Diamond jewellery Diamond sector, Antwerp, Belgium - 17 Sep 2014Diamonds represent 5% of total Belgian exports, and account for 15% of total Belgian exports outside the European Union. Of all rough diamonds produced worldwide, the vast majority (84%) come to Antwerp to be sorted, traded and sold.

Fakes are a blight on the retail business, particularly for premium goods and especially online. EBay knows that all too well, which is why the digital marketplace’s authentication service is growing to cover another premium category: diamonds.

After unveiling eBay Authenticates in 2017 for luxury handbags and extending it to cover luxury watches this fall, the company said Tuesday the service would expand to fine jewelry.

“EBay is home to the largest selection of luxury goods, which includes tens of thousands of jewelry items, fine watches and rare and designer handbags,” said James Hendy, senior director of eBay Authenticate. “Expanding the eBay Authenticate service provides customers an added layer of trust and confidence as they shop for fine jewelry this holiday and beyond.”

According to the company, the items will come from more than two dozen of its top-rated sellers and are verified by third-party authentication experts. To start, more than 45,000 pieces — including engagement rings, loose diamonds, fine jewelry and vintage accessories ranging in value from $250 to more than $20,000 — have been authenticated and certified.

To mark the occasion, eBay is offering special deals on select authenticated diamond jewelry items, including hoop earrings, stud earrings, a bracelet and an engagement ring, with prices from $320 up to $7,000.

The service looks like a savvy move on multiple fronts. With one initiative, eBay has equated itself with high-end goods, while casting itself as a champion of authenticity.

But whether that will be enough remains to be seen. The issue with trust is that it’s hard to earn, but easy to lose. If a product falls through the cracks, that could be enough to cast a shadow over the entire effort. Just ask JD.com.

Earlier this year, the Chinese marketplace, which had been skewering Alibaba’s peer-to-peer marketplace Taobao over its counterfeit problem, was accused of selling a fake Comfort U pillow. The complaint came from a well-known author, who blasted the company in Weibo and WeChat posts and quickly nabbed tens of thousands of “likes” and comments. The scandal emerged just days before Consumer Rights Day in China.

According to the Global Brand Counterfeiting Report 2018, phony goods have become a global scourge to the tune of $1.2 trillion last year alone. By 2020, that number is expected to balloon up to $1.8 trillion. Meanwhile, the relentless pipeline of fakes continues to infiltrate marketplaces like Amazon Inc., Walmart Inc. and China’s Alibaba, among many others — including eBay.

The problem vexes companies all over the world. Impostors are hard to sniff out on the Internet. Consumers cannot inspect products before buying and sprawling marketplaces have trouble policing third-party sellers, who can simply duplicate authentic online listings and product descriptions.

While tech has made shopping easier, it’s also empowered counterfeit operations. Technologies like artificial intelligence could help ferret out phonies. Amazon and Alibaba both use such high-tech tactics, and the relative sophistication of AI is evolving all the time.

But for now, there’s still no magic wand — or keyboard — that can banish all the fakers with a single stroke.

That’s one reason this latest effort seems notable. EBay, a site that’s deeply invested in AI, machine-learning and computer vision, still relies on human authentication experts as a critical piece of the authentication service. They have quite a job. EBay sells one diamond ring per minute and 50,000 pieces of jewelry per day.

As for what’s next, eBay’s Hendy talked about expanding the authentication effort in public remarks. On tap is “an entire suite of services” by the end of next year, he said. Whether that will include machine, human or some combination isn’t clear. But one thing is certain: The battle against fakes will still be raging, so the need to instill trust and confidence in the real thing won’t be going anywhere.

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