If you’re considering our world-leading Gemmology Foundation course or want to find out more about the course’s contents, this is the article for you. Here, Gem-A Tutor Pat Daly explains more about this professional qualification, what resources you’ll receive, what the course contains, and how it can enhance your career.
When students embark on the Gem-A Foundation course in gemmology, we jump into action to ensure they receive the right equipment to kickstart their studies. Each person receives the gemmology notes, a set of instruments in a folding case and a starter collection of gemstones and artificial materials on which to practice the skills they learn and develop throughout the year.
The course introduces the concept of gemstones and explains why this group of materials has been of special interest to people worldwide and throughout time. Students will go on to consider gemstone properties and discover how they are related to the desirable features of the stones. These include their resistance to damage and the visual features which contribute to their beauty.
What Will I Learn on the Gem-A Gemmology Foundation Course?
Gemstones are valuable items which are important in the global economy. They may be modified by treatment to make them more durable and attractive, and they may be simulated by factory-made products. An important part of gemmological work involves the separation of natural stones, their treated counterparts and artificial materials. These aspects of gemmology are changing in step with technological progress, and gemmologists must keep up with developments. The Gem-A Gemmology Foundation course enables students to practise some of the skills that are needed to progress in this fascinating subject.
The course begins with the definition of a gemstone, indicates the features which may be seen with a magnifying glass (loupe) on or in the stones on the syllabus and points out those which are used to identify them or, alternatively, to suggest the best way of doing so by using gem testing instruments. In many cases, gem identification may be carried out by using the tools supplied and the methods outlined in the Foundation course. The advent of new methods of treatment and of manufacturing synthetic stones means that, for many materials, the final step in identification depends on what may be seen with the loupe and microscope.
Other instruments are introduced as they become relevant. Those to do with colour, for example, are described when that feature of gemstones is considered.
What Gemstones Are Covered in the Foundation Course?
Twenty gem species are described in detail in the course, together with their appearances, properties and how they can be identified. The Foundation course concentrates attention on those stones which have the greatest commercial importance. They include diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, garnets and quartz gems, amongst others. Other species are described in the Gem-A Gemmology Diploma course.
Many of these are interesting or beautiful, some are seen commonly in the jewellery trade, and they are by no means unimportant. Nonetheless, the Foundation course aims to inform students about those stones which are the most significant in terms of their abundance, beauty and value, and which supply most of those which are seen in jewellery.
The Science of Gemmology
Gemmology is a science-based subject. It operates by the evaluation of evidence gained from all the instruments that are available to the practitioner, from the simplest ones which are used at the start of the course to advanced types which may never be seen by most gemmologists. The same principles underlie the use of all equipment, however, and it is necessary for us to learn those on which our gemmological tools are based.
In particular, knowledge of the optical properties of stones and instruments, though they may be troublesome to learn for those who are not already familiar with them, is essential if advanced testing techniques using standard equipment are employed during commercial gem testing. Some additional scientific knowledge is useful in understanding instruments which, currently, are located mostly in laboratories. Although most of us will not use them, it is important that, when we tell clients or employers that we cannot give a definite answer to a gemmological question and that a stone should be sent to a laboratory, we speak from a position of knowledge and experience and not one of ignorance.
Creating the Foundations of Your Future Career
Much of this learning is for the future. The Foundation course, as its name suggests, serves as an introduction to gemmology, but it briefly covers the topics which are considered more fully in the Diploma course and which gemmologists can develop further when they have successfully completed these two.
Gemmology is a complex subject, like so many others nowadays, because so much scientific and technological progress has been made during the last few decades. The basic features of the subject remain the same, however. The gemmologist needs to accumulate knowledge of gemstones and instruments and acquire experience in handling stones effectively.
Caring for Gemstones
Gemstones are valuable, sometimes very valuable, and must be cleaned and tested with the greatest care. An accident which causes damage to a stone may involve the handler in an expensive repair or replacement. Gem testing begins with the eye and proceeds through magnification to the skilled use of instruments. Wrong conclusions, caused by careless testing or insufficient knowledge, may also be expensive, so students should adopt the sensible procedures described in the course to avoid damaging mistakes.
Despite these concerns, those who wish to study gemmology should do so with persistence and the determination not to be overawed by apparent difficulties, which may prove to be much less daunting when approached after the basics of the subject have been learned.
It is also important, from time to time, to remind ourselves of the reasons why we became interested in gemmology and of the pleasure which we continue to enjoy in its pursuit. These will inspire us to follow our interest in the harder parts of the subject and reassure us that our efforts will be rewarded.
If you would like to sample the subject of gemmology before embarking on this course, consider our online-only GemIntro platform. This is a quick, accessible and affordable way to learn the basics of gemmology.
All images from the Gem-A archives.