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NEW YORK, April 26 (Reuters) – Gold and diamond companies including Berkshire Hathaway Inc's Richline Group Inc joined with IBM to develop blockchain technology to track the origin of jewelry and ensure it is ethically sourced, the companies said on Thursday.

The joint initiative dubbed TrustChain aims to make it easier for consumers to track diamonds and precious metals through the various steps of the supply chain as they become finished pieces jewelry, the companies said.

The technology will initially help track six styles of diamond and gold engagement rings and is expected to be available to consumers by the end of 2018, the companies said.

Other firms involved in the initiative include precious metals refiner Asahi Refining, jewelry retailer Helzberg Diamonds, precious metals supplier LeachGarner and third-party verification provider UL.

Blockchain, which first emerged as the system powering cryptocurrency bitcoin, is a shared database that is maintained by a network of computers connected to the internet.

Because it makes it easier for multiple parties to jointly create and update tamper-proof records, the firms involved in the project believe it is well suited to securely and efficiently track and prove the origin and ethical sourcing of jewelry.

Richline Group had previously attempted to create a similar database using different technology, but the process was still heavily manual and prone to inaccuracies, Mark Hanna, the company's chief marketing officer, said in an interview.

"We were always very enamored with it but there wasn't the right platform," Hanna said. "Then along came blockchain."

The TrustChain platform was tested last week to track the provenance of a diamond ring across the supply chain.

Other companies in the industry have started to explore using blockchain technology. Anglo American's diamond unit De Beers...

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