Displaying items by tag: Heritage

110 Years of Gemmology

It all started with an idea...

Manchester, England, 1908
110 years ago today, on July 6 1908, Samuel Barnett a jeweller from Peterborough, stood up at a gathering of the National Association of Goldsmiths to propose an idea: to offer lessons and examinations in gemmology to support the jewellers’ industry. 

The UK’s leading goldsmiths and jewellers supported the idea and created an official committee to advocate gemmological education. In that moment, Barnett established the UK as the world’s first provider of gemmological education, and became the father of what would one day become Gem-A. As another Gem-A founding father, Basil Anderson, noted many years later, Barnett’s proposal "marked the beginning of organised gemmology, not only in this country, but in the whole world".

 
G.F Herbert Smith

This was an exciting time of innovation in the gemmological world. The years building up to Barnett’s proposal had already seen the arrival of the Steward Refractometer in 1905, followed by the Goniometer and Spectroscope in 1907. Renowned mineralogist Dr G.F Herbert Smith was also developing his ground-breaking book Gemstones, released in 1912, offering the first textbook on gemstones with full instructions on how to use specialist equipment. While the gems and jewellery industry was an ancient trade, this equipment enabled jewellers to now look inside their stones, and these years mark the first advances in practical gemmology.

London, 1913
Within five years of Samuel Barnett’s proposal the first gemmological examinations were held, set and marked by Herbert Smith, with Barnett himself receiving the first ever Diploma in Gemmology. 

Since 1913, gemmology has gone from strength to strength, with the continued ethos of serving the industry through championing access to gemmological education.

In 1938 we officially became the Gemmological Association of Great Britain, and over the last century we have seen a prestigious line of Gem-A presidents, including internationally renowned gemmologists, inventors and even Nobel Prize winners. Over the next coming months our 'Heritage Series' will showcase these Gem-A Greats and their contributions to the advancement of gemmology and the wider scientific community.

From an idea in 1908, today Gem-A’s Gemmology and Diamond Diplomas are taught in 40 Accredited Teaching Centres across the world and our FGA and DGA members are internationally recognised by the industry.

Between now and the Gem-A Conference in November we will be celebrating the last 110 years of gemmology and our proud history of being the world’s first provider of gemmological education. So keep an eye out for the latest 'Heritage Series', where we will explore our illustrious founders, including Herbert Smith, Basil Anderson, and Sir Lawrence Bragg.


Gem-A Graduates 2017

 

If you would like to join us in celebrating 110 years of gemmology education click here and register for the Gem-A Conference 2018.

If you are a Gem-A Member or Student you will receive an email with an access link, if you haven't received it please contact membership@gem-a.com.

 


Journal Digest: Bumble Bee Stone from Indonesia

Journal Digest: Bumble Bee Stone from Indonesia

Guy Lalous ACAM EG delves into an article on Indonesian Bumble Bee Stone (BBS) from The Journal of Gemmology Volume 36, No.3, and presents his edited take on the most essential information, findings and lessons to be learnt. Continue reading here...

Read more


Field Trip: A Visit to Gem-A ATC Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar

Field Trip: A Visit to Gem-A ATC Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar

Gem-A tutor Barbara Kolator B.Sc. M.Sc. FGA DGA EG shares some highlights from her recent trip to the Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar in Antananarivo, which is a proud Gem-A Accredited Teaching Centre (ATC). 

Read more


Natural Pearls: Marie Antoinette's £27.8 million Precious Pendant

Natural Pearls: Marie Antoinette's £27.8 million Precious Pendant

Famous for her ostentatious sense of style, 18th century French Queen Marie Antoinette was back as the centre of attention at Sotheby's in November thanks to the record-breaking sale of her natural pearl and diamond pendant. Here, Beth West FGA DGA EG considers the history behind this fascinating piece. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Tanzanite for Those Born in December

Birthstone Guide: Tanzanite for Those Born in December

Looking for the perfect festive gift for a December baby? Gem-A tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG considers the December birthstone tanzanite and how this relatively new gemstone compares to its purple and blue-hued rivals.

Read more


Retail Focus: Beyond the Green

Retail Focus: Beyond the Green

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gem-A Gemmology Tutor Beth West FGA DGA EG explores Colombian emeralds. 

Read more


 

Additional Info

Read more...

Sir Henry A. Miers - Gem-A's First President

'Curiouser and Curiouser', said the Gemmologist

On July 6, Gem-A celebrated the anniversary of 'organised gemmology education', the idea proposed by Peterborough jeweller and one of Gem-A's founding fathers, Samuel Barnett. For the second instalment of our Heritage Series we turn to Gem-A's very first president, Sir Henry A. Miers F.R.S, the eminent mineralogist and crystallographer who became Gem-A president in 1932.

In his lectures for the Royal Society in 1896 on ‘Precious Stones’, Henry Miers aimed to highlight the importance of considering, not just the history or artistic interest of gemstones, but some of their more curious properties.

By examining their refractive index and specific gravity, Miers demonstrated how instruments such as the goniometer, refractometer, dichroscope, and polariscope helped to determine the identity of gemstones beyond opinion to scientific proof: ‘the methods are those of physical science – and they are accurate’ (Miers 1896, Scientific American, 17309)


From the 'Precious Stones' article  (Miers 1896, Scientific American, 17309)

Observing the number of serious mistakes made in the jewellery trade in the 1890s, Miers despaired that ‘the jeweller’s trade stands almost alone…in ignoring the aid of physical science’ and in these lectures, published in Scientific American, he championed the ‘absolute necessity of accurate scientific knowledge’ to identify gemstones (and their imitations).

Graph detailing SG and RI from the 'Precious Stones' article  (Miers 1896, Scientific American, 17309)

In just over a decade’s time in Manchester July 1908, Samuel Barnett would propose the establishment of organised gemmological education to the National Association of Goldsmiths, and Miers’ call for applied gemmology in the jewellery industry would become a reality.

Read more: 110 years of Gemmology

For Miers, those fortunate enough to delve into the world of gemmological science were intrepid explorers, and in their ‘attempt to explain all these curious properties, will find themselves in a most fascinating field of discovery and speculation.’ (Miers 1896, Scientific American, 17309)

It was a world that Miers remained in for his entire life.
A King’s Scholar of Eton College, the young Henry went to Trinity College, Oxford, on a classics scholarship, before transferring to mathematics. From Oxford, Miers joined the Mineral Department of the British Museum (Natural History) under Lazarus Fletcher in 1882 and – like many of his Gem-A successors – went on to become Keeper of the Minerals.

At the British Museum, Miers arranged the mineral gallery and the crystallography catalogue, while also lecturing in crystallography at Central College, South Kensington, and publishing his research on precious stones and the morphology of various minerals.


Gem-A's collection of Miers' work

Remaining in the fascinating field of discovery that is gemmology, Miers was offered the Chair of Mineralogy in 1895 at Magdalen College, and on his return to Oxford he improved their laboratory and the University’s mineral exhibition. Miers was also made a fellow of the Royal Society in 1896 and in 1902 published his seminal work Mineralogy: an introduction to the scientific study of minerals, before becoming president of the Mineralogical Society for 1904/5.

