Israeli tech lets diamonds’ true colors, and clarity, shine through

Machines can take over from gemologists in grading 2 of the gems’ famous 4 C’s, says Sarine Technologies

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Diamonds (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Diamonds (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Sarine Technologies Ltd., the Israeli company that pioneered the world’s first software to automatically measure diamonds, has said it has now developed new machine learning technologies to automatically and objectively grade the clarity and color of the stones.

“We are introducing color and clarity grading technologies to the industry,” said Uzi Levami, the chief executive officer of Sarine at a press conference last week, with the company calling the developments “revolutionary” and “groundbreaking” for the industry.

Gem labs today employ teams of experts to provide diamonds with certificates that define their characteristics, including the crucial four C’s: cut, color, clarity and carats; the teams scrutinize the diamonds for these traits and grade them. It is these grades that define the final value of the diamond.

While there already are some color evaluation technologies on the market, generally both color and clarity grading are based on the subjective opinion of the gemologists. Defining the clarity of a stone is even more difficult than defining its color: you need to identify the number of defects formed during the natural creation of the diamond, determine how close they are to each other, map out their location, and state what they are. The evaluation process is manual, tedious, time consuming and extremely subjective.

Now, Sarine’s technology aims to provide an accurate and automated color and clarity grading that is not subject to human perception.

“We are in the 21st century. No one measures the safety of a car using a human eye,” Levami said. “The human eye cannot see every detail of a diamond; there is always something you miss.”

Technological standardization “translates into greater credibility for the industry and increased trust for the diamond consumer,” he said. The machine will not replace gemologists at their job, he underlined, but streamline the process and help attain more accurate gradings.

The $80 billion global diamond market has been under pressure as slowing demand in key markets like the United States, the Middle East and China cut prices by almost 25 percent in 2015, according to a report by Bain & Company. This has sent manufacturers and traders scrambling to better target their goods to the most profitable markets and to cut costs to increase profitability.

Israel, the second-largest diamond polishing center in the world, saw a 20 percent drop in net polished diamond exports in 2015, due to a decline in demand from European and Hong Kong consumers, according to data provided by the Ministry of Economy and Industry. Exports of net polished diamonds to the US, the main market for Israeli exports, declined by 16 percent in 2015 compared to the previous year. Exports to Hong Kong, which accounts for 27 percent of Israeli diamond exports, fell by 28 percent.

A diamond in one of Sarine's machines (Courtesy)
A diamond in one of Sarine’s machines (Courtesy)

The new technologies will help determine the value of the stone accurately, to the benefit of both the manufacturers and the consumers, Levami said.

“The world diamond industry is in a difficult situation and there is a problem of profitability and high competition,” Shmuel Schnitzer, chairman of the Israel Diamond Institute and a former president of the nation’s diamond exchanges, said in an interview. “Technology is the way forward for Israel to preserve its competitive edge over other producers and to keep costs down to attain greater returns.”

Uzi Levami, CEO of Sarine Technologies Ltd. (Courtesy)
Uzi Levami, CEO of Sarine Technologies Ltd. (Courtesy)

The clarity and color machines, developed by Sarin’s team of 60 developers in Israel, use camera, optic and lighting technologies paired with artificial intelligence to determine the grades. “Everything is done on the cloud,” Levami said. “There is a lot of number-crunching involved.”

The clarity product, which is undergoing advanced large-scale testing in India, initially provides accurate and objective mapping of the polished diamond’s inclusions and flaws. It then applies a predefined set of rules and algorithms to determine the appropriate clarity grade, using generally accepted standardized clarity grading terminology, the company said. Commercialization of the product is expected in mid- 2017, Sarine said.

The clarity technology can handle polished stones from 2 points to 10 carats — the vast majority of stones manufactured annually. It will even allow for the evaluation of very small high quality stones, such as those preferred by high-end watchmakers. The color system will be initially limited to polished stones of 20 points and up. Subsequent models will handle a range of stone sizes similar to the clarity technology, Sarine said.

Shmuel Schnitzer. chairman of the Israel Diamond Institute (Courtesy IDE)
Shmuel Schnitzer, chairman of the Israel Diamond Institute (Courtesy)

In addition to grading the stones, the technology will also sort the stones according the predefined criteria, helping manufacturers and traders who use it match the right stone to the market in which the stone can get the optimal price.

“The same diamonds can get different premiums or discounts based on the markets in which they are sold,” Levame said. “Retailers give us samples of diamonds that sell well and we learn what is the common feature.” This information is fed into the company’s artificial intelligence database, he said.

Customers of the machines will be polished diamond manufacturer, traders and gem labs, Levami said.

These new clarity and color machines will join those Sarine has been selling the industry since 1992, when it introduced its first software that brought automation to the process of measuring the diamonds’ proportions, the most critical aspect affecting the grading of the Cut. Over the years the company, founded in 1988, has added technologies that are today used by diamond manufacturers worldwide as well as all major gem labs. These include machinery for the automated planning of rough diamonds, the grading of light performance of the diamonds, 3D imaging machines and machines to map flaws.

Sarine is publicly traded on Singapore’s Mainboard exchange and has headquarters and research centers in Israel. It has regional sale and support centers in India, the US and Hong Kong.

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