Chain of Trust The jewelry industry begins embracing blockchain technology

Imagine a common scenario: A woman visits a jewelry retailer or contacts a designer to shop for a special piece for herself. Before making the purchase, she starts to ask questions: Where did the diamond or gemstone come from? Were the materials responsibly sourced? How did you or your company obtain it?

Meet today’s contemporary jewelry consumer, who wants ethically sourced jewelry and, more importantly, to know the story behind it. She joins the vast majority of jewelry buyers, according to a 2015 Nielsen report, which said that almost 75 percent of global Millennials and 66 percent of all consumers are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand. The jewelry industry is embracing this trend, with more and more stakeholders committing to practices that uphold human rights, labor rights, environmental im-pact, mining practices, and more.

And that’s a good thing because in this age of computers and global access to information, consumers have come to expect that lineage of information prior to purchasing. As technology catches up and is applied to the jewelry industry, it is getting increasingly more likely that those consumers will not only be able to see the supply chain more clearly, but know it is credible and verified. And the way they’ll likely be able to do that? Blockchain technology.

What Is Blockchain?

Blockchain technology is emerging and it’s going to make a significant impact on the jewelry industry, say experts. It will eventually allow those in the industry to track diamonds, gemstones, and metal—virtually everything involved in the making of jewelry—throughout the supply chain.

While a complex system, blockchain is really appropriately named. Simply put, it is a chain of blocks of data that are essentially a shared database or digital ledger that is stored across multiple computer networks. Think of it from the starting point: a piece of information or record is uploaded. It has a digital mark or signature on it. Then the record is validated throughout the network (or “nodes”) as it moves through the process using consensus algorithms. If it passes the validation, the record is then timestamped and embedded into a block of information. Each block contains a hash (a digital fingerprint or unique identifier) and the hash of the previous block. The previous block hash links the blocks together, creating an immutable chain.

This technology has been around since 2008, but it generated more headlines when it was used for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Users liked that the technology allowed them to trade funds directly with each other without a bank or middleman charging fees and taking time to conduct the transactions. Users also were enthused about the idea of a secure network that exists in numerous places and can’t be hacked or forged.

“Blockchain and the jewelry industry were made for each other,” says Anne Miller, a Massachusetts-based business transformation consultant. “Provenance and responsible sourcing are critical industry challenges that blockchain can address. With blockchain, you have shared access to data, and when you get to the data, it is accurate. As transactions move from point to point, you know who you are engaging with, that the thing is what it says it is, and that what’s supposed to happen is happening. All of this is moving in real time—cutting out friction, delays, and intermediaries.”

Technology companies are taking notice. IBM has emerged as a powerhouse in blockchain technology, developing projects across a number of industries, from food sourcing to healthcare to jewelry. It began a collaboration with major diamond and jewelry companies from around the world on an initiative called TrustChain®. The consortium began working in 2017 with the goal to track and authenticate diamonds, precious metals, and jewelry at all stages of the global supply chain, from mine to retailer. This effort combines the strength of IBM technology with wide expertise in the jewelry industry. Involved in the project are the Richline Group, Underwriters Laboratories, LeachGarner, Helzberg Diamonds, and Asahi Refining.

Blockchain Mark Hanna

As the chief marketing officer for the Richline Group, Mark Hanna was a founder of TrustChain®, which makes sense given his company’s commitment to social conscience. Through the Richline Responsible Initiative, the company says they are committed to “ethical best practices and a fully responsible supply chain as well as verified trust.”

“It is about the 5Ts for suppliers and retailers to provide for consumer ethical concerns: track, trace, transparency, truthful, and trusted,” Hanna says. “Socially responsible sourcing is imperative in the jewelry industry. The blockchain protocol/platform provides the technical system to optimize a chain of custody documentation inclusive of every participant in a product’s journey.”