Read More: Gem-A History 1908-Present

In 1912 he was knighted, and in 1915 became the Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Crystallography at Manchester, which under Ernest Rutherford became a hub for nuclear physics and crystallography, attracting the likes of the Nobel Prize Winner Sir Lawrence Bragg - who likewise would go on to become Gem-A president!

Sir Henry Alexander Miers, Gem-A's President 1932-37.
National Portrait Gallery, London, Creative Commons.

In 1926, Miers returned to London and became a trustee of the British Museum. He was appointed to the Royal Commission for National Museums and Galleries, a role that took him around the UK and the world: the Carnegie UK trust invited him to report on museums across Britain, and then for the Carnegie Corporation in New York. He went on to Canada and British Africa in 1932. It was at this time that Sir Henry was approached to become the first president of the (then) Gemmological Association, a post he held until 1937.

Printed Works of Gem-A Greats featured in our 2018 Heritage Series. 

Sir Henry Miers died peacefully at home on 10 December 1942, aged 85, as arguably one of the first trailblazers of gemmology. He was held in such high esteem that it was the equally renowned Dr Herbert-Smith who wrote his obituary in Nature. It is to Herbert-Smith we will turn to in our next instalment of Gem-A’s ‘Heritage Series’.

If you would like to join us in celebrating 110 years of gemmology education click here and register for the Gem-A Conference 2018.

If you are a Gem-A Member or Student you will have received an email to book member or student rates, if you haven't received it please contact membership@gem-a.com.

Cover Image: Sir Henry Alexander Miers by Lafayette, whole-plate film negative, 30 May 1929, NPG x69585 © National Portrait Gallery, London, Creative Commons. 


Journal Digest: Bumble Bee Stone from Indonesia

Journal Digest: Bumble Bee Stone from Indonesia

Guy Lalous ACAM EG delves into an article on Indonesian Bumble Bee Stone (BBS) from The Journal of Gemmology Volume 36, No.3, and presents his edited take on the most essential information, findings and lessons to be learnt. Continue reading here...

Read more


Field Trip: A Visit to Gem-A ATC Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar

Field Trip: A Visit to Gem-A ATC Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar

Gem-A tutor Barbara Kolator B.Sc. M.Sc. FGA DGA EG shares some highlights from her recent trip to the Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar in Antananarivo, which is a proud Gem-A Accredited Teaching Centre (ATC). 

Read more


Natural Pearls: Marie Antoinette's £27.8 million Precious Pendant

Natural Pearls: Marie Antoinette's £27.8 million Precious Pendant

Famous for her ostentatious sense of style, 18th century French Queen Marie Antoinette was back as the centre of attention at Sotheby's in November thanks to the record-breaking sale of her natural pearl and diamond pendant. Here, Beth West FGA DGA EG considers the history behind this fascinating piece. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Tanzanite for Those Born in December

Birthstone Guide: Tanzanite for Those Born in December

Looking for the perfect festive gift for a December baby? Gem-A tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG considers the December birthstone tanzanite and how this relatively new gemstone compares to its purple and blue-hued rivals.

Read more


Retail Focus: Beyond the Green

Retail Focus: Beyond the Green

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gem-A Gemmology Tutor Beth West FGA DGA EG explores Colombian emeralds. 

Read more


 

Additional Info

Read more...

Dr Herbert Smith: Innovator, Inventor, Gem-A President

Dr Herbert Smith was Gem-A President from 1942 until 1953. He was integral in the development of gemmology for the jewellery trade and had an extensive list of accomplishments throughout his career and tenure as president: 
- He developed the Herbert Smith refractometer which, as Noel Heaton noted, improved the instrument beyond recognition and provided the industry with a means to determine the refractive index of a gemstone in a matter of seconds (without even needing to remove it from a setting).

From Nature 25 May 1911 

- He not only discovered a new mineral (paratacamite), but also has one named after him (Herbertsmithite).

- His seminal work Gem-Stones 1912 is well known to students and jewellers alike, as the first text book on gemmology with full instructions on how to use specialist equipment.

- Maybe you are are Gem-A student or graduate who has studied in the Herbert Smith room here at Gem-A HQ in London.

- You may have even bought a postcard featuring collections from the British Museum – this idea was born from Herbert Smith and is a tradition that continues today.

READ MORE: 110 Years of Gemmology

Mineralogy at the British Museum (Natural History)
Like Henry Miers before him, the young Herbert Smith went to Oxford – specialising in mathematics and physics, and then likewise went on to join Sir Lazarus Fletcher’s Department of Mineralogy at the British Museum (Natural History) in 1897 where he soon specialised in crystallography and in the use of instruments to identify faceted gemstones.

Through this work he invented the three-circle goniometer and designed an updated refractometer which, in doing so, ‘put in the hands of jewellers an instrument that all could use effectively with very little difficulty’ (W. Campbell-Smith). 

Demonstration of the Herbert Smith Refractometer in the 1912 'Gem-Stones'

In 1912 Herbert Smith published the pioneering work Gem-Stones, which was the first systematic approach to gemmology, and importantly, accessible gemmology. As he noted in his preface:

‘If this book be found by those engaged in the jewellery trade
helpful in their everyday work, and if it wakens in readers generally
an appreciation of the variety of gems, and an interest in the wonderful
qualities of crystallised substances, I shall be more than satisfied’

(Gem-Stones 1912: viii)

READ MORE: Gem-A's first President: Sir Henry Miers

Legacy at Gem-A
Maintaining this purpose, when the National Association of Goldsmiths enacted Barnett’s 1908 proposal for gemmological examinations, it was Herbert Smith who set and marked the first Gemmology Diploma, he remained at the core of the educational committee that became the Gemmological Association in 1931. 

The Gemmology Diploma examination from 1933, marked by Herbert Smith

To this day Gem-Stones is a gemmological treasure and its multiple editions have involved contributions from some of the other stalwarts throughout Gem-A history including: R.Webster, B.W Anderson, G.F Andrews and G.F. Clarringbull.

Various editions of Herbert Smith's 'Gem-Stones' from the Gem-A Collection

Herbert Smith went on to become Gem-A president in 1942, succeeding the Nobel Prize Winning crystallographer Sir William Bragg, and remained so until his death in 1953.

READ MORE: Journal Digest: Delve into the Colours of Rainbow Lattice Sunstone

During this time he was also – like many of Gem-A's previous Presidents – Keeper of the Minerals at the British Museum (NH), and he spent much of his professional life in service to the Museum. He championed inclusivity and outreach through his work with Gem-A, the Civil Service Arts Council, the Society for the Promotion of Natural Reserves, and the Wild Plant Conservation Board. He was also a part of the British delegation to the International Conference for the Protection of Nature at Bruunen in 1947.

Handwritten dedication by Herbert Smith in his 'Gem-Stones' to his daughter Jeanne
May 1912

He was a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, a member and vice-president of the Mineralogical Society, a fellow of the Geological Society and a member of the British Association. To top it all off, in 1949 he was awarded a CBE.

It is fair to say that without Herbert Smith, Gem-A and gemmology as we know it today would not have been possible. He was a pioneer of gemmology for the jewellery industry, a Gem-A examiner from 1913 to 1951 and he cultivated knowledge throughout his life and shared it with others.

