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Gemologist Qualifications

by Stephanie Dube Dwilson

When a precious gem moves from a mine to a brightly lit jewelry store in a local town, a gemologist plays a role each step of the way. Gemologists not only identify the flaws and qualities of gems, but they also buy and sell gems for jewelry stores and help customers pick out the stones that are best for them. Because of this, a gemologist should have not only a technical mind but be skilled in customer service.

Education and Certification

To become a gemologist, you need to earn a gemology diploma from a recognized gemological institute. Classes at these schools are generally not transferable to regular universities, and most gemology programs do not include internships. For example, the Gemological Institute of America offers a graduate gemologist diploma program that takes 26 weeks if classes are taken on campus. The International School of Gemology offers online degrees as a registered gemologist (four classes) or a registered gemologist appraiser (eight classes). Classes include a course focused on diamonds, a course on colored gemstone identification, a course about colored gemstone grading and a course on identifying synthetic gemstones. If your gemology diploma does not include an appraiser certification, you must get that certification from the American Gemological Society. Options include certification as a gemologist appraiser or as an independent gemologist appraiser. The certification is awarded based on how many gemology courses you have taken.

Knowledge

If you want to be a gemologist, you will need a thirst for knowledge because, even with a gemology diploma, it still takes time to learn and become good at your trade. Because gemologists often buy gems for jewelry stores, you must know how to identify precious gems and their value according to their quality and the presence of any flaws. You need to know how the color, clarity and shape of gems affects their worth to know if you are getting a good deal for the business that you're working for. You need an eye that can detect even the most skilled synthetic gems from the real thing because, sometimes, someone will try to sell you a fake gem.

Laboratory Experience

As a gemologist, you need to be comfortable and skilled with a variety of laboratory equipment. For example, you will use a microscope to identify the external and internal characteristics of a gem. A polariscope detects if a stone is under any stress or strain, which would lower its quality. A refractometer measures a gemstone's refractive index, which helps gemologists identify unknown stones. A spectroscope measures how a gemstone absorbs and transmits different light wavelengths. Knowing this helps you identify a gemstone's type by comparing how it absorbs light to how other stones do. A gemologist uses a fiber optic illuminator to highlight part of a gem with an intense beam of light so he can better see internal and external features of the stone.

Sales Skills

Having good sales skills is essential for a gemologist because most gemologists start their careers in sales. An entry-level gemologist generally begins his career working as a salesperson for a jewelry store. To be successful in this position, you must be a persuasive communicator who can help customers understand the difference in gem quality. But just communicating well isn't enough. You need to know what types of things to say to help customers decide on their purchases. You must have the knowledge to answer the customer's questions and the sales skills to know when to not go into so much technical detail that you lose the customer's interest.

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