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 www.asahirefining.com.

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 helzberg.com.

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 https://www.ibm.com/blockchain/or 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 www.leachgarner.com

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 www.richlinegroup.com.

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 www.UL.com/crs.

Contacts

Richline Group
Mark Hanna, 212-886-6212
mark.hanna@richlinegroup.com
or
IBM
Leesa D’Alto, 212-671-9806
leesa.dalto@ibm.com
or
Helzberg
Marti Greathouse, 816-627-1457
mpgreathouse@helzberg.com
or
UL
Marla Hedworth, 860-212-6644
Marla.Hedworth@UL.com
or
LeachGarner
Ed Rigano, 774-203-1129
erigano@leachgarner.com
or
AsahiRefining
David Dorris, 801-972-6466
david.dorris@asahirefining.com

Richline Group Featured in Responsible Jewelry Council Annual Progress Report

Mark Hanna, as featured in the 2016 Annual Progress Report from the Responsible Jewelry Council:

Richline believes that our Corporate Social Responsibility programs must be authentic. We pursue a “Return on Responsibility” model that considers our investment in responsible practices by examining all the positive effects of our future viability. Transparency and trustability are real goals. Our RJC Membership and participation is a catalyst for the guidance and verification of our corporate commitments. RJC’s certified Members clearly exhibit this responsible commitment; one that is meaningful to the jewelry industry’s reputational value and consumer positioning. RJC Membership and certification is an investment in harmonized, responsible initiatives. As responsible leaders in our industry, RJC devotes time, effort and money to do work that, in many cases, is not easy to measure. Our RJC Membership keeps us on track and the network of RJC Members ensures a “best in class” framework for initiatives.

Click here to learn more about the Responsible Jewelry Council, and to read the full report.

Richline Participates in Washington, DC Symposium to Combat Wildlife Trafficking

Mark Hanna from Richline Speaks on Panel to Combat Wildlife Trafficking

Richline Group CMO, Mark Hanna, speaking on a U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance panel:

“There’s nothing more important and an asset to any kind of business than your reputation. We’ve been preaching something called return on responsibility. […] That reputation is justified by the return on responsibility of doing the right things. We think that there are enough organizations and enough great companies, like Tiffany, that are working to do the right things. And it proliferates. And it sets by example, and it creates a little bit of a pressure point to follow.”

Click here to watch the entire panel discussion, including insights on how companies like Ebay and Etsy are working to combat wildlife trafficking.

Richline Group a Proud Member of Jewelry Industry Initiative to Combat Wildlife Trafficking

As announced by the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, Richline Group—alongside jewelry industry leaders Signet Jewelers and Tiffany & Co.—is celebrating World Wildlife Day by announcing its commitments to support broad jewelry industry efforts in the fight against wildlife trafficking.

“The only way to stop wildlife trafficking is to band together, continue the jewelry industry’s existing steadfastness to legal compliance and to stop supply and demand. Everyone in this industry has an essential part to play,” said Mark Hanna, Chief Marketing Officer at the Berkshire Hathaway owned Richline Group, Inc. “Richline and our industry organization partners are committed to raise awareness and share best practices with our peers to achieve progress on this critical issue.  We hope the announcements today will be a catalyst for a series of additional commitments from others in our industry.”

Richline Group’s commitments include keeping the elimination of wildlife trafficking part of best practice discussion, and to assist companies that want to update their codes of conduct through the newly introduced IvoryFreeJewelry.com.

“Worldwide demand for ivory and other illegal wildlife products is decimating iconic wildlife populations and supporting international criminal syndicates that are destabilizing governments and supporting terrorist groups,” said David J. Hayes, Chair of the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance. “The Alliance is honored to partner with leading companies, conservation organizations, and the U.S. government to educate U.S. consumers and shut down U.S. demand for illegal wildlife products. By putting our wallets in line with our values we can work together to protect these treasured species for the benefit of our planet, our security, and future generations.”

Wildlife trafficking is a criminal, multi-billion dollar industry centered on the killing of endangered and threatened species to produce illegal products made from ivory, snake skins, animal furs, and other animal parts. The U.S. is one of the largest markets for these products, which means that demand from American businesses and consumers influences whether lions, elephants, pangolins, and other at-risk species will become extinct within our lifetime.

For a complete list of companies and NGOs partnering with the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance visit USWTA.org. For upcoming information on how jewelers can help fight wildlife trafficking, sign up at IvoryFreeJewelry.com.

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Richline’s Mark Hanna on Jewelry Industry Efforts to Protect Wildlife

From JCK Magazine:

JCK: Why is Richline leading the charge for protecting endangered wildlife?

Mark Hanna: Everyone in the industry needs to protect, defend, and advance our industry’s reputation for trustability. We take this very seriously. Richline is currently working on many government/public/private initiatives including conflict minerals, made in USA, FTC jewelry industry guidelines and now, more visibly, wildlife and biodiversity conservation. […]

JCK: How can industry spread this message to consumers?

Hanna: Understand the issue and make a commitment to help the consumer understand it. In February 2014, the White House released the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking to stop the illegal trade of wildlife into the United States. In that strategy, President Obama called for a collaborative effort with foreign governments, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector in order to reduce supply and demand of illegal wildlife products and materials. […] I don’t think any of us want to explain to our grandchildren someday that elephants and rhinos went extinct on our watch, and that something could have been done to save them.

Read the full interview on JCK’s website to learn more about how those in the jewelry industry are working together to fight illegal wildlife trafficking.

Richline Working With New U.S. Alliance to Combat Wildlife Trafficking

In 2014 President Obama launched the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking. The U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance builds on this initiative through the formation of a new voluntary partnership between major companies and non-profit organizations to eliminate U.S. demand for ivory, rhino horn and other illegal wildlife products. Richline Group is in discussions with the newly formed U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance alongside fellow leaders at luxury brands like Tiffany’s and Ben Bridge Jewelers.

