Within the next five years, the diamond industry’s supply chain is likely to look different with an emphasis on a new-found level of transparency, predicts New York-based diamond analyst Paul Zimnisky.
In recent days the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) said that it has begun to receive the first diamonds submitted for its new Source Verification Service – which is now offered with the lab’s traditional grading reports “at no additional cost.”
In a press release disseminated on 27th July, the GIA noted that to qualify, manufacturers must go through a vetting process by an independent auditing firm to confirm that they can “successfully track a diamond from receipt of the rough diamond through the entire manufacturing process.”
Though not officially connected, given the timing, it is reasonable to affiliate the commercial launch of this service with the sanctions imposed on Russian diamonds by the US earlier in the year.
While formal sanctions include restrictions on the direct importation of new Russian rough or polished diamonds into the US, Russian origin stones that have been manufactured and sold abroad are not technically embargoed.
That said, “self-sanctioning” by influential downstream industry participants, including LVMH, the parent of Tiffany & Co., Richemont, the parent of Cartier, and Signet Jewelers, the largest diamond retailer in the US, have all pledged not to source any diamonds of Russian for the time being.
For the diamond industry’s midstream, the current conditions are bringing upon a new level of logistical challenges. Manufacturers and wholesalers are now pressured to segregate Russian and non-Russian goods to effectively cater to their respective clients, including the aforementioned majors.
The GIA’s new service provides a credible third-party audit solution for the midstream, but also the end-customer-facing downstream – in the event that front-line sales people face customer questions about Russian diamonds.
Further, in May, De Beers announced that its Tracr “blockchain platform” had finally been deployed at “scale”. The proprietary system provides “provenance assurance for 100% of De Beers diamonds from source to Sightholder to store.”
Tracr was initially unveiled in 2018 and currently registers as much as a quarter of De Beers production by value. It is a business-to-business platform, but it will eventually be integrated with De Beers’ “Code of Origin” initiative, the end-consumer-directed service, according to the company.
Within the next five years, the diamond industry’s supply chain is likely to look different with an emphasis on a new-found level of transparency. Starting with primary stones, i.e. “centre-stones,” and eventually followed by secondary stones, many consumers will know the source of their diamonds, just as they do the carat, colour, clarity and cut.
Importantly, going forward, diamond provenance initiatives will also allow natural diamonds to more effectively differentiate from the emergence of lab-grown diamonds. Provenance can play a key role in embellishing the “story telling” opportunity that is possible with natural diamonds – a characteristic that can elevate the high-end positioning of natural stones.
By providing origin, consumers also can take solace in the assurance that their diamond is in fact a real, natural diamond, and that it is not a conflict stone.
Paul Zimnisky, CFA is an independent diamond industry analyst and consultant based in the New York metro area. For regular in-depth analysis of the diamond industry please consider subscribing to his State of the Diamond Market, a leading monthly industry report; an index of previous editions can be found here. Also, listen to the Paul Zimnisky Diamond Analytics Podcast on iTunes or Spotify. Paul is a graduate of the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business with a B.S. in finance and he is a CFA charterholder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @paulzimnisky.
Disclosure: At the time of writing Paul Zimnisky held a long position in Lucara Diamond Corp, Star Diamond Corp, North Arrow Minerals Inc, Brilliant Earth Group and Barrick Gold Corp. Please read full disclosure at www.paulzimnisky.com.