When Jacques Voorhees and his son Erik, a cryptocurrency entrepreneur, were chatting over breakfast together one morning, Jacques suddenly realised a solution to a long-term problem affecting the diamond sector. As Jacques puts it, he nearly fell off his chair.
The result is Icecap, a startup that is the first company to offer investment-grade diamonds through NFT technology. Jacques Voorhees, now CEO, says NFTs solve an issue that has long troubled the diamond industry. Diamonds are not a tradeable, liquid asset class like gold or silver. As soon as a diamond leaves a jeweller’s shop, it loses value, maybe commanding only 50 per cent of its purchase price.
Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, have rocked the art world. Now, they are beginning to encroach on the world of diamonds as well as broader luxury jewellery and heirlooms. Asprey, the British jeweller with a royal warrant, is planning to release NFTs, Vogue Business has exclusively learned. They will be sold as a digital physical pair, meaning the buyer acquires both the object and the digital NFT representation of the object.
Asprey’s executive chairman John Rigas believes NFTs and jewellery and heirloom collectibles are a perfect match because NFTs bolster the authenticity of the products, documenting their ownership history and guaranteeing their authenticity. “NFTs are perfect for us, because they capture everything about the product, forever, when the information is part of a blockchain,” he says.
Besides the launch of NFTs tied to physical pieces, Asprey also plans to launch a line of digital-only NFTs, similar to the NFT artwork that’s being sold today.
The lead of Asprey is not being followed by other big-name jewellers just yet. Timothy Iwata Durie, Cartier’s global innovation director, remains wary. “We, at Cartier, believe much of what we’re seeing is hype,” he says. “First and foremost, we don’t want our customers subject to the price volatility that we are seeing in the marketplace today… We are taking our time to explore jewellery-related NFT use cases that create concrete benefits for our clients.”