September often marks back-to-school and although it might look completely different this year, education is essential for all of our growth and development. Even as an adult I’m always open to learning as I always want to remain forever teachable. Last year I decided to go back to school to earn my graduate gemologist degree from the Gemological Institute of America.
GIA is known affectionately as the ivy league of the fine jewelry industry. They set many of our standards for diamond grading, colored stones grading and so much more. I am pursuing this degree not only to expand my knowledge about gemstones, but so I could better assist all of you! Many customers bring us heirlooms that have been passed down for generations. Some just want to refurbish the piece as is, but others are looking for a complete redesign. It’s essential in cases like these that I understand gemstone properties so I can help my clients make educated decisions. For example, although emerald is fairly hard on the Moh’s scale its chemical composition makes it very brittle and easy to crack. We have to take tremendous care when even just cleaning this stone, much less setting it.
Below are some other fascinating details I have learned during my gemstone education.
By assessing a stone’s color, clarity and rarity I can better understand the type of stone and this it’s value. Perhaps you have brought in a ring passed down to you from your grandmother with a dark red stone. I’m able to help you determine if the stone is a garnet, tourmaline or ruby. Each with distinct principles and value systems. If the stone is a highly prized ruby I can help you determine whether it makes sense to risk removing the stone from the setting or to leave the piece intact for the next generation.
2. Environmental Impact
Sustainability has been a huge topic of education in recent years. While the diamond trade has taken center stage on this topic, and rightfully so, it’s also important to understand how sustainable practices, or lack thereof, affect colored gemstones. Did you know that here at Dubin’s Fine Jewelry we have partnered with Terra Pass to offset our carbon footprint.
By learning how to grade a gemstone according to GIA’s stringent standards. This helps my customers with the appraisal process. It also helps you determine what is the right stone to pick when designing a piece. Do you want this to pass down through generations? Will the stone retain its value? The answer is almost always yes when it meets the requirements set by GIA to exist on their scale. While not always top of mind, gemstone jewelry can become quite a wise investment as we see time and time again at large auction houses such as Sotheby’s.
4. Treatments & Synthetics
I think the most important lesson I have learned is the ability to distinguish treatments or synthetic gemstones. There are plenty of stones on the market today that are artificially enhanced by using various methods such as bleaching, coatings, or dying. In some cases gemstones with cavities or fractures can be filled with glass, resin, or wax. Synthetics or man made gemstones, are chemically and optically identical to those that are mined from the Earth. Extra care must be taken when dealing with treated gemstones.
I’m very appreciative of the education I have received as a student of the GIA. While not only helping me fine tune my skill set, in the end it helps the people that matter most: my customers.