Written February 13, 2014
I just returned from Tucson, Arizona where I was taking gemology courses and visiting some of the gem shows. There are about 40 gem, rock, fossil and mineral shows going on during a two-week period each February and the offerings go from $1 pebbles to super high dollar gemstones, not to mention a T-Rex skeleton!
Currently I am working on becoming a graduate gemologist through GIA (Gemological Institute of America). In Tucson I took a Colored Gems Lab and a Pearl Grading Lab.
The Colored Gems Lab was three days and covered all the details for grading colored gemstones. We learned about describing their color in very specific way that includes hue, tone and saturation. We identified good and symmetric cuts as well as polish, amazing what you see once you really start looking. Finally we were taught to use a gemological microscope to seek out all of the inclusions inside of the stones. What a universe each little gem holds inside. Who knew?! There are little markings from when the crystal was growing, lines, bubbles, ‘needles’, ‘fingerprints’, ‘clouds’. And there are various fractures and cracks. The inclusions can affect the clarity of the stone but some are so tiny that you would never know they were there. It’s like the stone’s personality, each one is totally different.
And then the pearls…oh the pearls. So pretty. We were able to study pearls from white to black and all colors between. It can be pretty hard to get the hang of describing pearls’ colors since they are so muted. Greenish-blue or Blueish-green? Orangeish-yellow or Yellowish-orange? Slight variations make the differences. And then there are the overtones that can be a totally different color like pink. I’ve always loved the iridescent Tahitian grey and black pearls so I was happy to examine some up close. I hadn’t known too much about the yellow and orange South Seas pearls found in Australia and Indonesia and enjoyed those too. We examined cultured freshwater pearls from China and the cultured Akoya pearls from Japan (the classic white round pearls).
Both of these labs are in conjunction with distance learning I’m doing online and it was really good to get the hands on training. I’ll be using my new knowledge to expand what I offer online and in my shop. Soon I will be introducing colored gemstone engagement rings (well…you don’t have to be getting engaged to buy yourself one) and I’m really excited about this. My gemology courses have really been helping my knowledge and I will be loving the chance to share that with my customers.