Retail

Tapping The Blockchain To Keep Jewelry Ethical

If the classic 70s film “Love Story” is to be believed, love means never having to say you’re sorry.

There are reasons, of course, not to believe that famous line from the movie: First and foremost, anyone who has ever been in love or even vaguely close to it can attest to the fact that in fact, love means having to say you’re sorry – a lot.

But minimally, one might hope that love never means having to say you’re sorry for a Valentine’s Day gift – particularly if that gift happens to a diamond or, better yet, a lot of diamonds.

Brilliant Earth wants to make sure that “hope” is actually a certainty when it comes to diamond jewelry, but to also ensure that their gems are ethically sourced. And sadly, according to Brilliant Earth, when it comes to diamonds and other gemstones, ethics are far from a given. So-called “blood diamonds” get a lot of attention, Brilliant Earth noted – as does the “Kimberley Process” that purportedly removes conflict-tainted gems from sale.

The problem, according to Brilliant Earth, is that the Kimberley Process narrowly defines “conflict diamonds” to only include those gems sold by rebel forces to finance their fight.

“[The Kimberley Process] fails to address more prevalent human rights abuses, including violence, worker exploitation and environmental degradation,” Brilliant Earth noted. “When we visited the KP Plenary in December, we came away with skepticism that the KP will be the driver of an ethical diamond trade.”

The goal for their firm, they noted, is to offer a “beyond conflict-free” standard that gives buyers the ability to know exactly where on Earth their diamond came from, who mined it and who manufactured it. Suppliers are carefully selected and must be able to prove a robust chain of custody protocol for their diamonds and have the ability to track and segregate diamonds by origin.

Historically, that is a rather tall order, as a frequent complaint made within the industry is that it is nearly impossible to track every diamond so carefully. But Brilliant Earth – with a big assist from the blockchain experts at Everledger – beg to differ. It’s not easy work, but with the distributed public ledger technology that underlies the blockchain, when used properly, they counter that it’s far from impossible.

The Bespoke Blockchain Solution 

Brilliant Earth, in fact, believes that with the arrival of the blockchain, the time for excuses on this topic is over.

“Brilliant Earth has always been an advocate for transparency and change, and our partnership with Everledger demonstrates our latest step in reaching for the highest standards possible in the jewelry industry,” noted Carrie George, Brilliant Earth’s director of responsible sourcing, in a recent blog post. “By integrating Everledger’s blockchain-based solution platform into our current processes, we hope to establish a new standard for addressing social and environmental issues related to mining and manufacturing of gemstones and precious metals.”

In the past, it has been difficult to discern what is and is not a conflict diamond.But with Everledger’s new bespoke blockchain solution, Brilliant Earth can create a new process for its suppliers by recording all their gems for sale on the blockchain and beginning an official digital “paper trail.” Using that trail, customers will be able to see exactly where the jewels they are buying actually originated and every stop they made along the way.

This is Everledger’s second such major gem tracking project: In early 2018, the firm announced a deal with the House of Gübelin to track colored gemstones of all kinds.

“We are excited to develop this strategic partnership with Brilliant Earth, which sees further expansion of our real-world application of emerging technology to facilitate the transformative approach to industries for a more sustainable and responsible profile,” Leanne Kemp, Everledger’s founder and CEO, noted in a statement.

“Our hybrid technical model encompasses next-level solutions, which include the use of smart contracts to empower the blockchain, allowing new value-added services integral to facilitate compliance to standards in a seamless and speedy manner.”

The Ethical Shopper

Brilliant Earth, the company noted in their written comments, has long appealed to millennial customers who are looking for more than just sparkle from their accessories. “Younger customers don’t just want to look good in what they are wearing; they want to feel good about it as well.”

 

And while Brilliant Earth has focused on providing exceptional jewelry that their customers can feel good about, the blockchain, they noted, will allow them to give their buyers an immutable history of authenticity and ownership.

 

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