Hanna says unlike cryptocurrencies, TrustChain® is not an open, decentralized system. TrustChain® uses a platform that is private, and potential users need permission to join the network. Only those authorized may contribute, and they will have been fully evaluated for best practices with third-party confirmation (such as being a certified member of the Responsible Jewellery Council). Hanna says interactions are guided by versions of a “Smart Contract,” which includes all the participant-to-participant requirements of the product, plus all the ethical confirmations compulsory by TrustChain®. And since the data within the chain is transparent to every participant throughout the chain, there would need to be multiple collusions to create incorrect data on essential elements.

Another major blockchain initiative within the industry involves De Beers, which conceived Tracr in 2017 and rolled out its pilot last year in a comprehensive “mine-to-finger” traceability solution for the entire diamond industry. It joined with Russian miner, Alrosa, and five diamond manufacturers, in addition to Signet Jewelers Ltd. as well as Asia’s Chow Tai Fook.

David Bouffard, vice president corporate affairs of Signet Jewelers and chair of the Responsible Jewellery Council, says it was a natural decision to join this effort. “When De Beers approached us to participate in a pilot for their Tracr initiative, we did not hesitate. The potential for blockchain to help strengthen the integrity of the global diamond supply chain is beneficial to both Signet and the industry as a whole.”

Tracr works by having industry participants go through a KYC (Know Your Customer) process. They connect to the platform and create their unique identity. Then, for example, they can upload a digital certificate of a diamond, which has primary and secondary information in it (such as cut, clarity, grading certificates, invoices, etc.). All data is encrypted and stored in a blockchain. This now becomes a historical ledger that is secure and en-crypted, but available to users.

In addition to tracing and tracking precious metals and diamonds, blockchain technology is also being put to use with colored gemstones. Gübelin Gem Lab launched the Provenance Proof Blockchain during the 2019 Tucson gem shows. Its goal is to provide the industry with a tool that enables the tracing of specific gemstones along the supply chain. Building the system is Everledger, a London-based company that was created in 2015 and says it became the first company to start tracking the movement of diamonds in 2017 via its Diamond Time-Lapse Protocol. Rounding out the team is the mining company, Fura Gems, which will help to develop and test this new system.

According to the initiative, Provenance Proof Blockchain is suitable for any type of gemstone. All processes, including registration and uploading data, can be done on a smartphone, making it inclusive for all types and sizes of stakeholders, from artisanal miners and large cutters to gem labs and retailers.

What Comes Next?

While all these initiatives are on the road to qualified success, there are some twists and turns ahead. Since this technology is still developing, experts say there are still many unknowns, and the technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace.

“The technical challenges are primarily the lack of interoperability between various blockchain protocols,” says Hanna. “This eliminates the potential for far more participants in the chain due to different protocols.”

Interoperability issues can add costs and delays in processing, not to mention the inconvenience of stakeholders having to be active participants in more than one initiative. However, experts believe that as new innovations come on board, interoperability issues will be resolved.

Bouffard says the complexity and diversity of global supply chains across multiple minerals and geographies are the biggest challenges facing initiatives. “We work to be inclusive and help our supply chain partners evolve and improve,” he says. “We try to leverage the benefits from partners from whom we source larger diamonds, where tracking and tracing is already underway, and Tracr can be more readily applied. The biggest challenge is in melee, which represents the vast majority of Signet’s diamond supply chain. Developing applications of Tracr for melee will be of tremendous benefit to Signet and the industry.”

There’s also an impact to core business strategies and procedures, as well as legal issues, adds Miller. “It changes policies, standards, governance, procedures, etc.,” she says. “In addition, legal implications are still being understood and worked out. The distributed nature of blockchain introduces new challenges, for example, around jurisdiction, service levels and performance, liability, intellectual property, data privacy, compliance, and more.”

Joining an Initiative

Companies thinking about wading into a blockchain initiative should educate themselves first, say experts. There may be no fee to join these initiatives, but companies have to be responsible for their own integration of their systems and there can be transaction fees.

“Companies would be well-served to investigate what is available rather than embark on their own system,” notes Bouffard. “It’s important that these efforts take into account the realities and practicalities of the global supply chain, as well as existing best practices, so as not to be extraordinarily burdensome or exclusive.”