READ MORE: Gem Empathy Competition Returns for IJL 2018

If you would like to join us in celebrating 110 years of gemmology education click here and register for the Gem-A Conference 2018.

If you are a Gem-A Member or Student you will have received an email to book member or student rates, if you haven't received it please contact membership@gem-a.com.

Cover Image: Portrait of Herbert Smith, which hangs in the Herbert Smith Room at Gem-A HQ in London.


Journal Digest: Bumble Bee Stone from Indonesia

Journal Digest: Bumble Bee Stone from Indonesia

Guy Lalous ACAM EG delves into an article on Indonesian Bumble Bee Stone (BBS) from The Journal of Gemmology Volume 36, No.3, and presents his edited take on the most essential information, findings and lessons to be learnt. Continue reading here...

Read more


Field Trip: A Visit to Gem-A ATC Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar

Field Trip: A Visit to Gem-A ATC Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar

Gem-A tutor Barbara Kolator B.Sc. M.Sc. FGA DGA EG shares some highlights from her recent trip to the Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar in Antananarivo, which is a proud Gem-A Accredited Teaching Centre (ATC). 

Read more


Natural Pearls: Marie Antoinette's £27.8 million Precious Pendant

Natural Pearls: Marie Antoinette's £27.8 million Precious Pendant

Famous for her ostentatious sense of style, 18th century French Queen Marie Antoinette was back as the centre of attention at Sotheby's in November thanks to the record-breaking sale of her natural pearl and diamond pendant. Here, Beth West FGA DGA EG considers the history behind this fascinating piece. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Tanzanite for Those Born in December

Birthstone Guide: Tanzanite for Those Born in December

Looking for the perfect festive gift for a December baby? Gem-A tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG considers the December birthstone tanzanite and how this relatively new gemstone compares to its purple and blue-hued rivals.

Read more


Retail Focus: Beyond the Green

Retail Focus: Beyond the Green

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gem-A Gemmology Tutor Beth West FGA DGA EG explores Colombian emeralds. 

Read more


 

Additional Info

Read more...

Leading the World's First Gemstone Testing Laboratory: Gem-A's Basil Anderson

As we build up to the Gem-A Conference 2018 in November, we are continuing our celebration of the Gem-A Greats who have been pivotal in our history. This week’s Heritage Series turns to another of Gem-A’s founding fathers, Basil Anderson.

Basil Anderson with X-ray equipment. Image Credit Gem-A.

At a time when the gemmological world and the jewellery industry were rapidly changing with new innovations and the appearance of sophisticated synthetics, Basil Anderson was a pivotal figure in ensuring the link between gemmological science and industry-practice. His commitment to maintaining the important relationship between gemmologist and jeweller is still at the heart of Gem-A’s educational ethos to this day.

READ MORE: Heritage Series, Dr Herbert Smith 

Educated at Kings College London, Anderson graduated with a first class degree in Chemistry and Mineralogy in 1924. That same year he was introduced via his professors to Mr Tanburn of Hatton Garden, who was actively looking for someone to run the world’s first gemstone testing laboratory.


Original Notes from Anderson's colleague CJ Payne at the Testing Laboratory. Image Credit Gem-A

This was a critical time for the gemstone and pearl industry. With innovations such as Mikimoto’s development of cultured pearls in 1921, the jewellery industry was in a transitional period as it responded to the impact of synthetics on the industry.

In direct response to this new crisis, the London Chamber of Commerce created the ‘Diamond, Pearl and Precious Stone Trade Branch’ – with the aim of creating a laboratory to authenticate gemstones and pearls. The recently graduated Basil Anderson, much to his own humble surprise, was the ideal candidate, and in his 1981 lecture to Gem-A he recounted how he ‘toddled along’ to Hatton Garden for his interview. It is safe to say Anderson was successful, and following an all-important cup of tea, he began running the world’s first gemstone testing laboratory.

Collection of Anderson's Laboratory Notes from 1925. Image Credit ©Gem-A.

For Anderson, the jewellery sector was a “very ancient trade and it has always been a very honourable trade”, and the appearance of mass synthetics was “innocuous” because the chain of confidence – from miners to dealers to lapidaries to manufacturers to retailers – was shaken by the introduction of synthetics.

READ MORE: Birthstone Guide, Spinel for those born in August

So while Gem-A was created out of a need to provide gemmological education for the jewellery trade in 1908, the first gemstone testing laboratory was likewise created out of the need for gemmological knowledge and scientific authentication to safeguard integrity.


Original and latest editions of Anderson's Gem Testing.

Indeed, the very title of his 1942 book Gem Testing for Jewellers crystallises Gem-A’s ethos of providing gemmological knowledge to support jewellers, and of expanding gemmological science to reach jewellers, traders and the developing gemmological community. In the book’s original preface, Anderson stated it was intended “to reinforce the invaluable knowledge which the jeweller has gathered by virtue of long experience, to reinforce this knowledge by making it more conscious and giving it a firmer factual basis”.

READ MORE: Journal Digest, Rainbow Lattice Sunstone 


The Chelsea Filter, patented by Gem-A

LEGACY
Anderson ran the testing laboratory from 1924-79 and soon became the preeminent expert on pearl authentication of his day. While teaching Gem-A’s Gemmology Diploma, Anderson invented the Chelsea Colour Filter in 1934 with his colleague CJ Payne and the students at Chelsea Polytechnic, which is still sold today by Gem-A Instruments and used worldwide.

Early Advert for the Chelsea Colour Filter

Anderson became our head examiner 1951, succeeding Dr Herbert Smith, and was later voted in as Vice President in 1976.

READ MORE: Gem Empathy IJL Competition 2018

Anderson understood and advocated the importance of science and experience working together to the benefit of all in the gemmological and jewellery industry, so that traders were not hazarding opinions but could make informed factual analysis. Basil Anderson’s legacy to Gem-A can be seen in the laboratory named for him at Gem-A HQ in London, and in the annual awards in his honour at Gem-A graduation: the Anderson Medal, awarded for the best set of papers on the Foundation examination, and the Anderson/Bank prize for the best Gemmology Diploma theory paper. In 2013, Anderson was named in the French Association of Gemmology’s 50 most influential gemmologists of all time.


Basil Anderson, Image Credit Gem-A

As we look forward to the Gem-A Conference and Graduation this November, those graduates who are awarded the Anderson medals become a part of our proud history, together with our founders who helped to shape the gemmological world of today. 

If you would like to join us in celebrating 110 years of gemmology education click here and register for the Gem-A Conference 2018.

If you are a Gem-A Member or Student you will have received an email to book member or student rates, if you haven't received it please contact membership@gem-a.com.

Cover Image: Photographs of Basil Anderson in the Gem-A collection. Image Credit Gem-A


Journal Digest: Bumble Bee Stone from Indonesia

Journal Digest: Bumble Bee Stone from Indonesia

Guy Lalous ACAM EG delves into an article on Indonesian Bumble Bee Stone (BBS) from The Journal of Gemmology Volume 36, No.3, and presents his edited take on the most essential information, findings and lessons to be learnt. Continue reading here...

