The scanning device that has been developed for Alrosa, which allows users to identify a diamond that had its crystal lattice nano-lasered with a unique identifier. (Photo courtesy of Alrosa)
To the 4Cs, the traditional methods by which a diamond is valued, there may come a time that a T is added, denoting traceability. With consumers more likely to demand information about the provenance of a stone, so as to judge whether it has been sourced responsibly or not, diamond producers are developing tools that make the job possible.
Consumer surveys in the key diamond markets of the United States and China indicate that diamond traceability is an increasingly important factor when making a jewelry purchase. It involves registering all stages of a diamond’s life from the mine to the jewellery store to guarantee its origin.
The latest addition to the growing array of traceability tools comes courtesy of the Russian state-controlled diamond mining company, Alrosa, which just introduced what it describes AS ground-breaking diamond-tracing nanotechnology using non-invasive laser marking.
Unlike traditional laser engraving, this laser marking cannot be destroyed or polished off. It distinguishes Alrosa’s diamonds from others, including lab-grown, and allows them to be uniquely identified, providing detailed information about the diamonds’ origins.
Diamonds with such nanomarkings have been successfully certified by the GIA, the industry’s biggest certification center.
This is the first time this technology is being used for commercial purposes to trace rough and polished diamonds. The Russian mining company is currently seeking patents in the world’s major diamond-trading centers, and has started application processes in the United States, China, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Israel, Belgium and India.
IMPRINTED INSIDE CRYSTAL LATTICE
Alrosa’s new, non-invasive method for physically marking rough and polished diamonds was developed with the help of scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences, as well as the company’s own Research Geological Enterprise (NIGP) and the Yakutniproalmaz Institute.
Unlike other tracing methods which are based on keeping a digital copy of the diamond, Alrosa physical nanomarking allows the precious stone to be identified with 100 percent accuracy, according to the company.
It differs from other engraving technologies which mark closer to the surface of the diamond. The laser nanomark is imprinted inside the crystal lattice, across the atomic structure of the entire diamond, making it invisible without a scanner.
Alrosa’s Provenance program, which provides a diamond with a passport that it carries along the supply chain, as made available via the WFDB Get Diamonds platform. (Photo courtesy of Get Diamonds).
The mark is a three-dimensional code that links to Alrosa’s proprietary Provenance platform. It offers in-depth information about the diamond’s origin and characteristics, as well as a unique identification number, photo, video and details about how it has been cut.
Scientists believe that, as the technology evolves, it is likely to become an important way of embedding large amounts of data within the diamond, including media files, images and music.
The company is offering its partners marked diamonds and the equipment to read them. Scanning the code takes less than a minute and will eventually be optimised to ensure even greater efficiency.
A rough diamond produced by Alrosa (Photo courtesy of Alrosa).
EACH DIAMOND MARKED WITH UNIQUE IDENTIFIER
“A nanomark is applied using a laser pulse of a certain wavelength, intensity and duration,” explained Dr. Oleg Kovalchuk, who is supervising the project at the Yakutniproalmaz Institute. “This causes nanoregions to form across the entire crystal, which can only be viewed with a scanner created specifically for reading the marks. As such, we have now developed standardised procedures for embedding information and marking a rough diamond with a distributed mark to identify it.”
According to Sergey Ivanov, Alrosa’s CEO, the Russian company is in a unique position, because of access to the full cycle of manufacturing. “We have all the necessary information about our polished diamonds and the rough diamonds from which they were cut. The laser nanomark technology we have created allows these guarantees to be extended to the diamonds sold by our partners,” he said.
“By purchasing jewellery with a diamond protected by a nanomark, the buyer can be sure that it was actually made by Alrosa,” Ivanov stressed. “The three-dimensional code embedded in the diamond is linked to its unique identifier and digital passport on the company’s database, which also includes details of the socio-economic benefits associated with its production.”