When asked about the need for collaboration with companies like Richline, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who serves as co-chair of the President’s Task Force, said:

“To put an end to this scourge of killing and trafficking rare and iconic wildlife, we need the help of companies and others outside the government. Already, many companies are leading by example by raising public awareness and implementing best practices to support sustainable supply chains that avoid contributions to illegal wildlife trade.

The creation of this Alliance will provide invaluable assistance in our fight. There is no question that how we deal with wildlife trafficking activities here in the United States will have an enormous influence on our global success in dealing with the crisis.”

Richline has always taken a strong stance against the use of illegally acquired wildlife and wildlife products. Our team is committed to the mission of this new task force, and we are working to integrate the goal of raising awareness of the scope of the wildlife trafficking crisis into Richline Responsible initiatives.

To learn more, visit the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance website.

Richline Group Achieves Re-Certification by the Responsible Jewellery Council.

An Important Announcement

The Responsible Jewellery Council announced today that Richline Group, Inc. has achieved Re-Certification by meeting the highest ethical, social and environmental standards established by the RJC. RJC congratulated Richline Group on achieving this Re-Certification.

David Boudreau, Richline’s Chief Operating Officer, stated “The Responsible Jewelry Council represents, at the highest level, the guidance and verification that our own Richline Responsible program strives to achieve. This Re-Certification is further verification of our efforts, both internally and externally, that doing the right thing can be monitored and audited”.

“RJC warmly congratulates Richline Group Inc. on its Re-Certification” says Ashish Deo, RJC’s Chief Executive Officer. The successful verification assessment was conducted by Underwriters Laboratories, one of the independent third party auditing firms accredited by the RJC.

David Meleski, Richline’s President said “Having been a proud member of the Responsible Jewellery Council for many years, it is an honor to be a part of such an industrious and important organization. As a worldwide company, we have been driven by our strong values of fair, sustainable and ethical trading throughout the supply chain”.

About Richline Group, Inc.

Richline Group, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is the USA’s foremost Fine Jewelry Manufacturer and Marketer. The Richline Group was formed in 2007. Currently, the major brands comprising Richline’s portfolio are LeachGarner, Inverness, Rio Grande and Richline Brands. Berkshire Hathaway, and its subsidiaries, engage in diverse business activities including property and casualty insurance, utilities and energy, finance, manufacturing, retailing and services. The Common Stock of the Company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbols BRK.A and BRK.B.

For more information:

Contact: Mark Hanna PH: (212) 886-6212 Mark.Hanna@RichlineGroup.com

About RJC

The Responsible Jewellery Council is an international not-for-profit standards and certification organization. It has more than 500 Member companies that span the jewellery supply chain from mine to retail. RJC Members commit to and are independently audited against the RJC Code of Practices – an international standard on responsible business practices for diamonds, gold and platinum group metals. The Code of Practices addresses human rights, labour rights, environmental impact, mining practices, product disclosure and many more important topics in the jewellery supply chain. RJC also works with multi-stakeholder initiatives on responsible sourcing and supply chain due diligence. The RJC’s Chain-of-Custody Certification for precious metals supports these initiatives and can be used as a tool to deliver broader Member and stakeholder benefit. The RJC is a Full Member of the ISEAL Alliance–the global association for sustainability standards.

For further information please contact: Gerhard Humphreys-de Meyer, Communications Coordinator, Responsible Jewellery Council Telephone + 44 (0)20 7836 6376,gerhard.humphreysdemeyer@responsiblejewellery.com

For more information on RJC Members, Certification, and Standards please visit www.responsiblejewellery.com

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Richline Group Working With Key Industry Groups To Push for Updated Made in the USA Guidelines

From the June 18th, 2014 joint statement to the FTC for Guidance on “Made in the USA” Claims:

On June 17, 2014, four trade associations, along with the Richline Group, asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for an advisory opinion stating that jewelry composed of metals recycled in this country could be advertised as “Made in the USA.” The four associations are the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, the Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America, Jewelers of America and the American Gem Trade Association.

[…]

The request for an advisory opinion was based on the fact that significant time and resources go into collecting recyclable material, delivering it to refiners in the United States, and then processing the items to a purity level of almost 100%. The associations and Richline argued that upon recycling, metal begins a new life cycle, with a new origin in this country – regardless of where it was originally mined. For this reason, according to the request, products composed of metals recycled in this country should qualify for a “Made in the USA” claim. If the request is granted by the FTC, sellers would be able to make the claim – as long as they could substantiate that the metal was recycled at a domestic refinery.

Richline Group is proud to work alongside the JVC, MJSA, JA and AGTA in this attempt to drive the first meaningful change to the “Made in America” guidelines since they were last revised by the FTC in 1997.

It has long been our belief that the current guidelines make it impossible for well-meaning companies to properly market jewelry that has been wholly created here in America. We will continue to work closely with both industry organizations and the FTC to discover viable ways for American refiners and manufacturers – such as our own LeachGarner division – to properly and legally denote jewelry as “Made in the USA” while continuing to protect the rights of consumers everywhere.

Click here to read and download the full press release from the JVC

Richline Group CMO Featured in Fast Company

Chief Marketing Officer, Mark Hanna on trust and RoR (Return on Relationship):

“The growth of our business over time is really about how strong our relationships are and how strong the trust is. Improving that trust every year is my single most important goal as CMO.”

Read the full article on Fast Company and learn more about Richline Group’s approach to building smaller brands and better customer relationships.

For even more details on how Richline Group works diligently to meet the needs of its retail partners, you can also read the extended interview with Mark Hanna on TheDrewBlog.com.