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Automatic Grading Could Herald A Second Diamond Industry Revolution

The diamond cutting and polishing industry remained pretty much unchanged for centuries, then went through a revolution in the 1990s. That was when technology took much of the human skill out of the process.

It began as a simply upgrading of the way things had been done thus far. Starting with automatic polishing, laser kerfing and sawing as well as automatic bruting. 

Technology suddenly opened up huge new possibilities. Now, almost anyone with some basic skill and training could cut and polish a diamond.

Then came more technology — developed by Sarine — that trampled on turf that was hitherto the exclusive preserve of highly-paid and skilled humans. This new technology, which initially included basic rough planning, and then mapping concavity, marking the rough with a laser, and finally, the complete interior mapping of a rough diamond and its inclusions and flaws by a machine, was another huge step that made more human skill redundant.

The natural development that resulted from this was fully automatic planning of the way a particular piece of rough could be best cut, with the machine’s algorithms factoring in criteria to maximise the total value of the resulting polished with a variety of combinations of carat weight, colour, clarity and cut.

That last human holdout, the diamond-cutting planner, was suddenly rendered redundant.

Now, with Sarine announcing that it has fully automated the diamond grading process, we are at the point of a second diamond revolution. 

Technology is now in a position to directly impact the diamond trade pipeline’s commercial segment.

As we all know, a diamond’s value is determined by the 4 Cs — carat weight, cut, clarity and colour. The carat weight has for long been exactly determined by one of the oldest electronic technologies employed by the diamond industry — the digital weighing scale. There has never been an argument about it as both buyer and seller accepted without any doubt, the result of the digital readout.

Cut grading today can be measured by non-contact measuring devices such as Sarine’s Diamension. Most mainstream diamond industry stakeholders own such devices and so there isn’t much debate about cut grade either — though a stone’s polish is still evaluated manually.

Colour and clarity have until now been the sticking points in commercial transactions. Hitherto, they have been subjective determinations made by human experts. Being subjective and given that no two experts or two laboratories need necessarily agree, there has always been the maximum amount of dispute over colour and clarity.

With Sarine’s claim that these two parameters can now also be fully automated with an objective result, we are looking at a game-changing impact on the industry. 

One can imagine buyers and sellers in innumerable offices around the world simply referring the diamonds they want to either buy or sell, to a machine, much the way they unhesitatingly put a diamond or a packet of diamonds into the tray of a digital weighing scale.

Will it speed up the diamond processing pipeline? The answer is a definite ‘yes’ in the small sizes and more inexpensive qualities — by far the largest segment in the diamond industry worldwide. Fewer parcels of goods in these categories will be referred to the grading laboratories. With instant referral to a machine, commercial transactions themselves will be speeded up.

Pricing however, is a much more complex issue. Pricing is ultimately driven by consumers. And consumers may still want the assurance of a third party

— reputed diamond grading labs — to determine the value (based on the grades) of the diamond they are considering for acquisition.

Here too, however, the possibility of a complete revolution exists. Once Sarine’s grading technology is made available on a mass scale to retailers everywhere, consumers could well have the grade of the diamond determined instantly, before their own eyes and feel confident enough to pay whatever price a particular grade commands in the market at the time.

Sarine offers a diamond report called Profile, that covers the fully automated 4Cs and more, so that manufacturers, traders and retailers can provide this report to accompany the diamond.

It is too early to tell right now, but the diamond processing industry is definitely on the brink of some revolutionary changes right now.

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