Remember it will take some time as well, Bouffard adds. “The application of blockchain to the minerals supply chain remains in its nascent stages; we will need to allow time for significant learning before we have a clearer view of the most appropriate ways forward, especially for the many small or medium-size companies that represent our global supply chain.”

Miller agrees and says full adoption of this technology is still years away. “Gartner Inc., a leading research and advisory company, estimates a 5- to 10-year time-scale before blockchain enters the mainstream. Similar to the internet, there will be a shakeout of providers and the full transformation blockchain can enable will take time.”

Hanna believes that blockchain technology will make its impact eventually, especially as there is increasing pressure for documented proof of ethical practices, which he thinks will someday turn into an industry-wide mandate.

“We firmly believe in the future potential of blockchain,” he says. “It may be over-hyped in the short-run but very underestimated for the longer term.”

Will the use of blockchain technology affect costs of goods? Hanna says initially there may be incrementally higher costs as systems are constructed and people are trained. The belief over time is that efficiencies throughout the full procurement process will offset those initial costs.

Despite any challenges, Hanna says the use of blockchain technology will become essential in telling the full story about any piece of jewelry. “The added benefits of the TrustChain® are in the expanded and demonstrated story of the full path of the product,” says Hanna.

Bouffard looks forward to the day blockchain is commonplace. “For us, blockchain is about industry, not items. We are working toward a time in which blockchain will become the technology most used to verify responsible supply chains and all the companies within that chain. Over time, Signet believes that responsible sourcing will become a normal part of doing business—not a bolt-on afterthought for when you have time, but rather a core business function. Fine jewelry customers around the world expect nothing less.”


Richline’s Gemvara Adds Lab-Grown Diamonds to Ring Builder

New York—Gemvara, the e-commerce site for custom jewelry owned by Richline Group, is getting into the lab-grown game. The company announced this week that it is now offering customers both natural and lab-grown diamonds as well as colored gemstones as options on its ring builder.

Gemvara  is selling lab-grown center and accent diamonds as well as lab-grown sapphires, rubies and emeralds 3 mm and larger for most jewelry styles.

Richline said the initiative is currently in a “private test” with a “large retailer” under the name Gembuilder.

The company is not disclosing which retailer is testing the initiative at this time, though it seems likely it is one of the sizable retailers owned by parent company Berkshire Hathaway.

Berkshire Hathaway owns 210-store chain Helzberg Diamonds and 92-store chain Ben Bridge Jeweler along with Borsheims in Omaha, Nebraska.

Richline said it will expand the program to a limited beta test group later this year, allowing retailers to utilize Gemvara’s customization platform for their own customers for both complete designs as well as semi-mounts with lab-grown diamond accents.

Gembuilder is slated for a wider rollout in 2020.

When asked the source of its lab-grown diamonds for Gemvara/Gembuilder, Richline said it is not releasing that information at this time.

The sale of lab-grown diamonds on Gemvara is Richline’s second initiative involving lab-grown diamonds after the launch of “Grown With Love” at J.C. Penney and Macy’s last year.

For that line, Richline sources some of the lab-grown diamonds from  WD Lab Grown Diamonds.

“By adding both the Gemvara and the upcoming Gembuilder launch to the company’s already robust lab-grown diamond offerings, we are proud to be at the forefront of this exciting new space with an innovative experience that offers modern shoppers meaningful choices,” Richline Group President and CEO Dave Meleski said.

For more information on Gembuilder, email

Richline will exhibit at the upcoming JCK Las Vegas jewelry trade show, scheduled for May 31-June 3 at The Venetian and Sands Expo.

Contact Michael Schechter,, for an appointment.

Consortium of Jewelry Industry Leaders Announce TrustChain®, First Global Blockchain Initiative to Bring Full Transparency to Consumers

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–IBM (NYSE: IBM) and a consortium of gold and diamond industry leaders today announced the first cross-industry initiative to use blockchain to trace the provenance of finished pieces of jewelry across the supply chain for increased transparency.

