How do you become a gemologist? Well...you already are one!.
Because the definition of gemology is the study of gemstones.
And the definition of a gemologist is one who studies gemstones.
OK....I know...your question is: How do I become a gemologist.....and
make MONEY doing it. Now that, is a different question.
In truth, becoming a good gemologist will take you a lifetime.
Because the study of gemology covers such a vast field of information
that regardless of how much you learn...the next gemologist you
meet will know something that you do not. Which will give you
the opportunity to learn more...and share more...and on and on
in a continual process.
Before I go into exactly what it takes to become a gemologist,
let me tell you a story that you really, REALLY need to hear.
About a young gemologist who got a little bit of information
and used it to lose a customer....and to embarrass himself.
This young gemologist was working in the jewelry department
of the old Sanger-Harris stores in downtown Dallas one afternoon
when a customer came into the store with a earring with a colorless
gemstone, and wanted to know if the stone was a diamond. The
young guy looked at the stone and immediately saw a trigon on
the girdle. Now...this young guy was taking his first GIA Diamonds
course and had just learned that a trigon would only be found
on a natural diamond, and would be connected to the dodecahedral
surface of the octahedral crystal formation. And he spent a great
deal of time informing the customer about all of the above, being
very proud of himself that he was able to share this excellent
knowledge about trigons, dodecahedral surfaces and octahedral
crystal systems......until the customer interrupted and said:
Thank You...and walked out.
The problem was...this customer wanted to know if the stone
was a real diamond, and wanted to know if this young guy could
match it with another diamond. Nothing more. He did not care
about the gemological aspects of why or how the answers were
The answer should have been: Yes....and yes...and then sell
this customer a matching diamond.
Instead the answer was....dodecahedral this and trigon that...and
the customer walked out the door.
And yes....that young guy in the store...was...me..... YourGemologist.
The point is, there is no one more dangerous in a jewelry
store, or anywhere else, than a young or new gemologist with
a little bit of knowledge. It takes time to gain the knowledge..and
even more time to learn how to use...or not use..that knowledge.
So as you consider the rest of this section, please remember
that no one becomes a qualified gemologist by taking some courses
in diamond grading or colored gemstone identification. A really
qualified gemologist takes years to accomplish. Both in technical
knowledge...and in common sense as to how to apply that knowledge.
With that said...let's move on to the the real issues.
First, to become a proper gemologist you need to get some
some proper gemological training. And not just a course or two.
I am so tired of people calling themselves "GIA Graduates"
simply because they passed one or two GIA courses. To become
a properly trained gemologist you need to pass the requirements
to get a diploma in gemology. Such as the GIA Graduate Gemologist,
the Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain,
or other qualified diplomas from accredited gemological schools
in Canada, Australia, Bangkok, Thailand, etc....
Here is an overview of some of the schools. Most will have
links to them located at their icons.
Gemmological Association of Great Britain
The FGA is the world's oldest and (in my opinion) most valued
gemological designation. Cost for their program is significantly
less than the GIA, although you will have to get your own study
specimens and be more motivated to do your own study. But the
FGA will give you the highest level of knowledge and expertise
in both the practical and theory of gemology. Both distance study
and on-site study available. Strength is the wonderful amount
of knowledge offered by their courses. Weakness is the overall
lack of proper marketing of their program, and the slow response
to student requests by the Gem-A office. US Students have specifically
complained about very slow response from their US based tutors
in returning graded lessons. If you are going to enroll in the
FGA program, ask for a UK based tutor. You won't have problems
Cost for both Foundation and Diploma by Distance Education
courses leading to the FGA exam is approximately US$7,500.00.
Gemological Institute of America
The most recognized gemological credential in the Unites States.
Offers a wonderful array of services along with on-line teaching
and a lot of assistance with study by sending out specimens for
grading, etc.... VERY expensive, even for home
study. The Graduate Gemologist program costs in excess of US$14,000.00
at the last report I had. Which makes this a long term and costly
effort. Their strength is that the program is well supported
technically and the GG is the most recognized designation in
the US. Weaknesses are the exceptionally high cost, and the fact
that the GIA does not teach enough theory in my opinion. Leaving
some GG's without a firm foundation in some areas.
Another draw back on the GG program is the over reliance on
expensive gemological equipment. Perhaps because the GIA owns
Gem Instruments as a for-profit corporation, but the GIA courses
teach students to rely heavily on expensive gemological equipment...all
for sale by Gem Instruments. Not a proper match up in my opinion.
And I got my first GIA certificate in 1978, and the latest in
1996, so I have been around them quite a few years.
International School of Gemology
The new kid on the block in the world of gemology education.
