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A Diamond Ping

Steinmetz Diamond Group uses RFID to track, manage and secure tiny, highly valuable gemstones.
By John Edwards
Jun 20, 2011—Diamond transport and storage has traditionally been a low-tech and surprisingly informal affair, especially given the value of the items involved. Each diamond is kept inside a "brifka"—a paper parcel marked with the stone's principal characteristics. While the technique is cheap, simple and widely supported, it provides nothing in the way of visibility, business intelligence or insight beyond what an observer can read off the package. Additionally, for high-volume companies, brifkas demand endless hours of painstaking manual processing and data entry to achieve accurate (though delayed) inventory counts.

Approximately five years ago, Steinmetz Diamond Group, based in Geneva, began searching for a better method for tracking, managing and securing the tiny, ancient (most diamonds are more than three billion years old) and extremely valuable gemstones that lie at the heart of the company's operations, says Pavlo Protopapa, the firm's chief financial officer. Steinmetz, one of the world's largest diamond groups, purchases rough diamonds and processes them into polished stones ready for sale. The company's management wanted a better way to monitor its diamonds' movements, one that would allow its representatives to immediately pinpoint each diamond's specific location.


SpaceCode's SmartSAS provides a technology-monitored "handshake" that allows authorized staff members to hand over diamonds between processes.

"Wouldn't it be great if we could implement a system globally whereby we would be able to get management reports on demand, and know what we've got, and where it is, in real time?" Protopapa asks. "That was the overall objective." Ultimately, he says, it was hoped that the system would invisibly and efficiently track the movements of stones between processing and cutting centers in Belgium, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and New York.


The SmartCabinet provides visibility, control and traceability of diamonds stored within.
Examining their options, Steinmetz's managers quickly narrowed in on two choices: bar codes and radio frequency identification. The bar-code approach was almost immediately rejected. "I always felt with bar-code systems, although they were accurate and you could rely on them, they didn't provide enough details and automation," Protopapa explains. "Whenever you wanted information, you would have to phone up and ask somebody."

The remaining option, RFID, promised to provide the company with everything it sought in a tracking and visibility solution: rapid data entry with minimal human intervention, instant inventory updates, complete accuracy, inherent protection against data forgery and an extra passive security layer. The next step was to find a partner that could meet Steinmetz's demanding needs. After all, losing a stuffed brifka isn't exactly like having a can of peas go astray.
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