focused on the tracking of the diamond rather than ownership or other personal details. Tracking ownership is a far more complex and sensitive issue which I believe will only be addressed at a later stage and I’m confident that the consumer will remain in full control of his personal information.
Will automated diamond cutting & polishing (with zero human intervention) become a reality anytime soon? Is Sarine doing any research in this field? If yes, could you share any early findings?
Automated cutting and polishing of diamonds has been continuously advancing over the past 20 or more years and I am confident that we will see dramatic changes over the next decade in how diamonds are cut and polished. We are seeing significant advances in the last few years with new technologies based on robots and advanced lasers that have the potential to bring diamond processing to the next level of automation.
In the past, Sarine has not been involved directly with the polishing process, but as a technology company we will continue researching and developing new technologies that can add value to the diamond industry, so I can’t promise that you won’t see Sarine involved in such activities in the future. There is no doubt that our industry standard scanning and planning technologies will need to be integrated into such automated polishing systems, in order to eliminate the transfer error from planning to execution.
Your outlook for the diamond market in H2 2021 and 2022.
I am optimistic for the remainder of this year and 2022. Last year was a very challenging one for the industry but in retrospect, it had several positive impacts on the diamond pipeline. For example, the industry is now a lot less dependent on extensive financing and has learned to operate at a lower level of financing. In addition, we have all learned how to use digital in our daily personal lives as well as in our businesses and I expect that the use of digital solutions will accelerate into 2022. Currently, there is strong consumer demand for diamond jewellery, which is the main driver for the entire pipeline, so I believe that if the producers and manufacturers are responsible in maintaining balanced inventory levels, we should all expect a shining future!