But the ISG is making big waves. Mainly because it is offering
a complete study of gemology via the internet...and doing it
for as little as $1,195.00 for the Registered Gemologist program. An unheard of price
for a complete program in gemology, making the study affordable
to a far wider market than previously dreamed.
And the program goes beyond the regular diamonds and colored
gemstones. The ISG is the only gemology school to offer
a comprehensive course on the Identification of Synthetic Gemstones. The 8
course RGA program also includes Pearls, Intro to Watches, Diamonds,
Colored Gemstone ID and Colored Gemstone Grading. It is conducted
totally online with students studying at their own pace and taking
timed exams administered by a third party testing facility. One
of the best gemology educations available for the money.
One important point about the ISG courses is that they combine
the materials of the FGA and Graduate Gemologist programs. Allowing
students to get the best of both worlds for a very small price.
And due to the easy to understand nature of the courses, even
GIA and FGA students are enrolled in the ISG as additional study
help with their other programs.
Just announced is their new Gemology Classroom-At-Home program that provides students with practical gemstone identification and grading experience at home. So the ISG is the first pick in gemology for those seeking a quality education at an affordable price.
Diamond Council of America
The DCA has undergone a wonderful transformation since Terry
Chandler stepped in as president. This is the program I wish
I had access to when I was in the retail jewelry business. This
is the most outstanding program for the retail jewelry industry
on the market....at any price. The Diamonds Course and Colored
Stones Course offers a complete education in gemology and jewelry
on the level required for retail jewelry professionals.
I recently had the opportunity to review the program courses,
and it is one of the few programs that I would like to start
for myself just for the excellent level of knowledge that it
The Diamonds Course takes the student through all of the steps
of how diamonds get from the mines to the retail jewelry stores.
And then goes on to provide everything the retail jewelry professional
needs to know to provide world class service to the diamond buying
The Colored Gemstone Course gives a complete overview to the
world of colored gemstones in such a manner that it allows the
retail jeweler to offer a professional and knowledgeable presentation
to consumers, while at the same time keeping it on a consumer
friendly level of knowledge and understanding.
If I ever again own a retail jewelry store, the Diamond Council
of America Program is going to be required of every employee.
||One of the world's foremost gemological
organizations located in Bangkok, Thailand. Being located in
the heart of one of the world's most important gem producing
regions, the AIGS is able to offer gemological training with
some of the best trained instructors who have worked directly
in the gem producing areas. In fact, some of the top names in
the world of gemology today have come from the AIGS. Please contact
them for the latest in courses and costs.
Canadian Gemmological Association
This is just a fine organization run by a fine group of people
with a fine lot of members. What else can you say? Their gemology
program runs very parallel to the FGA program from London, and
their graduates are known as some of the best in the world.
A long standing reputation for quality and integrity makes
the CGA one of the first picks for gemological training for anyone
Ecole de Gemmologie
||This French-Canadian gemological
institute is one of the premier in the world. Closely allied
with the Gem-A in London and the Canadian Gemmological Association,
we are fortunate enough to have visitors from the EGM to visit
us from time to time. They have a variety of courses available
that..due to my lack of reading French...I cannot provide to
you accurately. Perhaps we can get someone from the EGM to send
us information that I can post here to give you a better overview
of their excellent courses.
||I highly recommend Cos Altobelli's book on appraising, and his courses on Jewelry Insurance Appraisal. When I worked with USAA insurance, Cos' book was the handbook I used for communicating jewelry appraisal issues to staff underwriters and adjusters. The AGS training is the top level in quality due to Cos Altobelli's efforts, knowledge, and teaching ability. A first rate program with many decades of proven quality.
There are other gemological designations and training available
from other organizations., such as the gemological associations
in Germany, Spain and China, which are top level organizations.
If anyone would like to make contact with these good people please
let me know if I can assist.
Also, be aware that some titles out there are from well intentioned
organizations, but will not give you a complete and proper gemological
education that will qualify you as a professionally training
But the real point is that you cannot consider yourself a
properly trained gemologist simply because you took a Diamonds
course with the GIA, or the Foundations course with the Gem-A.
You need to complete the entire program and pass the examinations
to get your diploma. Too many people get a certificate of completion
for one course and call themselves "GIA Graduate" when
all they did was to get a certificate of completion....not a
diploma. You need a diploma to do formal gemological work in
the industry. A single course here or there will certainly help
you be a better gemologist, but will not qualify you to do formal
gemological work in the industry.
Now, once you have taken the proper courses and passed your
examinations, where do you go from here?
