Russia’s Alrosa is offering diamond buyers a new laser-marking technology that will allow customers to trace rough stones and polished gems from the mine to the jewelry store.
The company applies a so-called nano mark to the atomic structure of the diamond, replicating a process that occurs in stones over millions of years, said Oleg Kovalchuk, a researcher at Alrosa’s institute in Siberia. The physical mark is only visible with a special scanner, and differs from other modern tracing techniques based on keeping a digital copy of the gem, including with blockchain, or laser engraving, which can be polished off, according to Alrosa.
“By purchasing jewelry with a diamond protected by a nano mark, the buyer can be sure that it is actually made by Alrosa,” CEO Sergey Ivanov said in the statement.
The diamond industry has worked hard to reassure consumers that its stones aren’t linked to the gems-for-weapons dealing that sullied its reputation in the wake of wars in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Angola. While so-called “blood diamonds” were addressed in the 2002 international agreement known as the Kimberly Process, more recent trafficking in precious stones from countries such Central African Republic have highlighted the need to trace the origin of gems.
Alrosa’s nano mark can’t be destroyed, while the industry’s biggest certification center -- GIA certification -- has confirmed that it doesn’t affect the quality of the diamond, Alrosa said.
The nano mark is linked to Alrosa’s digital database, providing information about the diamond’s origin and characteristics, plus an identification number, photo and video. The miner plans to offer scanners to its customers, with the technology also providing a way of differentiating their gems from lab-grown diamonds.
Alrosa is currently seeking patents for the technology in the world’s leading diamond-trading centers.
Rival De Beers uses a blockchain system to track diamonds, while Alrosa also already has a program that allows buyers to track the diamond’s history in detail, using an identity number and electronic and video passports.