Read more


Field Trip: A Visit to Gem-A ATC Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar

Field Trip: A Visit to Gem-A ATC Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar

Gem-A tutor Barbara Kolator B.Sc. M.Sc. FGA DGA EG shares some highlights from her recent trip to the Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar in Antananarivo, which is a proud Gem-A Accredited Teaching Centre (ATC). 

Read more


Natural Pearls: Marie Antoinette's £27.8 million Precious Pendant

Natural Pearls: Marie Antoinette's £27.8 million Precious Pendant

Famous for her ostentatious sense of style, 18th century French Queen Marie Antoinette was back as the centre of attention at Sotheby's in November thanks to the record-breaking sale of her natural pearl and diamond pendant. Here, Beth West FGA DGA EG considers the history behind this fascinating piece. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Tanzanite for Those Born in December

Birthstone Guide: Tanzanite for Those Born in December

Looking for the perfect festive gift for a December baby? Gem-A tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG considers the December birthstone tanzanite and how this relatively new gemstone compares to its purple and blue-hued rivals.

Read more


Retail Focus: Beyond the Green

Retail Focus: Beyond the Green

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gem-A Gemmology Tutor Beth West FGA DGA EG explores Colombian emeralds. 

Read more


 

Additional Info

Read more...

Heritage Series: The Trailblazing Efforts of Robert Webster

Our Heritage Series celebrates some of the most prominent figures in Gem-A's History who have helped to shape the world of gemmology today. Listed in the French Association of Gemmology's '50 Most Influential Gemmologists of All-Time', this instalment turns to Gem-A's most prolific writer: Robert Webster.  

Born in 1899, the young Robert Webster left school at the age of 15 to support his widowed mother, and his father’s footsteps as a pawnbroker. As Basil Anderson notes in his touching obituary to Webster, this proved to be a valuable training ground for the practical gemmologist.


Webster and his Gemmology Class © Gem-A

During the First World War, Webster was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery in carrying messages under fire, and on returning to England he began studying gemmology at Chelsea Polytechnic under Mr I.G Jardine. It was here in 1933 that Webster met the recently appointed lecturer in gemmology, Basil Anderson, at a time when the gemmological world was, in Anderson’s own words, “advancing on all fronts”.

Webster soon became a regular contributor to The Gemmologist (predecessor to The Journal of Gemmology) specialising particularly in ivory, and he secured his Gemmology Diploma a year later in 1934.


Early Articles by Webster.

Robert Webster’s gemmological career went from strength to strength: in 1942 he became an assistant lecturer at Chelsea Polytechnic and, following WWII, he was invited by Basil Anderson to join the Testing Laboratory team in Hatton Garden, to tackle the new challenge of calibré synthetic corundum. In the first year alone they tested 105,000 stones!

In the 1940s the Gemmological Association established the Research Diploma, to encourage and recognise excellent postgraduate research by Fellows of the Association. Robert Webster is one of only six people to be awarded this coveted Diploma for his thesis on ivory and its various imitations. It made such an impact that renowned mineralogist Dr Herbert Smith added sixteen pages to his 1949 revision of Gemstones!

Collection of Editions of Webster's Compendium, with document from Annual Report of the testing lab for the London Chamber of Commerce

In 1937 Webster published his Gemmologists’ Pocket Compendium with “the intention to cover as concisely as possible all the information most useful to the practical gemmologist”. This captured the spirit of Gem-A’s ethos since 1908 of providing quality gemmological education for the benefit of the gems and jewellery industry, and was built on the very data recorded by Basil Anderson and C.J Payne, the compendium has been the ‘bible’ of professional and amateur gemmologists and retail jewellers.

Together with his 1941 Practical Gemmology and epic two-volumed Gems in 1962, Webster’s contribution to gemmological research has made him one of the most recognised voices in Gem-A history. His prolific work is still held in high esteem, to such an extent that when contributors were invited to revise Gems, gemmologists from Australia, Canada, Germany, Thailand, Vietnam, the UK and the USA answered the call.

Robert Webster © Gem-A.

On Webster’s death at the age of 77 in 1976, Anderson’s touching tribute to his friend’s memory serves as a testament to Webster’s impact on the gemmological world:

"So manifold and varied were the activities of Robert Webster in the field of gemmology that the gap left in our ranks by this death can never adequately be filled – not, at least, by any one person."

Robert Webster is remembered at Gem-A as one of our greatest gemmologists. Future gemmologists studying at Gem-A HQ in London are taught in the Webster Room, dedicated to his memory. To this day, Webster’s Gemmologists’ Compendium remains one of the most comprehensive guides for anyone studying gemmology. 

If you would like to join us in celebrating 110 years of gemmology education click here and register for the Gem-A Conference 2018.

If you are a Gem-A Member or Student you will have received an email to book member or student rates, if you haven't received it please contact membership@gem-a.com.

Cover Image: Photograph of Robert Webster from the Gem-A collection. Image Credit Gem-A


Journal Digest: Bumble Bee Stone from Indonesia

Journal Digest: Bumble Bee Stone from Indonesia

Guy Lalous ACAM EG delves into an article on Indonesian Bumble Bee Stone (BBS) from The Journal of Gemmology Volume 36, No.3, and presents his edited take on the most essential information, findings and lessons to be learnt. Continue reading here...

Read more


Field Trip: A Visit to Gem-A ATC Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar

Field Trip: A Visit to Gem-A ATC Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar

Gem-A tutor Barbara Kolator B.Sc. M.Sc. FGA DGA EG shares some highlights from her recent trip to the Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar in Antananarivo, which is a proud Gem-A Accredited Teaching Centre (ATC). 

Read more


Natural Pearls: Marie Antoinette's £27.8 million Precious Pendant

Natural Pearls: Marie Antoinette's £27.8 million Precious Pendant

Famous for her ostentatious sense of style, 18th century French Queen Marie Antoinette was back as the centre of attention at Sotheby's in November thanks to the record-breaking sale of her natural pearl and diamond pendant. Here, Beth West FGA DGA EG considers the history behind this fascinating piece. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Tanzanite for Those Born in December

Birthstone Guide: Tanzanite for Those Born in December

Looking for the perfect festive gift for a December baby? Gem-A tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG considers the December birthstone tanzanite and how this relatively new gemstone compares to its purple and blue-hued rivals.

Read more


Retail Focus: Beyond the Green

Retail Focus: Beyond the Green

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gem-A Gemmology Tutor Beth West FGA DGA EG explores Colombian emeralds. 

Read more


 

Additional Info

Read more...

Heritage Series: Sir James Walton, The Royal Surgeon

If you have had the chance to visit us here at Gem-A HQ, you may have had the opportunity to see the Sir James Walton Library, which is one of the largest collection of gemmological books in Europe and holds some of the greatest works in gemmological science, including Walton’s Practical Gemmology. But did you know that for the majority of his life Walton was a decorated medical professional and a surgeon to royalty?  

Sir James Walton was the President of the National Association of Goldsmiths 1953-55 and served as the Gemmological Association’s Chairman in 1955, following a long illustrious medical career. Walton was awarded the Fellowship of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons among his many qualifications, and was established both as an Officier de la Legion d’Honneur, and a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (K.C.V.O) which recognises personal service to a reigning monarch of the United Kingdom.


