Introduction to Gemology
General information on Gemology
Gemology, the study and science of gems, can be as much an anthropological study as it is a mineralogical one. Gemstones, because of their remarkable beauty, durability and rarity, have been granted a significance that helps us understand the history of mankind. The human race, from its infancy to present day, has sought to protect itself behind walls of mysticism and superstition reinforced with gem talismans that could be easily carried and hidden.
Ancient lore and legends associated with gems have, for the most part, been replaced with "rational" references of romance and poetic beauty, but precious stones remain the greatest universal talismans of wealth and power!
What is Gemology?
Gemology is the scientific study of gemstones, which often involves the study of mineralogical fundamentals such as formations, genesis, localities, physical properties and identification of gemstones. It includes the basic knowledge of structural, crystallographic, chemical and physical characteristics and properties of gems. It also involves the way in which gemstones are fashioned.
Special Gemology deals with categories and varieties of gemstones, synthetic stones and imitations. Conventionally, the organic substances such as amber, pearls, coral and the non-minerals are also included in this subject of special gemology.
Practical Gemology refers to the application of the knowledge of characteristics and properties of gemstones in identification or separation of synthetics and imitations. Diamond grading is included in practical gemology.
What is a Gemologist?
A gemologist is someone who studies gemstones. Being recognized as a gemologist usually involves having credentials from one of the Institutes for Gem(m)ological Studies discussed below (see Becoming a Gemologist below).
What are gemstones?
Gemstones are usually minerals but sometimes organic substances. What separates them from minerals in general is that they are used in jewelry or for ornamentation. That is a very thin line of separation, but usually we take 4 factors into account:
And, of course, there is a 5th factor:
All the factors above are relative in nature. For instance, amber has very poor durability, isn't very rare and in general is not highly priced. Yet it is considered to be a gem due to its beauty.
On the other hand, most sapphire has good durability but can be very unattractive and inexpensive. Only a small portion of all sapphires mined have good color/beauty. The same can be said for diamond; the vast majority of diamonds mined are used for industrial purposes because they lack the necessary beauty to be worn as jewelery.
Becoming a Gemologist
Becoming a gemologist in general means hard work and commitment. A wise teacher once said "You are only permitted to read books related to our trade and a religious book of your choice from now on . . . for the rest of your life".
Although you can find very useful information on the Internet (like here), we strongly suggest that you take formal training from one of the established institutes listed below. Our editors have graduated from at least one of them.
Some of the online gemological schools are basicaly run by one person and in case of mishap the school will cease to exist, aswell will be your "diploma".
Better known as The Gemmological Association of Great Britain, this school is London based with departments worldwide. It offers distance tutoring as well as teaching centers.
The primary focus is on in-depth theory and the exams are the hardest to take in the industry. A fellowship of Gem-A means esteem.
Costs for Gem-A's distance learning courses:
Foundation correspondence course GBP 1500.00
Diploma correspondence course GBP 1695.00 (on completion is granted the FGA title).
Gem Diamond diploma course GBP 1795.00 (on completion is granted the DGA title).
The Gemological Institute of America is the most prestigious and respected institute for gemology within the United States. Its main location is in Carlsbad, California, with facilities in New York and Los Angeles. Courses may be completed by distance learning via the online "virtual campus". It was established in 1931 by Robert Shipley, and currently the GIA is the world’s largest and one of the most respected nonprofit institutes of gemological research and learning internationally. It employs nearly 900, including scientists, diamond graders, and educators.
On campus (CB/NY/LA): 6 month continuous program (780 hours) $14,695
Distance Education: GEM130, GEM230, GEM230L, GEM120, GEM220,GEM220L, GEM240, GEM240L (Maximum completion time: 63 months) $6,975 ($7,420 International)
What you earn: Graduate Gemologist Diploma, Graduate Diamonds Diploma, Graduate Colored Stones Diploma
Thailand is in the heart of Southeast Asia's gem and jewelry production and trading area. It presents you with an extraordinary opportunity to learn gemology in theory and practice while experiencing the gem business in a three dimensional way.
The A.G. program, which leads to the A.G. (Accredited Gemologist) Diploma, includes the four core courses:
- E102: Gem Identification
- E103: Diamond Grading and Pricing
- E201: Colored Stone Grading and Pricing
- E301: Synthetic and Treated Gem Identification.
These 4 courses can be studied in any order, in one or several study periods at AIGS. It is recommended that “Gem Identification” be studied before “Synthetics and Treated Gems”.
Students enrolling in the entire A.G. program are entitled to a 15% discount off the total tuition fee. Courses must be taken within one year of the first date of payment. Beyond the one year period, students will be subjected to any tuition increases that may have occurred. (Example: Old fee = 20,000 Baht, New fee in effect since date of enrollment = 22,000 Baht, Additional amount to be paid = 2,000 Baht.)
Living expenses and general overhead are amazingly low compared to countries such as USA, Japan and most of Europe. Students studying at the AIGS can live with a US$600 to US$1000 budget per month including housing near the school, weekend field trips, restaurants and entertainment. Of course, you can spend much more if you want to, but this amount yields a comfortable lifestyle!
The Deutsche Gemmologische Gesellschaft (The Educational Training Center of the German Gemmological Association) is located in Idar-Oberstein, Germany. Idar-Oberstein is an international colored stone gem capital, where gem cutting has been traditionally mastered for centuries. It is currently bustling with local gem artists and studios. It has, perhaps, the highest per capita population of gem cutters in the world! The German Gemmological Association was founded in 1932. Its laboratories have modern state of the art equipment, and one of the most extensive colored and exotic gemstone collections available.
The Gemmological Association of Australia (GAA), founded in 1945, is Australia’s historic trade-accepted non-profit educational authority for gemology.
They offer gemological courses in 6 state divisions.
Costs: contact one of the six state divisions for pricing.
The Canadian Gemmological Association, based in Toronto Canada, is a Canada-wide professional organization which has set the standard for excellence in the practice of gemology. It was founded in 1958 by Dean S.M. Field, and has since provided training in gemology to persons dealing with gemstones in the jewelery industry and to hobbyists for better appreciation and possible new career opportunities within gemology.
They offer a one-year correspondence course as well classes on location.
The two-year correspondence course, leading to a Diploma in Gemmology and a Fellowship (FCGmA) in the Canadian Gemmological Association, is offered from CAD 2,150.00
After gaining your gemological diploma, the real fun starts. You will know the basics and more importantly you will know how to understand the many articles published in various periodicals.
If you keep up as a consumer of the gemological literature and are involved with continuing education, you will be a good gemologist one day.
As with any profession, it is all up to you what you will become and what your salary will be.
Think of a gemological diploma as if you have finished your first year in college and the pay rate according to that when you start out. You will be qualified to find jobs in gemological laboratories worldwide and will be the key figure in the local jewelry store. You may become manager of a company, start your own gem trading business, become an appraiser, or you might just stay shoveling municipal gardens etc. Anything you set your mind to. Pay rate is according to experience and market.
Our best advice is to start networking from the start and to seek a new employer every few years so you can gain as much know-how as you can.