Creating Value Through Technology: The Future of Gems and Jewellery

The millennial jewellery consumer is buying jewellery differently, and so traditional methods of making and selling jewellery have to be different as well. innovation in technology and other areas is changing the manufacture, sourcing and certification of gems and jewellery, and the Indian industry needs to keep up and adopt these to stay relevant.

The gems and jewellery industry in India represents one of the country’s oldest and most distinctive trades. Gold and gold jewellery have always been intrinsic to our culture and to our idea of financial assets. But even a trade that is as old as this one needs to move with the times to thrive and prosper. India’s gems and jewellery sector has proven to be a fairly quick adopter of technology, augmenting traditional skills and archival designs with modern methods of manufacture and certification. However, young customers today, and the customers of the future, are more conscious of source, story and exclusivity rather than monetary value. Innovators have come up with technology and processes that have liberated design and storytelling to meet these demands. Designers can give form to shapes and geometries that were not possible earlier, using new manufacturing methods like 3D
printing, new materials, new techniques like lasers and much, much more. The need for transparency and social responsibility is served by advances in identifying gems and jewellery, like machines and processes that can differentiate between natural and synthetic stones. Detailed here are a few of these innovations and advances, and how they hope to help the industry appeal to the customer of the future.

Picture courtesy: Gemometrics

Imaginarium India Pvt. Ltd, India’s largest rapid prototyping and rapid manufacturing centre, has made great strides in using 3D printing for jewellery manufacturing and other applications. At the India Gold and Jewellery Summit 2019 in Delhi recently, Tanmay Shah, who heads Innovations at Imaginarium, was part of a panel discussion on innovation and technology. He said
that technology could be used to put the customer at the start, rather than at the end, of the jewellery-making process. ‘Customers are asking how they can be co-creators. With technology, you have the advantage of rendering and visualizing, allowing the customer to change the design before it has been manufactured. Virtual catalogues are a very real piece of tech today. All of
this can be used to make a personalized product manufactured on demand… The jewellery industry has proven to be the best adopter of technology worldwide. We started with CAD/CAM, employ direct castable RPTs (Rapid Prototyping Technology) today and could directly 3D print metals in the future,’ he said at the event.

Shah explains that from 15 years ago, when they started, to now, 3D printing in jewellery has cut a long production chain down to a much shorter process. Also, it makes ‘impossible’ designs possible. ‘Today, we offer end-to-end support for anyone who has an idea for jewellery and wants to take it to market, right from taking 2D and converting it into 3D, prototyping it, making a single piece which might be used as a sample,’ he says. Imaginarium has seen 20-30 per cent growth year-on-year for the past five to six years, and as of today, they make at least 2,500 unique pieces of jewellery and accessories per day.

At the same summit, David Bertazzo of SISMA, Italy, outlined the company’s work in three broad areas – micromachinery, lasers and additives. He presented their progress in laser metal fusion, which enables the entire process of manufacturing, from the digital stage to the solid article. ‘Laser metal fusion is important because it a) allows digital processing – we can move beyond the instabilities of the casting process, and achieve greater reproducibility, b) provides the advantage of working things better,
leading to improved product features, and c) positively affects the environment, health and safety by enabling us to work things more efficiently,’ he explained. ‘For a long time, manufacturing dictated the abilities of the designer. Now (with technological innovation), the balance has moved in favour of the designer, in symbiosis with the machine… We need to talk about
technology as complementary to, not as a substitute of, existing technology,’ he said.

Alparslan Misir, of Alpress Design Moulding and Consulting, Turkey, presented their work on fusion technology – casting, stamping, laser and hollow, besides 2D laser cutting and laser welding, and recently, also 3D laser cutting. Reiterating their
motto that their work is ‘more than moulds’, Misir presented their work in laser colour marking, which reveals the hidden colours in gold to make beautiful designs without using any paint. ‘Technology does not guarantee innovative products, but innovative products can be made using only technology,’ he concluded.