Sir James Walton

READ MORE: Heritage Series: The Trailblazing Efforts of Robert Webster

Born in 1881, James Walton was elected to the staff of the London Hospital in 1913, where he worked for 33 years. During the First World War, Walton was a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). Walton was stationed at the 2nd London General Hospital and served as a surgeon to the Empire Hospital specialising in diseases of the brain and spinal cord, and in WWII he was a Brigadier in the Army Medical Department.

In 1930, Walton was also appointed as surgeon to the Royal Household of King George V, and served through both his reign and those of his sons Edward VIII and George VI, until 1949. During his dedicated service he was official surgeon to Queen Mary from 1936-49, and it was through their shared enthusiasm for gemmology that Queen Mary honoured the Association by visiting the Gemmological Association’s Exhibition in 1951 at Goldsmiths’ Hall.

Queen Mary, Sir James Walton, and President Dr Herbert Smith
at the 1951 Gemmological Association Exhibition


Dedication in Walton's Practical Gemmology

READ MORE: Speaker in the Spotlight: Q&A with Dr Eloïse Gaillou

After an illustrious career, serving as President of the Association of Surgeons and the Medical Society of London respectively, Walton began his well-earned retirement in 1946, where he entered the fascinating world of gemmology.

While his investigation of gemstones was an enjoyable hobby, by Walton’s very nature this hobby developed into an intensive and specialised study. Despite not having the traditional background of most gemmologists, Walton mastered the subject of Crystallography and became a recognised authority on precious stones in the UK, accumulating in his book Practical Gemmology.


Dedications to B.W. Anderson and to Dr Herbert Smith by Sir James Walton in his 'Practical Gemmology'

Described by Robert Webster as ‘a valuable contribution to gemmology’ (JoG 1953 Vol.4.No.1), Walton’s book addressed an important gap: he had noticed that there was not a book aimed at the new or amateur gemmologist who did not have (or necessarily need) a scientific or geological background:

‘The majority of books are written in technical language and are interspersed with many mathematical proofs and equations from which they [non-specialists/hobbyists] shrink with aversion if not with horror.’

Walton aimed to gather ‘an account of the scientific principles upon which the subject of mineralogy is based’ but to ‘divest it as far as possible of all mathematical considerations, to present it in the simplest non-technical language…so that it may be of easy understanding even to those devoid of all scientific knowledge.’

READ MORE: Leading the World's First Gemstone Testing Laboratory: Gem-A's Basil Anderson

That being said, Walton’s book is of incredible scientific value, and included unpublished material by Basil Anderson and CJ Payne, who supported this important project that created an essential book for those who approached gemmology out of inquisitive enthusiasm. In 1947 Walton was also appointed the first curator of the Association’s collection of gemstones.  


Sir James Walton

Upon his death in 1955, a vast collection of Sir James Walton’s books and stones were generously bequeathed to the Association, and are now housed in the Sir James Walton library at Gem-A HQ London. So when you next visit us at Ely Place, please ask to visit our exquisite library and immerse yourself in a part of Gem-A history and Walton’s living legacy.


The Sir James Walton Library at Gem-A HQ London

If you would like to join us in celebrating 110 years of gemmology education click here and register for the Gem-A Conference 2018.
If you are a Gem-A Member or Student you will have received an email to book member or student rates, if you haven't received it please contact membership@gem-a.com.

Cover Image: Photograph of Sir James Walton from the Gem-A collection. All Image Credits: Gem-A.


Journal Digest: Bumble Bee Stone from Indonesia

Journal Digest: Bumble Bee Stone from Indonesia

Guy Lalous ACAM EG delves into an article on Indonesian Bumble Bee Stone (BBS) from The Journal of Gemmology Volume 36, No.3, and presents his edited take on the most essential information, findings and lessons to be learnt. Continue reading here...

Read more


Field Trip: A Visit to Gem-A ATC Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar

Field Trip: A Visit to Gem-A ATC Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar

Gem-A tutor Barbara Kolator B.Sc. M.Sc. FGA DGA EG shares some highlights from her recent trip to the Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar in Antananarivo, which is a proud Gem-A Accredited Teaching Centre (ATC). 

Read more


Natural Pearls: Marie Antoinette's £27.8 million Precious Pendant

Natural Pearls: Marie Antoinette's £27.8 million Precious Pendant

Famous for her ostentatious sense of style, 18th century French Queen Marie Antoinette was back as the centre of attention at Sotheby's in November thanks to the record-breaking sale of her natural pearl and diamond pendant. Here, Beth West FGA DGA EG considers the history behind this fascinating piece. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Tanzanite for Those Born in December

Birthstone Guide: Tanzanite for Those Born in December

Looking for the perfect festive gift for a December baby? Gem-A tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG considers the December birthstone tanzanite and how this relatively new gemstone compares to its purple and blue-hued rivals.

Read more


Retail Focus: Beyond the Green

Retail Focus: Beyond the Green

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gem-A Gemmology Tutor Beth West FGA DGA EG explores Colombian emeralds. 

Read more


 

Additional Info

Read more...

Heritage Series: Let's Bragg About It! Our Nobel Prize Winning Presidents

Did you know that two of Gem-A’s presidents were actually Nobel Prize Winners? Sir William Henry Bragg, the Association’s president 1937-42, and his son Sir Lawrence Bragg president 1954-72, were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915 for their research in X-ray Crystallography – an epic achievement that laid the foundation for future scientific breakthroughs and the basis of 26 other Nobel Prize winners and counting!

William Henry Bragg (WHB) had an exceptional mind, winning a Minor Scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, at the age of 17! The family considered this a bit too young, so a year later in 1881 WHB began the Mathematical Tripos at Trinity, and after graduating he began research at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory to train in physics.

Sir William Henry Bragg. Image Credit: Gem-A.

In 1886, at the age of 23, he was appointed the Elder Professor of Mathematics and Experimental Physics at the University of Adelaide. Much of his time was taken with teaching commitments, leaving little room for research, but WHB maintained his interest in physics and kept up to speed with the latest developments by Prof. Wilhelm Röntgen at Würzburg, Germany, who had discovered an exciting new form of radiation, ‘so mysterious that he called it the X-ray’ (Hunter 2004: 6-8). At 41, WHB began to explore X-ray radiation, winning international recognition and was nominated to the Royal Society in 1907, and took the Cavendish Chair in Physics at Leeds, England in 1909.

Bragg’s first son, William Lawrence (WLB), was born in 1890 and later recalled that his father would tell his sons bedtime stories about the properties of atoms “We started with hydrogen and ran through a good part of the periodic table.” (Hunter 2004: 8; RI, MS WLB pp8-12).  Equally brilliant, WLB entered the University of Adelaide a year early at the age of 15 and achieved a First Class Hons in mathematics. When the family moved to England, WLB, like his father before him, entered Trinity College Cambridge, but switched from mathematics to physics.

Sir William Lawrence Bragg.
Image Courtesy of the Royal Institution of Great Britain.

