De Beers steps up efforts to remove ‘conflict diamonds’ from the market

For the first time in its 130-year history, De Beers will sell diamond jewelry made in a lab rather than underground over billions of years. (Image: Shutterstock.)

Anglo American’s De Beers, the world’s largest rough diamond producer by value, unveiled Monday is investing in a blockchain-based platform to enable greater tracking of its stones.

The platform, which will be open for those in the industry, will allow tracing each diamond throughout the entire value chain — from mine to buyer.

“Consumers should be able to know there is an accurate register of a diamond’s journey that provides assurance of its provenance and authenticity,” said De Beers chief executive Bruce Cleaver.

De Beers says blockchain-based open platform will allow tracing each diamond throughout the entire value chain — from mine to buyer.

The diamond traceability platform is underpinned by so-called “blockchain technology,” which allows for a highly secure digital register that creates a tamper-proof and permanent record of interactions – in this instance, a diamond’s path through the value chain.

Cleaver said that, once established, it would operate as a shared platform, on top of which a range of solutions could be built.

“It can be thought of as akin to a smartphone and a range of apps – once the base blockchain technology is established, participants in the ecosystem can build applications for various uses, whether that’s as a trading platform, financial assurance tool or consumer-facing solution.”

Cleaver emphasized he was mindful of how the technology may spark more questions than answers, but he said it was necessary for the industry and De Beers to create a project that was collaborative and inclusive, secure, private and one that created a comprehensive record of a diamonds journey.

De Beers sells its diamonds mostly to authorized buyers at a series of so-called “sights” in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. Then, they are normally sent to be polished or cut before ending up with retailers.

Despite the establishment of the Kimberley Process in 2003, aimed at removing from the supply chain so-called conflict diamonds (those mined in an area of armed conflict and traded illicitly to finance the fighting), experts say trafficking of precious rocks is still ongoing.