Asahi Refining (precious metals refiner), Helzberg Diamonds (U.S. jewelry retailer), LeachGarner (precious metals supplier), The Richline Group (global jewelry manufacturer) and UL (independent, third party verification) are launching the TrustChain® Initiativepowered by the IBM Blockchain Platform, delivered via the IBM Cloud.

TrustChain® is initially tracking six styles of diamond and gold engagement rings on the blockchain network. As the program continues to develop, TrustChain® jewelry is expected to be accessible to consumers in participating retail stores by the end of 2018.

“This initiative is important for our industry as we seek to raise the collective responsibility and provenance practices to new heights. TrustChain® is the first blockchain of its kind within our industry, designed as a solution that marries IBM’s leading blockchain technology with responsible sourcing, verification and governance by third party organizations, led by UL as the administrator,” said Mark Hanna, Richline Group’s Chief Marketing Officer.

“Consumers care deeply about the quality and source of the jewelry they purchase,” said Bridget van Kralingen, IBM Senior Vice President, Global Industries, Platforms and Blockchain. “This is evidenced by the fact that 66 percent of consumers globally are willing to spend more to support sustainable brands. TrustChain® is an example of how blockchain is transforming industries through transparency and viable new business models that specifically benefit the consumer.”

The TrustChain® Initiative tracks and authenticates diamonds and precious metals through every stage of the supply chain as it becomes a piece of finished jewelry. It provides digital verification, physical product and process verification, and third-party oversight. The collaboration’s goal is to instill trust in the origin and ethical sourcing of jewelry by bringing together a community of responsible and ethical organizations across the complex and multi-tiered jewelry supply chain.

Built by IBM Services on open source technology and based on the IBM Blockchain Platform and the Hyperledger Project, TrustChain® uses distributed ledger technology that establishes a shared, immutable record of transactions that take place within a network and then enables permissioned parties access to trusted data in real time. By applying the technology to digitize processes, a new form of command and consent is introduced into the flow of information, empowering those in the blockchain network to collaborate and establish a single shared view of information without compromising details, privacy or confidentiality.

For consumers, TrustChain® establishes a trusted product with documented provenance and brings together quality assurance, social and environmental responsibility, and authenticity spanning the entire jewelry ecosystem – from miners, manufacturers, wholesale suppliers and retailers – on a single digital platform.

About Asahi Refining

Asahi Refining, a wholly owned subsidiary of Asahi Holdings Inc., is a leading precious metal refiner, trader, and bullion product manufacturer. The company maintains LBMA-certified London good delivery refineries in the USA and Canada and serves a global client base from the mining, recycling, banking and bullion trading industries. Find out more at

About Helzberg Diamonds

Helzberg Diamonds, a retail and online jewelry store focused on customer service, was founded in 1915 and has more than 200 stores nationwide, featuring a wide selection of fine jewelry, including diamond engagement rings and wedding rings, precious gems and watches. Helzberg Diamonds takes pride in its history of offering exceptional value, exclusive designs and timeless jewelry. Helzberg Diamonds is based in North Kansas City, Mo., and is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE symbols BRK/A and BRK/B). For the locations nearest you, call 1-800-HELZBERG (800-435-9237) or visit

About IBM

IBM is recognized as the leading enterprise blockchain provider. The company’s research, technical and business experts have broken barriers in transaction processing speeds, developed the most advanced cryptography to secure transactions, and are contributing millions of lines of open source code to advance blockchain for businesses. IBM is the leader in open-source blockchain solutions built for the enterprise. Since 2016, IBM has worked with hundreds of clients across financial services, supply chain, government, retail, digital rights management and healthcare to implement blockchain applications, and operates a number of networks running live and in production. The cloud-based IBM Blockchain Platform delivers the end-to-end capabilities that clients need to quickly activate and successfully develop, operate, govern and secure their own business networks. IBM is an early member of Hyperledger, an open source collaborative effort created to advance cross-industry blockchain technologies. For more information about IBM Blockchain, visit follow us on Twitter at @ibmblockchain.