WHB was aware of the recent Munich Experiment of 1912 where Max von Laue, Walter Friedrich and Paul Knipping targeted sphalerite crystals with X-ray beams, backed with a photographic plate to track the diffraction pattern. Today, gemmologists are quite familiar with diffraction patterns from X-ray spectroscopy, however, it is important to remember that at this time, scientists were still establishing the nature of X-rays, whether we were talking about waves or atom particles, and WHB was still yet to invent the first X-ray spectrometer:

"Nothing was certain then, X-rays were mysterious"
 Prof. André Authier, Université Piérre et Marie Curie.

It was the 22 year old WLB who fully realised the ramifications of Laue’s epic discovery that X-rays were diffracted by the crystal structure: he established the relationship between the wavelength of radiation, angles of incidence and diffraction, and the spacing of layers of atoms in a crystal structure. Knowing the first two, the third could be calculated. This became known as Bragg’s Law:

n λ = 2d sin θ

d being the distance between atoms by using geometry

This leap of genius was the key to measuring and understanding atomic structures, which could only be inferred up to that time. As he later said in his 1959 lecture to the Royal Institution:

"What is it, really, that makes a thing a crystal? It is it’s inside arrangement, it’s the fact that the molecules or atoms in it are an absolutely regular pattern, like soldiers on parade."


Crystallography in the Sir James Walton Library at Gem-A HQ. 

To facilitate this his father WHB designed the X-ray spectrometer:
"It contained a platform on which the crystal could be rotated with respect to the X-ray beam and an ionisation chamber that could be rotated around the crystal. The ionisation chamber contained a gas that was ionised by X-rays and an electrometer so that the amount of radiation detected could be qualified." (Hunter 2004: 35)

The impact of the Braggs’ research – and Bragg’s Law – cannot be overemphasised:

"it could be well argued that the scientific method of X-ray crystallography has been as great as those of quantum theory and relativity, and the impact on everyday life even greater." (Hunter 2004: xiii)

From this exciting realisation, father and son worked tirelessly over the Summers of 1913 and 1914, and in 1915 the younger Bragg received a telegram whilst on the Front in the First World War that he and his father had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their research in X-ray Crystallography.

This enshrined the Braggs into history.  Moreover, WLB was instrumental in supporting the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium in WWI by applying scientific sound ranging to locate enemy guns by sound.  In 1941 Bragg was a scientific liaison officer between Great Britain and Canada, and an advisor to the British Navy on antisubmarine work, and sat on the advisory council to the Minister of Supply.

Publications in the Sir James Walton Library at Gem-A HQ. 

Over the course of their careers both father and son were heavily involved with the scientific community at the Manchester Laboratory, the Cavendish Laboratory, and the Davy-Faraday Laboratory at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. Indeed, both Braggs were in turn appointed Resident Professor at the Royal Institution, and both served as Presidents of the Gemmological Association – a link that is revived again this year when we return to the Royal Institution for our Graduation, 80 years since William Henry Bragg presented awards to our graduates.

In his inaugural address WHB noted his honour at being our President:

Your Association has paid me a great honour in asking me to be your President…you must allow me to begin by address this evening by expressing my warm appreciation… I have of course no inner knowledge of your ancient, beautiful and wonderful craft and feel flattered that you have invited me, a physicist, whose concern in precious stones differs so much from that of the craftsman, to be associated with you in this honourable way… If, apart from their use as precious stones, crystals were regarded at one time as mere curiosities, the situation is entirely changed. We have learnt that the crystalline structure is one of the great orders of Nature, occurring everywhere and not merely in the rare specimen… I suppose that the jeweller looks to the diamond as the king of gems. To the physicist, the internal structure of the diamond is of extraordinary interest for its strong and beautiful simplicity and for the information which it gives as to the properties of the carbon atom. For the diamond consists of carbon alone, and the bonding facilities of the carbon atom are directly exhibited.  

Indeed, in keeping with the Basil Anderson's gemstone testing laboratory, WHB noted the importance of X-ray crystallography to the gemmologist, as it "gives you a means, if you need it, of deciding between the true and the false."

In 1954, Sir Lawrence Bragg was extended the same invitation to become our President. In his address, WLB appreciated the honour as both his father and their close friend, Sir Henry Miers, had both served the Association in this way. Just as we were created as a means to provide gemmological education to the wider jewellery industry, WLB firmly believed that scientists had a duty to share their knowledge:

"There is one sense, however, in which the pure scientist is, in my opinion, deeply wrong in withdrawing into his ivory castle.
He must pursue knowledge for its own sake,but at the same time it is his duty to see that
this knowledge is so digested, arranged, and simplified that it can become a possession of all those who desire to attain it."

It is fitting, then, that in 2018 we will be celebrating our Gemmology Diploma and Diamond Diploma Graduates at the Royal Institution on November 5, celebrating 110 years of creating gemmologists worldwide.

The Royal Institution of Great Britain. Image Credit: SB Gem-A.

If you would like to join us in celebrating 110 years of gemmology education click here and register for the Gem-A Conference 2018.

If you are a Gem-A Member or Student you will have received an email to book member or student rates, if you haven't received it please contact membership@gem-a.com.

Cover Image: Sir Lawrence Bragg, Courtesy of the Royal Institution of Great Britain. 


Journal Digest: Bumble Bee Stone from Indonesia

Journal Digest: Bumble Bee Stone from Indonesia

Guy Lalous ACAM EG delves into an article on Indonesian Bumble Bee Stone (BBS) from The Journal of Gemmology Volume 36, No.3, and presents his edited take on the most essential information, findings and lessons to be learnt. Continue reading here...

Read more


Field Trip: A Visit to Gem-A ATC Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar

Field Trip: A Visit to Gem-A ATC Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar

Gem-A tutor Barbara Kolator B.Sc. M.Sc. FGA DGA EG shares some highlights from her recent trip to the Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar in Antananarivo, which is a proud Gem-A Accredited Teaching Centre (ATC). 

Read more


Natural Pearls: Marie Antoinette's £27.8 million Precious Pendant

Natural Pearls: Marie Antoinette's £27.8 million Precious Pendant

Famous for her ostentatious sense of style, 18th century French Queen Marie Antoinette was back as the centre of attention at Sotheby's in November thanks to the record-breaking sale of her natural pearl and diamond pendant. Here, Beth West FGA DGA EG considers the history behind this fascinating piece. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Tanzanite for Those Born in December

Birthstone Guide: Tanzanite for Those Born in December

Looking for the perfect festive gift for a December baby? Gem-A tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG considers the December birthstone tanzanite and how this relatively new gemstone compares to its purple and blue-hued rivals.

Read more


Retail Focus: Beyond the Green

Retail Focus: Beyond the Green

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gem-A Gemmology Tutor Beth West FGA DGA EG explores Colombian emeralds. 

Read more


 

Additional Info

Read more...

Delving into Diamonds: Gem-A President and Diamond Expert, Eric Bruton

There is one name in gemmological science that is synonymous with the study of Diamonds: BRUTON. Studying under the genius of Basil Anderson and Robert Webster, Eric Bruton had such an impact on the gemmological world that his work forms the basis of Gem-A’s Diamond Diploma to this day.

Born in London in 1915, Bruton started a career in publishing before joining the engineering branch of the RAF during World War II, where he was in charge of technical training and also served in India.