First and foremost....DO NOT think for a minute that you are
done. I get so tired of graduates of the GIA and other schools
who get their diploma and figure they are done with school. If
you are a gemologist worth your salt, you will NEVER be finished
with school and gemology classes. Because the information you
need to know grows so fast that you will need to always be in
school in some form or the other. I started my first GIA course
in 1978, and am getting ready to continue my equation with my
DGA designation with the Gem-A soon...here in 2006! So NEVER
Now, there are a number of avenues you can take professionally.
The most often is to work in a jewelry store. Which is where
most of the jobs are. Either in appraising, buying or management.
The retail jewelry industry is the heart and soul of the gemology
field and ...listen very carefully here...no gemologist worth
his or her salt will ever become anything if they do not put
in at least 5 years behind a retail sales counter in a retail
jewelry store. Why? Because if you do not understand the end
selling point of your field, you will never be a good buyer,
manager, appraiser, or other type of gemologist.
Average Salary Ranges of Gemologists in US
Jewelry Store Salesperson
(entry level person): US$20,000.00 to US$50,000.00
Appraiser (only) for Jewelry
Store: $30,000.00 to $40,000.00
Jewelry Store Sales/Appraiser/Manager
(experienced 5 years): $30,000.00 to $75,000.00
Diamond Grader and/or Stone
Sorter for Importer: $20,000.00 to $25,000.00 (all levels)
Wholesale/import dealer salesperson/gemologist:
$20,000.00 to $80,000.00 (entry to experienced levels)
Independent Appraiser (very
experienced with appraisal training): $30,000.00 to $80.000.00+
Website moderator for YourGemologist.com:
$0.00 per year. (OK, I had to throw that in...LOL)
All salary ranges
are approximate based on industry publications. Wide variations
can occur based on geographical location, type of responsibilities,
level of knowledge and experience, and other factors.
A good gemologist doing selling, appraising, and helping with
buying in the US can make in the range of $22,000.00 to $75,000.00
depending on your level of expertise and your experience. Plus...how
good of a salesperson you are. The best money in the field is
in selling gemstones so put your comfortable shoes on and get
out on that sales floor. That is where you real education will
be, and where the real money is.
However, some people want to become importers or work for
a gemstone importer. Here again...you need at least 5 years AFTER
you get out of school to know what you are doing. There is nothing
more difficult in my book than a fresh GG right out of the GIA.
Because they seem to think (as I did) that since they are GG's,
that they know everything. The best advice I can give you here
is to find a knowledgeable and well established importer and
do anything you can to work with them. The salary may be low
at first, but the experience and knowledge you get will be priceless.
Salaries usually will be in the $25,000.00 range in the US. So
be prepared. But the knowledge and experience will be well worth
your time if you want to continue in this segment of the industry.
Remember...just because you have your FGA or GG does not make
you a qualified gemological business person...it makes you a
qualified gemologist. And no one is going to pay big money to
someone with technical knowledge but little experience. Because
you will not have a full understanding of what gemstones are
out on the market. An example is a virtual fight I got into with
a new GG regarding my claim to own a piece of transparent turquoise.
Seems the GIA did not teach that turquoise ever existed in transparent
form, so since the GIA never said it occurred...this new GG was
willing to take me to the wall.
Obviously, since I have it here on my desk...the debate did
not last long. But the good result was a GG who realized that
the GIA training is very, very good....but is not the ultimate
in gemological knowledge.
The point is....a gemologist fresh out of school has far more
to learn than what they have learned so far. The really great
one's realize this, and take time to learn their trade. The one's
who do not want to take the time usually screw so much stuff
up that they get kicked to the curb by the industry.
Now...appraisers! NEVER....will it be proper for a newly graduated
gemologist to become an appraiser. I know because I tried it.
And I screwed up so many appraisals over trying to appraise things
I knew nothing about, it is a wonder that I am still in this
But many people continue to do this. It takes a good gemologist
to be a good appraiser. But not all good gemologists become good
appraisers. Many just get the GG and buy a subscription to The
Guide or the Rap Sheet and hang out the shingle.
This is neither proper...not good for consumers or the industry.
A good appraiser is someone who has a lot of experience in the
gemstone markets and knows the values and qualities of the gemstones.
This takes a lot of time and work to gain this experience. And
far too many people see the GG beside someone's name and assume
that the person is a qualified appraiser.
The person may be a qualified gemologist....but this does
not make them a qualified appraiser.
That is basic concept of becoming a gemologist. It takes time,
training, and experience. You will never stop learning, but you
need to get some serious experience before you start out on your
own. I urge you all to use the links to the schools on this page
to get more information.
If anyone needs more information on how to contact the various
gemological schools in your area please let me know.
Best to all,
Robert James FGA, GG