About LeachGarner

LeachGarner provides the most comprehensive range of melt to market products and expansive technical expertise portfolio in the precious metals industry. As a global Precious Metals supplier, LeachGarner continually evolves to meet the challenges of the industrial, jewelry, and government markets they serve. As precious metals fabricators, the product portfolio spans industries, capabilities, and expertise all centric to precious metals. The company excels in creating and developing products to precise specifications. Visit

About Richline Group, Inc.

Richline Group, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., and one of the USA’s foremost Fine Jewelry Manufacturers and Marketers. The other major brands comprising Richline’s portfolio are Inverness, LeachGarner, Rio Grande and Richline Jewelry. Berkshire Hathaway and its subsidiaries engage in diverse business activities, including property and casualty insurance, utilities and energy, finance, manufacturing, retailing and services. Visit

About UL

UL solves the safety, security and sustainability challenges of the 21st century. Around the world, UL employees share a common passion for UL’s public mission to promote safe working and living environments for all people. UL tests, inspects, audits, certifies, verifies claims, advises and trains, as well as provides software solutions. To learn more, please visit


Richline Group
Mark Hanna, 212-886-6212
Leesa D’Alto, 212-671-9806
Marti Greathouse, 816-627-1457
Marla Hedworth, 860-212-6644
Ed Rigano, 774-203-1129
David Dorris, 801-972-6466

Challenging the Standard, the Gold: Legacy, Leadership, Luminescence, Conference Comes to New York in April


The collective surrounding gold—a precious metal beloved through time, is vast. Communities have risen to mine, melt, manufacture, and mold it into beautiful forms. Exceptionally creative minds imagine and conceptualize its use in jewelry, home décor, and other luxury objects. For the ninth year in a row, Initiatives in Art and Culture (IAC) has created a two-day gathering of experts and visionaries working across various fields related to gold. From journalists and jewelry designers, to environmentalists and government regulators, an international gathering of those passionate about gold will discuss challenges the precious metal and its surrounding industries face today. Hosted on April 4 and 5, 2019 “Gold: Legacy, Leadership, Luminescence” will be held at Bohemian National Hall in New York City.

Mark Hanna, Chief Marketing Officer, Richline Group, Inc. a Berkshire Hathaway Company, says “We often equate gold to wealth; the Gold Conference always has and always will provide the wealth of information important to gold…in every dimension from resource to responsible.”

Stephen Webster, Founder and Creative Director for Stephen Webster, will speak about his admiration for gold in a talk entitled “Goldstruck,” discussing his design process and career. From the manufacturing end, Ted Doudak, Founder and CEO of Riva Precision Manufacturing, will share his vision regarding the company’s new workspace, as a leader in fine jewelry product development. Chief Visionary Officer and Creative Director for Flourish and Thrive Academy, Tracy Matthews, will discuss how jewelry designers can stand out and find their voice and aesthetic in a saturated landscape.

Lisa Koenigsberg, President and Founder of Initiatives in Art and Culture, who established the Annual International Gold Conference nine years ago, observes, “Initiatives in Art and Culture is honored once again to bring together a ‘Who’s Who’ in the gold community—including makers, miners, retailers, journalists, financiers, regulators, and environmentalists—to focus on specific, contemporary challenges from mine to market and how we can best meet them. Approaches and solutions to these challenges are building blocks, and our collective attention to them can ensure that society’s use of gold is driven by respect for materials, craft, and authentic, artistic expression, and a mindfulness for ethical sourcing and responsible practice.”

Locally, Initiatives in Art and Culture will be highlighting Brooklyn makers in a panel exploring the parallel consumer and the creator paradigm shift. Alisha Blechman, Head of Studio Operations, Catbird; Beth Bugdaycay, Co-Founder and Creative Director, Foundrae; Ted Doudak; Leigh Plessner, Co-Creative Director, Catbird; Ronny Vardi, Owner, Catbird; and Elle Hill, CEO, Hill & Co. Fine Jewelry Launch and Growth Experts, will converse and offer unique perspectives spanning design, manufacturing, retail, and business strategy for creating and marketing to an audience that is following the borough’s signature aesthetic.