Eric Bruton ©Gem-A

On returning to the UK, Bruton was invited to edit four prominent publications: Industrial Diamond Review, Horological Journal, Goldsmiths’ Journal and – importantly for Gem-A – The Gemmologist, published by the National Association of Goldsmiths (NAG). Bruton immediately signed up for classes at Chelsea Polytechnic – then being led by Anderson and Webster – and began what would become a life-changing adventure into the world of gemmology.

The Gemmologist - Eric Bruton

READ MORE: Speaker in the Spotlight, Peter Lyckberg

Eric Bruton was awarded his Gemmology Diploma in 1950, and began teaching for the Association in 1967 – specialising in diamonds, running courses at St John Cass College London, and a similar course at Barcelona University – with examinations by The Gemmological Association of Great Britain. All of this was building up to Bruton’s breakthrough publication, his first practical handbook in 1970: Diamonds.

Until Diamonds, books on this subject were either highly technical or focused on one particular aspect of the industry. Recognising this problem, Bruton’s response was to cover all aspects of gem diamonds, spanning the history of diamond, mining and recovery, cutting methods, grading and valuation, and the identification of diamond and its simulants.

READ MORE: Investigating Fake Rough 

Diamond Crystal in Kimberlite. Image credit: Gem-A

Throughout his research and his travels to various diamond mines across the world, Bruton realised that the various compartments of the diamond industry had little – or indeed no – knowledge of their counterparts. Most important of all, members of the public did not ‘appreciate that the possession of a diamond…has taken 4000 years of endeavour – blood, toil, sweat and tears – to produce the modern brilliant-cut diamond’ (viii).

Bruton was the ideal person to address this – with his editorial experience and gemmological expertise, he was in a rare and strong position to deliver.

Eric Bruton by David Langdon, 1971. Image Credit: Gem-A. 

Bruton’s Diamonds is a systematic study of all aspects of diamonds and forms the foundation of Gem-A’s Diamond Diploma. For many years, Bruton specialised in writing on all matters relating to gems, jewellery, and watches – and  even crime fiction! Bruton also founded the trade’s only newspaper of the time – Retail Jeweller – which, in competition with Watchmaker Jeweller & Silversmith - became the voice of the trade, and in 1994 was elected president of the Association.

READ MORE: Heritage Series, Let's Bragg About It! 


Today, Bruton’s contribution to the Gem-A is remembered with the Bruton Medal, a prize awarded to exceptional students with the best results in the Diamond Diploma examination, and the Bruton Room at Gem-A HQ in London, where future gemmologists study diamonds.

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

If you would like to subscribe to Gems&Jewellery and The Journal of Gemmology please visit Membership.

Cover Image: Diamond Crystal Trigons, photo by Pat Daly, with Bruton Medal. Image by Gem-A. 


Journal Digest: Bumble Bee Stone from Indonesia

Journal Digest: Bumble Bee Stone from Indonesia

Guy Lalous ACAM EG delves into an article on Indonesian Bumble Bee Stone (BBS) from The Journal of Gemmology Volume 36, No.3, and presents his edited take on the most essential information, findings and lessons to be learnt. Continue reading here...

Read more


Field Trip: A Visit to Gem-A ATC Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar

Field Trip: A Visit to Gem-A ATC Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar

Gem-A tutor Barbara Kolator B.Sc. M.Sc. FGA DGA EG shares some highlights from her recent trip to the Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar in Antananarivo, which is a proud Gem-A Accredited Teaching Centre (ATC). 

Read more


Natural Pearls: Marie Antoinette's £27.8 million Precious Pendant

Natural Pearls: Marie Antoinette's £27.8 million Precious Pendant

Famous for her ostentatious sense of style, 18th century French Queen Marie Antoinette was back as the centre of attention at Sotheby's in November thanks to the record-breaking sale of her natural pearl and diamond pendant. Here, Beth West FGA DGA EG considers the history behind this fascinating piece. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Tanzanite for Those Born in December

Birthstone Guide: Tanzanite for Those Born in December

Looking for the perfect festive gift for a December baby? Gem-A tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG considers the December birthstone tanzanite and how this relatively new gemstone compares to its purple and blue-hued rivals.

Read more


Retail Focus: Beyond the Green

Retail Focus: Beyond the Green

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gem-A Gemmology Tutor Beth West FGA DGA EG explores Colombian emeralds. 

Read more


 

Additional Info

Read more...

Heritage Series: Gem-A President Maggie Campbell Pedersen

Our Heritage Series has explored Gem-A’s journey over the last 110 years, celebrating the illustrious figures who have helped to shape the gemmological world of today. Our last instalment takes us to the present day with an exclusive interview with Gem-A’s current President, Maggie Campbell Pedersen FGA ABIPP, who shares with us her own gemmological journey.

Book signing on the Gem-A stand at the Tucson fairs in 2006.

When I was a child my father (who was Danish) worked both in London and in Denmark, frequently having to spend quite a lot of time away from home.  He often returned with a little present tucked into the corner of his suitcase, and sometimes it was a Georg Jensen silver brooch or bracelet (which unfortunately were later lost in a burglary). Thus my interest in jewellery was awakened at an early age. 

Having finished school, my wish to become a silversmith was thwarted. I applied for an apprenticeship with Georg Jensen but was turned down on the grounds that the work was too physically hard for a woman. 

So instead of silversmithing, I spent three years at the Regent Street Polytechnic School of Photography, obtaining a degree in Commercial/Industrial photography – which in those days wasn’t a job for a woman either – and it led back to jewellery when I opened a studio specialising in gems and jewellery.

In those days there was no digital photography, but we used large format cut film in plate cameras. Retouching was done by hand with a tiny paintbrush, and stones like jadeite jade and emeralds – which can fluoresce in the infra-red – frequently used to appear a muddy brown which was almost impossible to filter out. Photoshop has made jewellery photography so much easier!

Q. Many Gem-A members will be familiar with your work on ivory – what first inspired you to specialise in this material and organic gems?

When studying for my Gemmology Diploma it occurred to me that ‘organics’ – with the exception of pearls – were largely ignored by gemmologists. My fascination for ‘nature’ is as strong as my love of gemstones. Organics never merited more than a small chapter at the end of any gemmology book, and usually with very poor photos. 


Publications by Maggie Campbell Pedersen

To me, an elephant is more interesting than a hole in the ground – even if that hole contains diamonds! And further, I knew that I could take decent photos of organics. So I wrote a book…

Q. Have you noticed any change in the industry’s attitude towards ivory and organics in recent years?

Today there is perhaps a little more awareness of organics in the industry, but they still tend to be regarded as the ‘poor cousin’ and considered less important.  Also, for some years many people have not touched ivory or tortoiseshell as they are from endangered species, and some have the same attitude to coral.

It is my impression that it is not understood just how widespread the use of organics has been in the decorative arts, and how magnificent the craftsmanship has been in fashioning them. Another point worth remembering is that organics are our oldest form of jewellery and have been used worldwide for many millennia by both the rich and the poor.

We always have to push a little to make gemmologists aware that they need a basic knowledge of organics, as at any time a member of the public may ask for an identification.