IDENTIFICATION AND CERTIFICATIONThere is no doubt now that lab-grown diamonds (LGDs) are part of the future of gems and jewellery consumption. But the customer today wants to know when they’re buying natural and when they’re buying synthetic, so credibility is at
stake downstream. Also, the midstream is concerned about synthetic diamonds being passed off as natural and polluting the pipeline. Hence, companies and labs have come up with machines and processes to differentiate natural stones from synthetic ones. Surat’s Massive Tech Lab has gem identification machines that can scan large quantities of diamonds of
various sizes, and identify naturals and LGDs. Their G-Certain Synthetic Diamond Detector and JCertain Synthetic Diamond Detector for Studded Jewellery use German technology that can test all sizes (0.002Ct to 10Ct) and shapes of stones. They employ a real-time USB interface and can also scan studded jewellery. Ghanshyam Savani, Managing Director of Massive Tech Lab, says that they started the business in February 2016 in response to concerns about unscrupulous mixing. ‘As synthetic grows, the need for detection also grows,’ he says. ‘LGDs cannot be detected through the eye or the microscope, even by experienced jewellers. Traders and honest jewellers were afraid that they would be sold synthetic diamonds as real ones.’ How widespread the concern is, and how readily the trade has adopted this technology, is demonstrated by the fact that from 12 clients when they started, they now have 750 clients worldwide. At the Kimberley Process plenary meet in New Delhi last month, MD Sastry, Head of Research and
Development, Gemmological Institute of India (GII), presented their work on a new instrumental method of colour grading of
diamonds. ‘Normally, in most labs, diamond grading is done by visually comparing sample stones with master stones, supplied by standard laboratories like GIA and agencies like CIBJO, under controlled light (daylight lamps) against a completely white background. The colour grade is given accordingly – D, E, F, G – for colourless or nearly colourless stones. There have been some
instrumental methods used, particularly using absorption in the range of 350-420 nm, to monitor the N3 centre; this is called cape yellow. Most natural diamonds contain this centre. This requires two parallel faces and one needs to know the separation/thickness between the two parallel faces to get the absorbance. That is correlated with colour grading,’ he explains. ‘The instrumental method we have developed uses the line position of what is called a platelet in the infrared absorption spectrum, which encodes information about N3 formation. This has the following advantages: (a) In this, we have shown that the line position is colour
grade-dependent, and it can be accurately measured without the requirement of parallel faces, etc. As infrared absorption measurements are the mandatory requirements in assessing any diamond, most importantly in finding the diamond type, the platelet measurement can be integrated into that. This takes care of 98 per cent of natural diamonds (type-1a). No special instrument need to be built.’

The Swedish company Gemometrics produces the GemPen tool, a portable, pocket-sized instrument used to validate gemstones. The battery-powered and USB-rechargeable tool can screen hundreds of stones in a matter of minutes, can detect diamonds in the colour range D-M, works on all gemstone sizes and on rough, polished and mounted gemstones.

Johanna Svensson, Sales and Marketing Coordinator, Gemometrics, narrates how the GemPen was created. The founder of
Gemometrics AB, gemmologist and geologist Torbjörn Lindwall, was in Sierra Leone in 2008-2009. He noticed that foreigners had
penetrated the local market, and using rough stones as template for mould-framework, manufactured stones in high refractive glass. The results were realistic-looking but fake ‘diamond crystals’. ‘He then started giving courses to locals on how to validate and appraise raw diamonds,’ says Johanna. The end result, years later, is GemPen, which was launched in the beginning of 2019.
Gemometrics already has two distributors in India, Johari Gems & Tools and SR Mehta & Sons, and Johanna says that the trade is beginning to realize how crucial technology is. ‘There are some who have known its importance for years, but the real masses in the industry are starting to learn now,’ she says. Switzerland, the home of luxury handcrafted watches, also took measures to protect its trade in this past decade. SATT (Swiss Analytical Testing Tools) Gems is a subsidiary of the Swiss gemmological institute Schweizerische Stiftung für Edelstein-Forschung (SSEF), one of the leading gemmological laboratories in the world. Jean Pierre Chalain, Director, Diamond Department, SSEF, says, ‘The duty of SSEF is to protect the Swiss trade. In 2007, we foresaw a future
mass intrusion of synthetic diamonds into the diamond trade, and to protect the Swiss watch industry, we launched the ASDI project.’ The Automated Diamond Spectral Inspection (ASDI) is a device that can analyse very large quantities of melee diamonds at a low cost. The ASDI analyses round polished diamonds ranging from 1.0 to 3.8 mm in diameter, conclusively identifies colourless natural diamonds, and operates at an average sorting speed of 4,000 stones per hour. In 2019, the machine was evaluated by the ASSURE Program of the Diamond Producers Association (DPA) and proved to be one of the few instruments to successfully pass 100 per cent of the tests administered.

In addition, SATT Gems also produces PearlScan, a newly introduced system to count and measure the dimensions of large quantities of pearls on strands efficiently. It is now available to the Swiss trade.

THE FUTUREAt the IGJS, metallurgy expert Prof. Smrutiranjan Parida, representing research interests at IIT Bombay, detailed their research into nano gold. ‘Gold has applications in fields besides jewellery,’ he explained. ‘In energy, for instance, nano gold is quite significant.’ Explaining how metallurgy can be applied in jewellery innovation, he said, ‘Gold alloy is low in gold but has the same lustre. The new generation wants innovative, unique pieces; they don’t care about the value of the metal. For instance, you might need gold for watch parts, but it needs to be hard. That’s where metallurgy comes in. It is also useful in gold standardization and testing. The current technology has its limitations in testing the fineness of gold.’ He mentioned that gold could even be used to make luxury bracelets that could monitor health parameters, and other smart wearables. He also touched briefly upon the recycling of gold and other precious metals from e-waste.

By Chandna Arora

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