De Beers looks to blockchain to help eradicate unethically sourced diamonds.

Something new is happening in the diamond industry—the De Beers Blockchain. The international diamond company is making a stand against blood diamonds and the violence that takes place in their acquisition.

De Beers has turned to blockchain technology to help combat the conflict diamond issue. With Corporate social responsibility in mind, the De Beers Blockchain will restructure the vetting process for diamond procurement.

But, What Exactly is Blockchain?

Blockchain technology has risen in prominence over recent years. While its roots can be traced back to 1976, when a publication discussed the idea, it was not until 2009 that Bitcoin implemented blockchain tech.

The concept of blockchain goes beyond cryptocurrency, and is much more complex. Essentially, blockchain is a database that is validated by a wider community as opposed to a central authority—like a bank. It also relies on this community to approve its collection of records. The name itself explains how two elements work in tandem; the “block” represents a number of transactional records while the “chain” links everything together with a hash function.

The blockchain is designed so that no one person or entity has control over its history, making it tamper-proof. This facilitates the automated and secure guarantee of trust between peers, whereas central authorities have been traditionally left to resolve transactions.

“It’s a huge public ledger as immutable as anything invented,” said Bruce Cleaver, Chief Executive of De Beers. “It’s a much more unhackable system than anything on a single server.”

Because of the design, it can be used to maintain a variety of information. This is where the De Beers Blockchain steps in.

De Beers Blockchain  

To ensure the authenticity of diamonds and their origins, this year De Beers is gearing up to launch the first industry-wide blockchain for tracking gems. The platform will trace the diamonds’ route through the value chain, from mine to consumer.

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

The De Beers Blockchain will be the first to span the entire value chain and be open to everyone in the industry, making the process more transparent and efficient.

“It has the ability to be very significant for the industry,” said Cleaver.

Ensuring diamonds are ethically sourced is the driving force for the De Beers Blockchain. The need to remove violently-sourced blood diamonds has been pressing for some time now. Everyone in the industry has shown a desire to curtail the existence of blood diamonds.

Doing Away With Blood Diamonds

The industry has been fighting blood diamonds with the Kimberley Process to increase transparency. Since its establishment, the process requires diamonds to be sent in sealed containers along with certificates stating they are conflict-free.

Violence in diamond mines remains an imminent problem, leading the gems to be tainted with human rights violations, worker exploitation, and environmental degradation. Blood diamonds have even been used to fund devastating civil wars in Africa. These are issues the De Beers Blockchain aims to address that the Kimberley Process struggled with.

An Unprecedented Platform

One of the unprecedented features of this new platform is that consumers will be able to track the path of ownership of each diamond. No matter how many times the gem is transferred, the De Beers Blockchain will keep record of it all.

“Even the smallest marks and blemishes on each diamond would be input into the blockchain,” added Ashiq Anjum, Professor of Distributed Systems at the University of Derby. “Anyone, anywhere in the world, can go back and check the origin, the provenance, and the unique aspects to ensure the diamond comes from ethical sources.”

The Visibility Driver

This level of transparency means it will become impossible to unethically source diamonds without consumers finding out about it. Visibility will be the driving force that removes blood diamonds from the De Beers Blockchain. It’s a platform that the company’s CEO believes in so strongly, that even in early stages, he encourages its use throughout the gem industry.

“It’s a bold step going public with a pilot, but we’re going public because we’re interested in the entire industry participating,” added Cleaver.