The future of diamond grading at GIA is exciting - Sriram Natarajan, Managing Director of GIA India

GIA India's Sriram Natarajan on how and why technology plays a crucial role in GIA's grading process
The future of diamond grading at GIA is exciting - Sriram Natarajan, Managing Director of GIA India

How has GIA evolved with time, keeping in mind the fact that consumer-confidence and trust have become ever so important in the last few years?

Ever since GIA was established in 1931, our focus has always been our consumer protection, non-profit mission – to ensure public trust in gems and jewellery. All our activities – from our independent grading reports to world-class educational programmes, from developing sophisticated instrumentation to our ground-breaking gemmological research – are the result of our singular focus on building consumer confidence and public trust.

What technological innovations has GIA embraced over the years, to ensure accuracy in the grading process?

Technology and GIA go hand-in-hand. GIA has been involved in supplementing visual grading with instrumentation for several decades. Right from introducing the first binocular gemmological microscope with darkfield illumination in 1938 to developing the Diamolite and Colorimeter in the 1940s; from starting the laser inscription service in 1983 to being able to distinguish natural diamonds from laboratory-grown diamonds in 1995 - we have continued to add more technological innovations into the grading process. GIA was among the first to use blockchain technology in its grading report, working with blockchain technology expert Everledger on projects with Chow Tai Fook and In 2020, GIA announced its association with IBM Research for automated clarity grading. GIA and IBM are planning other collaborations combining gemmological evaluation with artificial intelligence (AI).

GIA will continue to add technology and automation to the grading process, ensuring that any additional technology is based on a deep understanding of the GIA International Diamond Grading System™ and our decades of research,for greater consistency and accuracy.

Grading labs have been incorporating AI and ML in their quest for consumer trust. How far can this technology go in ensuring transparency of the grading process and authenticity of the results, and protecting consumer trust?

 For GIA, the important part of adopting a technology is if it is able to help deliver consistent and accurate results. The GIA AI clarity system is built on the globally accepted standards – the GIA International Diamond Grading System– that is recognised by everyone in the diamond value chain. The AI is fuelled by data from tens of millions of diamonds examined by GIA’s expert diamond graders in the Institute’s state-of-the-art grading laboratories around the world. Whether driven by AI or skilled experts in a gemmological laboratory, reliable and independent results require highly calibrated instruments, strict adherence to grading standards, and enormous amount of diamond grading information as reference for human grading and training the AI grading system.

While AI/ML are the talking points of the industry, the fact remains that these technologies are fairly new for the diamond industry. How can AI/ML add value to diamond grading?

 Technologies such as AI and Machine Learning (ML) are not new. In fact, they have permeated almost every other interaction humans have with technology. Even within the diamond industry, these technologies continue to gain traction and demand copious amounts of data.

The future of diamond grading at GIA is exciting. IBM’s AI technology, combined with GIA’s expertise, extensive data and gemmological-research capabilities, enables us to deliver advancements in consistency, accuracy and speed unlike any other organisation. The proprietary system, now in limited use in GIA’s New York and Carlsbad laboratories, will dramatically expand the reach of the Institute’s independent diamond grading reports. Initially concentrating on the most popular diamond sizes, GIA will scale the AI system to bring accurate and efficient diamond grading to more diamond sizes, shapes and qualities.

How will the automation of grading processes impact the trade? Will human involvement become redundant? Will it replace a human grader?

 AI-powered automated grading needs an incredible amount of data.GIA has decades of experience and expertise built on the evaluation of tens of millions of diamonds by thousands of skilled, experienced GIA staff. In addition, GIA’s expertise in instrumentation ensures that no matter where or when a diamond is evaluated by GIA, it can be compared to all other GIA-graded diamonds.

The diamond-grading skills of highly trained and experienced gemmologists and graders remain invaluable though. Grading large and high-quality diamonds is very complex and will require the insight of GIA’s expert staff. While AI-powered automated grading systems will allow GIA to deliver advancements in consistency, accuracy and speed, the AI will also need to learn from skilled gemmologists, researchers and graders to achieve those advancements.

 What percentage of diamonds is being graded by this technology presently?

GIA grades millions of diamonds per year. Currently, GIA’s automated clarity grading is in limited use at its New York and Carlsbad laboratories, primarily focused on the smaller sizes of diamonds submitted. Eventually, automated grading will be in all of our global locations.

Is it possible to adopt this technology on a large scale? How about affordability? Can it be transferred to the user? Taken to the location of retailers, manufacturers, etc, or does it have to rest with the grading labs?

 The AI clarity system is used only in GIA laboratories and operated by highly trained GIA staff to ensure integrity and independence of GIA’s grading process and results – moving upstream there is possibility for expansion. Our long-term vision is to reduce service times dramatically, to just hours or even minutes. Further automation will allow us to set a new bar in diamond grading standards.

To what extent will this technology increase the consistency and accuracy of grading a diamond? How big a role can AI play in resolving disputes about grading inconsistencies?

Consistent and accurate automated diamond grading depends on several factors such as technology, process, instrumentation, skilled staff, environment, and many more. Yet, our early results are encouraging.

 GIA is the creator of the 4Cs of Diamond Quality and the International Diamond Grading System – globally recognised standards within the industry as well as by the consumers. Following these standards and understanding how close automated grading is to these standards allow GIA to deliver advancements in consistency, accuracy and speed, and ultimately help build consumer confidence.

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