New technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) don’t exist in a vacuum. To utilize them effectively and integrate them into the diamond trade, there must be a human element. But are companies doing enough to tempt people with the right skills into the diamond industry?
“Bringing in outsiders can be beneficial,” says Romy Gakh-Baram, global marketing and brand director for diamond-equipment manufacturer Sarine Technologies. “Fresh perspectives are essential for innovation. We’re actively looking to recruit professionals from other tech-intensive industries like fintech, e commerce, and AI research…. I strongly believe their ‘outsider’ status is an asset; it helps us question industry norms and enables us to think outside the proverbial diamond box.”
One recruitment advantage the diamond sector has is that it’s globally recognized. The “chance to be a part of a dynamic industry is very appealing” to job candidates, comments Pritesh Patel, senior vice president and chief operating officer at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). “We’ve done very well recruiting the tech talent we need. The advanced technology opportunities we offer, coupled with our inclusive culture, make for a persuasive case.”
Building on existing skills
Diamond companies can hire people to fill knowledge gaps, but “upskilling the [existing] workforce to harness the full potential of technology that is constantly evolving” is crucial, states Gakh-Baram. Having invested over $100 million in research and development, Sarine credits its base in Israel with allowing it to “tap into a pool of highly skilled professionals, researchers and engineers who are at the forefront of technological breakthroughs.”
Geographic advantages aside, however, the industry itself offers little in the way of “specialized training that combines diamond expertise with technological proficiency,” says David Sutton, founder and chief executive of diamond and gem marketplace Nivoda. “The challenge lies in attracting talent that is well-versed in the latest technologies but also understands the nuances and complexities of the diamond industry.”
To remedy that situation, he continues, “we have taken it upon ourselves to develop in-house training modules that serve this purpose.”
Sarine, for its part, focuses on “fostering a culture of knowledge sharing,” says Gakh-Baram. The company hosted Sarine Innovation Days in June, a two-day hackathon event where employees from different departments pooled their ideas to “stretch the boundaries of technology.” Sarine also builds hybrid teams of diamond-trade insiders and outside tech specialists to “leverage the best of both worlds — industry expertise and fresh perspectives.”
A positive example of this meeting of minds is Chroma Diamonds, a subsidiary of Antwerp-based manufacturer BRD Diamonds. Chroma uses in-house, patent-pending AI technology to assess fancy-colored specimens. It’s also curated a machine learning system that can predict the color grades for all potential polished stones resulting from a given rough.
One of the company’s strengths is the trio of directors running it: diamond buyer Benjamin Deutsch, engineer Alexander Appels and industrial designer Jan De Henau. “Artificial intelligence is a learning curve in every aspect,” Deutsch explains. “What was my epiphany, the wake-up call, was that these two technicians [Appels and De Henau] haven’t come from a diamond background…. It’s imperative that these people join the industry, and the question is how welcoming others will be [in allowing] these tech wizards to come in.”
A change in mind-set
Sutton echoes this sentiment, noting that one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is people’s mind-sets. “Rapid advancements in AI, machine learning, and software development are not easily assimilated,” he says. “Many in the industry view these technologies as disruptors rather than enablers.”
Initiatives like Sarine’s collaborative brainstorming event are a step toward integrating these new ways of thinking into the workforce.
Main image: Shutterstock
This article is from the September-October 2023 issue of Rapaport Magazine. View other articles here.