Q. Can you tell us more about your work with animal conservation?

My work in animal conservation has mostly consisted of taking a couple of weeks’ holiday every now and then to volunteer at an animal conservation project, in order to get close and learn more about them. I have tagged hawksbill turtles in Barbados and fed cheetahs in Namibia.

I have tried (and failed!) to give a vitamin tablet to a captive, injured manatee in Florida.My most memorable trip was working as a research assistant at an elephant conservation camp in northern Thailand on the Myanmar/Laos borders.

MCP hosing down an elephant at a conservation camp in Northern Thailand.

We were testing the animals to compare their thought processes and reactions to our human ones. For example, does an elephant get jealous if it is fed only cornflakes, while the elephant beside it gets delicious pumpkin seeds?  (Answer: they don’t show jealousy.) And I had plenty of opportunity to study the animals’ teeth.

Working on conservation projects gives an invaluable insight into the real problems involved, and how complicated the situations are.  A simple ‘ban-the-lot’ solution, thought up by well-meaning people in far-away countries, can end up being counter-productive and result in disastrous knock-on effects. It is useful to be able to put my extra knowledge to good effect when things like the proposed ivory bans are being discussed.

I have also spent holidays attending short courses on such things as silversmithing, jewellery making, and enamelling. They have helped me to understand a little of what goes into the production of jewellery and objets d’art, and I have gained immense admiration for the craftsmen and women who work in these mediums.

Q. Was there a particular moment that shaped your gemmological career?

Somewhat naively, I thought that when I had written my book on organics that would be the end of it. But I found myself being asked to teach, and to write more, and to lecture, and all the while I was continuing to research that wonderful area of gemmology called organics. It completely took over my life, and still does.

I don’t know where work ends and hobby begins. As they say, ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.’

Examining a legal, CITES-certified elephant tusk at a shop in Singapore. Photo by Tay Thye Sun.

Q. What is your main focus today?

I closed the photographic studio several years ago, and now I only photograph things for my own use, to illustrate my work. I have done a lot of lecturing, both to specialist groups and to the public, and have been an accredited lecturer for The Arts Society (formerly NADFAS), for about twelve years, giving talks on the organic gem materials and their uses through the ages.
That work is based mostly in the UK, but also took me several times to Australia and New Zealand. Wherever I go, I am constantly searching for more information on organics as they can be found in every corner of the world.
Here at home I get called in to identify organics, for example for auction houses. I have also become deeply involved in the discussions about the proposed new laws on trade in ivory. I also continue to write, and am presently working on a new book, ‘Tortoiseshell’.  

The Jade Market in Hong Kong. A favourite haunt for finding organics and their fakes.

Q. As the Association’s first female president, you have an important place in Gem-A history. What does Gem-A mean to you and what do you value most about the Association?

Gem-A has come such a long way since I first joined.  It has grown and expanded, but it has never lost sight of its goal to supply good, sound gemmological education, and it has never compromised on standards.  

At the same time, Gem-A has kept its community spirit.  I have always been amazed at how willing and eager gemmologists are to share their knowledge.  We like nothing better than to discover something new and tell everyone about it.  Belonging to Gem-A means that one is part of a like-minded and friendly group of people.  Furthermore, because Gem-A is an international organisation the group spans the world, so wherever we go we can find friends who are willing to help us with our queries or research.

On the Amber Laboratory’s stand at Amberif in Gdansk, Poland, in 2010.
Left to right: Mrs Gabriela Gierlowski, MCP, Ms Olena Belichenko, Prof. Barbara Kosmowska-Ceranowicz.

For me personally, it has been an immense honour to be President, and I am enjoying so much being a real part of the Association and these responsibilities. As for being the first female President, I suppose that does make it extra special, though I admit that I hadn’t realised that I was the first until someone pointed it out to me. I was more aware that I was the first President with a speciality in organics!

Q. From an idea in 1908, Gem-A courses are now taught in ATC’s across the globe! How far has gemmology come, and how far do we still have to go?

It is exciting to see how Gem-A continues to expand in China, Europe, and the USA too. We are a very international organisation. I would also like to see more expansion here at home. For example, more collaboration with some of the other trades (such as antiques dealers), than we have at present. Gem-A and its expertise is too often forgotten and bypassed.

It would be great to have a higher profile for gemmologists amongst the general public too, as most of them don’t know we exist. It is disconcerting to be asked so frequently what gemmology is, and I have lost count of the number of times I have been called a ‘gemmonologist’

Q. As we celebrate 110 years of organised gemmology in the UK at this year’s conference, what do you think Gem-A’s legacy is to the gemmological community?

Education. A sharing and spreading of knowledge, at a standard which can be relied upon. The terms ‘FGA’ or ‘DGA’ mean as much today as they always have done. Gem-A keeps up-to-date with whatever is happening in the gem world, reports on it, and alters its courses to reflect improved knowledge or changing thoughts.

Today’s syllabus is very different from the one I studied, and it is constantly evolving – especially as we see a rise in students studying online. Furthermore, we encourage students to think for themselves and continue to develop, with the exam as a good, solid base from which to carry on. 

2017 Gem-A Graduates. Image Credit: Gem-A.

Gem-A gives us plenty of opportunities to continue our education, with the annual Conference, seminars, courses, evening lectures and magazines. The Association is, and always has been, a constantly active and highly respected part of the gemmological community.

If you are a Gem-A Member or Student you will have received an email to book member or student rates, if you haven't received it please contact membership@gem-a.com.

All image credits are Maggie Campbell Pedersen unless otherwise stated. 

Cover Image: Maggie Campbell Pedersen. 


Journal Digest: Bumble Bee Stone from Indonesia

Journal Digest: Bumble Bee Stone from Indonesia

Guy Lalous ACAM EG delves into an article on Indonesian Bumble Bee Stone (BBS) from The Journal of Gemmology Volume 36, No.3, and presents his edited take on the most essential information, findings and lessons to be learnt. Continue reading here...

Read more


Field Trip: A Visit to Gem-A ATC Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar

Field Trip: A Visit to Gem-A ATC Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar

Gem-A tutor Barbara Kolator B.Sc. M.Sc. FGA DGA EG shares some highlights from her recent trip to the Institut de Gemmologie de Madagascar in Antananarivo, which is a proud Gem-A Accredited Teaching Centre (ATC). 

Read more


Natural Pearls: Marie Antoinette's £27.8 million Precious Pendant

Natural Pearls: Marie Antoinette's £27.8 million Precious Pendant

Famous for her ostentatious sense of style, 18th century French Queen Marie Antoinette was back as the centre of attention at Sotheby's in November thanks to the record-breaking sale of her natural pearl and diamond pendant. Here, Beth West FGA DGA EG considers the history behind this fascinating piece. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Tanzanite for Those Born in December

Birthstone Guide: Tanzanite for Those Born in December

Looking for the perfect festive gift for a December baby? Gem-A tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG considers the December birthstone tanzanite and how this relatively new gemstone compares to its purple and blue-hued rivals.

Read more


Retail Focus: Beyond the Green

Retail Focus: Beyond the Green

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gem-A Gemmology Tutor Beth West FGA DGA EG explores Colombian emeralds. 

Read more


 

Additional Info

Read more...
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