Provenance Proof: A blockchain initiative from Gübelin and Everledger

There is surely no better example of the convergence between the ethical and technological shifts within the fine jewellery industry than the newly established 'Provenance Proof Blockchain’ initiative, a Gübelin Gem Lab and Everledger partnership.

As one of the world’s most respected gemmological laboratories, the Gübelin Gem Lab has almost 100 years experience in analysing diamonds, coloured gemstones and pearls. Everledger was founded in 2015, and provides industries with a tamper-proof ledger of data; such as the provenance, carat weight and exact facet map of each gemstone, as well as numerous other reference points which create a unique information blueprint for every individual gem. 

"Having successfully applied Everledger’s innovative solution to the diamond industry, it is a natural progression to now expand the application to the coloured gemstone industry.” - Leanne Kemp, CEO and founder of Everledger.

Currently allowing access to the provenance of over 1.8 million diamonds on their blockchain, Everledger’s technology has already expanded into the world of fine wine and art, among other luxury industries. Within this collaboration the ‘Provenance Proof Blockchain’ will contain the entire lifecycle of a gemstone - from miners, dealers, cutters, gemmological laboratories, wholesalers, jewellers, retailers and eventually to the end consumer - will contribute and have access to all of this data, but will not be able to change or effect it in any way.  To learn more about this intriguing new technology, I spoke to Dr. Daniel Nyfeler, Managing Director of the Gübelin Gem Lab:

Daniel Nyfeler, Managing Director of the Gübelin Gem Lab

Jodie Smith: When did you first become aware of Everledger and their innovative practices within the diamond industry?

DN: We came across Everledger at an early stage, but our initial contact followed their launch of a proof of concept for a digital ledger, together with the Singapore Diamond Investment Exchange in 2017. Immediately, we recognised the possibilities for a partnership, as both companies have leading reputations in our individual areas of expertise. Everledger has hands-on experience in creating a blockchain for physical, valuable goods, as well as sharing Gübelin’s enthusiasm for building a solution that will serve the entire gemstone community.

JS: Do you envisage this blockchain technology becoming the industry standard for all diamonds and gemstones within the next 5 years?

DN: We expect that this technology will be embraced by those who recognise the necessity to change towards a more transparent supply chain, and those who realise the potential of this technology. We believe this will be a significant share of the gemstone market.

Leanne Kemp, CEO and founder Everledger

JS: Could you explain the importance of the Provenance Proof initiative, and its significance to the gemstone market?

DN: In today's system, the end consumer does not get a proven and complete history of the jewellery they buy, as the transactions between the mine and the end consumer are not properly tracked. The technologies that we are developing under the Provenance Proof initiative will offer ways to change that. This transparency has the potential to make the final product cheaper for the end consumer, by cutting out intermediaries who add to the price, but do not add value to a stone. The main beneficiaries will be the ones at the beginning of the supply chain, such as the miner and the cutter, and at the end of the supply chain, i.e. the retailer and the end consumer.

JS: Would you expect that this shift in the way that we collect, store and access information on precious gems to be led by dealers and wholesalers? Or will consumer pressure for transparency effect change?

DN: We believe that the main pressure will come from the end consumer, as well as some forward thinking retailers and jewellery brands. For several years, there has been a growing awareness of the need for transparency, and we as an industry need to finally begin to allow our intentions and words followed by concrete action.

Gübelin Gem Lab

JS: When can we expect to see the launch of this coloured gemstone blockchain technology?

DN: We expect to have the technology build in the first half of 2018, which will be extensively tested with a small number of partners. Once this testing is completed, we will open it up to the entire industry.

The partnership of the Everledger and Gübelin ‘Provenance Proof' blockchain has the potential to create transparency in the formerly opaque world of gemstone purchasing.

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