Image: De Beers
At this week’s sight in Botswana, De Beers offered all its sightholders diamonds whose origins can be tracked through the pipeline, through its blockchain-based Tracr platform.
“We have offered invoice-based origin information for some time,” says David Prager, De Beers’ chief brand officer. “But this is a whole new ball game. Before, you had provenance-based claims that couldn’t be linked to the individual diamond.”
This program “starts at the source, and gives each diamond a unique Tracr ID,” he says. “When the manufacturers sell those diamonds to retailers as polished, the retailer can look up the ID in the Tracr app and see the diamond came from us.”
While De Beers has been working on Tracr since 2018, Prager sees this launch as “a big step and a first step at the same time. We see a future in which consumers will insist on knowing where their products are from and the role they play in the world. This is our first step to providing that at scale.”
For now, the Tracr info will specify only that the diamond comes from De Beers, not from which one of its four producing countries (Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, and Canada) it originates.
“Without foreshadowing too much, this is the beginning step of the technology,” Prager says. “We see the technology advancing, enabling us to add more information about the countries of operation.”
Currently, about 25% of De Beers’ new production is listed on the Tracr platform; that’s currently limited to 1 ct. diamonds and above in rough. The long-term goal is to make all of De Beers’ production traceable.
“We estimate that today Tracr can load about a million individual stones per day onto the platform,” Prager says. “We’ll take time to integrate people into the system. But the overall goal is to load all our production onto the platform.”
That will include even the smallest stones.
“We know there’s a challenge in the industry around melee,” he says. “We’re working with sightholders to see a world in which there is a solution for every diamond that moves through the value chain, regardless of size.”
The need for diamond traceability has increased with the imposition of sanctions on Russian diamonds, Prager adds.
“This enables a retailer to have confidence in the product that they’re buying and what they’re selling in their store,” he says.
The Tracr system will come with “costs, but they are minimal and reflect the speed in bringing this to market,” he says.
While the Tracr program is meant for business-to-business use, the technology will underpin De Beers’ new code of origin, which it is piloting to consumers.
As for whether the sanctions against De Beers’ main competitor will boost the company’s sales, Prager says it’s already producing “at capacity.”
“American demand continues to be robust and strong,” he says. “Our production is what it is.”