Russia crisis prompts De Beers to fast-track Tracr

Joshua Freedman

The recent geopolitical storm pushed De Beers to accelerate the expansion of its blockchain platform, chief brand officer David Prager told Rapaport News.

The miner recently launched a scaled-up version of Tracr, enabling the industry to trace all De Beers diamonds through to the jewelry store. The business-to-business (B2B) tool lets retailers see a stone’s entire path through the supply chain, including any information sightholders choose to share about the manufacturing process.

The company signed up many of its contract clients at sights this year, and stepped up its efforts in response to the heightened need for source verification since the Russia crisis began, Prager, who is also executive vice president, explained.

Read the full interview here.

What were Tracr’s capabilities before this announcement, and how have these changed?

The first thing that changes is now with scale, [enabling] sightholders to participate, which means we [can] stand each sightholder up with what’s called an “instance” [similar to an account] on Tracr. Once they are on Tracr, they have diamonds that are uploaded that they can pull through the value chain [as they polish and sell the stones].

We’ve also created the Tracr lookup, which allows the sightholder to show, irrefutably, to the retail customer through a web-based lookup that the diamond they’re selling to that retailer is, in fact, the diamond that’s come from us. That’s what we consider to be a first step, but a hugely important step, giving the sightholder the tools to provide visible assurance attached to the Tracr ID number that the diamond that the retailer is buying does come from De Beers.

Every time there’s information to upload about how the diamond changes form, they upload it to their “instance.” The information of that diamond changing is tracked against that Tracr ID number.

What is the verification process?

Let’s say a retailer has bought a 1.2-carat, E, VVS diamond; they’ve got it in their hand, and they’re told by the sightholder that its Tracr ID is whatever the number is. They verify that the diamond they’re holding is, in fact, the diamond they can see on Tracr because it comes with the ID number and all of the spec are exactly matching that diamond. So they can see the two are exactly the same.

Is that ID number on a piece of paper or in an inscription?

It’s not as an inscription right now. That might be in the future. Our focus was to bring to market a solution for people who needed to know the provenance of the diamonds they were buying. Obviously, there’s the current geopolitical context, where more and more American retailers need to understand where the goods they’re buying come from. They need assurance beyond just the self-declaration. They need an immutable demonstration of where a diamond comes from. That’s why we’ve brought Tracr to scale fast. The diamond comes with a code and then the retailer is able to go online, look up that code and see all of the spec of that particular diamond associated with that diamond right in front of them. They can see all of the spec of the diamond they’re holding, but also all the spec of the diamond before it got to them in the manufacturing stage and all the way back to rough, and of course, when it came from De Beers.

What information does it have about what happened at manufacturing? Does it say where it was manufactured and by whom?

The sightholder will be able to upload information about themselves, and it’s down to them whether they want to share that further down the line. So it can include information about where it was manufactured. The sightholder is in full control of their data, so they can determine who is able to see what about the diamond.

Is there a minimum amount of information that the sightholder has to share?

They don’t have to share who they are, but the retailer will know who they are because they’re the ones selling them the diamond. What has to be on there is where the diamond has come from, which is, of course, the purpose of the platform, and the identifying features of the diamond that demonstrate that it is attached to that Tracr ID.

What is in place to ensure that someone doesn’t take a lab-grown diamond or a non-De Beers natural diamond and cut it to the same specifications as a De Beers diamond [and pass it off as a De Beers diamond]?

First, there’s Tracr itself. The details of the spec of the diamond are exacting. If the sightholder chooses, they can upload their grading certificate onto the platform. So the retailer can see the exact details of the diamond and the certificate of the diamond. They can see images of the diamond So they will know with surety whether that diamond is natural or lab-grown, and whether it comes from De Beers or not. The second thing is that overlaid on top of this is our pipeline integrity framework [that ensures segregated supply chains].

What if someone did manage to cut a diamond to the exact 4Cs of a stone on Tracr?

You would still see the images of the diamond, the inclusions. That would make it very difficult to [commit fraud in that way], not to mention the overlay of pipeline integrity.

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Source Rapaport