The panel titled “Washington Update,” will consider regulations and legislation relating to gold. The panelists include: Mark Hanna; Linus Drogs, Owner and President, Au Enterprises; Elizabeth Orlando, Economic Officer, Bureau of Economic Affairs, Office of Threat Finance and Countermeasures, US Department of State; Tiffany Stevens, President and CEO, JVC. The panel will be moderated by Andrea Hill, Owner, Hill Management Group, LLC.

“The trade of the goldsmith and silversmith faces new challenges every day. Now more than ever it is important to share knowledge and collaborate with international partners to ensure our trade thrives well into the future. The Goldsmiths’ Centre is therefore pleased to partner with IAC and present at the highly regarded annual Gold Conference, sharing experiences as the UK’s leading charity for the professional training of goldsmiths, silversmiths, and the allied trades. We are delighted to share our experience and perspective at ‘Gold: Legacy, Leadership, Luminescence,’ and look forward to a dynamic meeting of minds and to working together to develop solutions presented by the future,” says Peter Taylor, Director of The Goldsmiths’ Centre.

With sustainability at the forefront, IAC has also assembled leaders to discuss sourcing in a panel called “Building Blocks for our Future: The Foundations of Ethical Sourcing, Transparency, and Responsible Practice.” Panelists include: Brad Brooks-Rubin, Managing Director, The Sentry/Enough Project; Lara Crampe, Pure Earth, Director, Community Outreach; Lara Koritzke, Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA); Joanne Lebert, Executive Director, IMPACT; Elizabeth Orlando; and Michael Peters, CEO, Trusted Gems & Founder, Panjshir Valley Emeralds, a Trusted Gems Company; the panel will be moderated by Rob Bates, Senior Editor, JCK.

Other speakers and moderators include: Chris Oliver, Head of Professional Training, The Goldsmiths’ Centre, London; Alan Craxford and Castro Smith, British Master Engravers and Jewelers; Glenn Adamson, Author, Fewer Better Things: The Hidden Wisdom of Objects and Senior Scholar, Yale Center for British Art; Jeffrey M. Christian, Managing Director, CPM Group; Stewart Grice, Vice President, Mill Products, Hoover & Strong; Stuart Harmon, Director, The Money Stone; Robert Lang, Director, The Shadow of Gold; Amy Hill, Executive Director, Amazon Aid Foundation; and Christina Miller, owner, Christina T. Miller Consulting; Co-Founder, Ethical Metalsmiths and Chair of its Advisory Council.

Thursday evening, Initiatives in Art and Culture will host a Champagne reception, followed by a conversation with Mimi So, who will be discussing her story as an American jewelry designer, as well as luxury today. She will be in conversation with Alli McCartney, Managing Director, Private Wealth Management Alignment Partners, UBS Financial Services Inc.

Sponsors of “Gold: Legacy, Leadership, Luminescence” include: The Goldsmiths’ Centre, The Goldsmiths’ Company, Panjshir Valley Emeralds, a Trusted Gems Company, Signet Jewelers, Riva Precision Manufacturing, Hoover & Strong, AU Enterprises, JCK Las Vegas, DMIA, Society of North American Goldsmiths, and Anza Gems.

Register for “Gold: Legacy, Leadership, Luminescence” directly on Eventbrite by clicking here. 
To learn more about Initiatives in Art and Culture, or inquire about sponsorship opportunities for the Gold Conference, visit, call 646-485-1952, or email info(at)artinitatives(dot)com. For press or media coverage inquiries, images, speaker quotes, or interviews, contact Pietra PR at 212-913-9761 or email info(at)pietrapr(dot)com.

About Initiatives in Art and Culture

Initiatives in Art and Culture (IAC) educates diverse audiences in the fine, decorative, and visual arts. Our primary activities are conferences, publications, and exhibitions that take an interdisciplinary approach, considering issues related to fabrication, connoisseurship, cultural patrimony, cultural preservation, and the future of culture. Particular areas of emphasis include American painting, precious substances, the history of frames, the Arts and Crafts movement, the influence of Asian cultures on American fine and decorative art, and the history and future of fashion. IAC’s projects have been supported by a wide array of individual, corporate, and foundation funders.