New Way to Track Diamonds?

With so much talk of how to track diamonds, the people at Gemprint have released an intriguing product that presents a possible partial solution.

The new technology involves coating rough stones with synthetic DNA developed by DNA Technologies of Halifax. This synthetic DNA has already been used to track and authenticate items like Super Bowl footballs and U.S. Open tennis balls.

For diamonds, it would work this: when rough comes out of a mine, it would either be sprayed or individually marked with a synthetic DNA liquid (which is transparent, and doesn’t add weight to the stone). “Just like human DNA is unique, so is this synthetic DNA,” says Gemprint chairman Don Palmieri. 

Gemprint also has tools to detect this DNA, generally with shortwave UV light. As long as the rough is sprayed, and the company has the right tools, you now have a way to determine the origin of rough.

What the system doesn’t offer is a way to determine the origin of polished. Since the DNA is only sprayed on the outside of the stone, and it doesn’t penetrate the inside of the rough (it is almost impossible to penetrate diamond), the coating will be removed when the stone is cut. So the tracking is limited to rough only. (Gemprint does have, we should note, different tracking tools for polished.)

Still, one can see a lot of possible uses for this. If a factory has said it will only cut diamonds from certain mines, this could be a way to enhance that guarantee, provided all the mines participate in the program. Palmieri says that some big mining companies see this not only a way to improve their chains of custody, but to increase mine security.

The technology also could be used to enhance the Kimberley Process. If a country has a known smuggling problem, and it has only has a few mines approved for export, all the gems at those approved mines could be coated with synthetic DNA. The KP official at the border could then test the rough and make sure nothing coming from outside the circle of approved producers slips through.

It’s all very intriguing stuff, and Palmieri says, relatively affordable—particularly for bigger producers. More information on this program can be seen here.

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JCK News Director

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