The Importance of Gemological Institutions
Large, transparent, and a saturated red, the Black Prince's Ruby rests in the Imperial State Crown of England. Lucious and glossed like hard candy, the mouth-watering stone draws millions of visitors to the Tower of London each year. Surprisingly, the famed ruby is not a ruby at all, but a large red spinel that was misidentified.
The need for gemological grading and identifying became apparent in the early twentieth century. A wide variety of gemstones had been discovered by this time, and many could visually appear similar. The field was also beginning to become littered with imitations and newly created synthetics. To make matters even more complicated, Mikimoto introduced cultured pearls permanently affecting the value of June's birthstone. The market was rapidly changing with these innovations that could manipulate both customer and seller. There needed to be a standardized practice that gave people the ability to communicate the characteristics of gemstones and how those characteristics can affect their worth.
Europe was the hot spot for gem dealing. Hand over fist, jewelers competed to be the best atelier in the world's eye. Right on the heels of the Paris and Chicago World Fairs, humanity was thirsty for what was new and next.
Eduard Josef Gübelin would bring this revolution by operating a small gemological laboratory in Lucerne, Switzerland circa 1920. Gübelin studied the inclusions within gemstones, learning to tell stones apart by their internal nature. He worked tirelessly to earn his Ph.D. in mineralogy, an accomplishment since he was only the second person to have done so by 1939. His work became world-renowned, and Gübelin, a trusted name in the identification of gems. Today the small 1854 Swiss watchmaking company has evolved into a celebrated jewelry house with a specialty in authenticating the velvety origin of the Kashmir Sapphire.
Gübelin shared his findings, allowing some peace of mind to jewelers to confidently identify imitations and synthetics, but there was still difficulty conveying worth. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) founded in 1930, it's mission, to research and educate to protect buyers and sellers in the trade. Through GIA, Richard T. Liddicoat developed the International Diamond Grading System in 1953 as a language to talk about diamonds. This system gave the industry a way to relay the quality of diamonds when comparing them relative to one another. The color scale from D to Z allowed a visual way to showcase the whiteness of a diamond, thus conveying its value. The clarity scale was a tangible way to explain inclusions to consumers in simplest terms, fewer inclusions is more rare, making it more valuable, especially when a diamond is larger in size. To this day GIA takes in gemstones from far and wide and subjects them to advanced gemological testing to curate a Diamond Grading Report perfectly imparting crucial information in a clear, concise way.
Switzerland is known as one of the world leaders of auctioning the most awe-inspiring gemstones which led to the founding of the Swiss Gemological Institute (SSEF) in 1974. Originally, SSEF came into fruition to aid the Swiss gemstone and jewelry trade but has since expanded its expertise on a global level. Taking a scientific approach to gemstone analysis, SSEF has made crucial discoveries in methodology to identify gemstones positively. The lab personnel has a science-based education with years of experience to push the boundaries of what is possible for gemology. Pearls, in particular, we are now able to radiocarbon date as well as extract a DNA thumbprint thanks to SSEF. They have also created automated spectral diamond inspection (ASDI), a device to sort synthetic melee from natural. With these breakthroughs, grading and reporting have become incredibly precise, elevating the integrity of gem dealers worldwide who can be confident in their sourcing and selling.
Stateside, the American Gemological Laboratory (AGL) founded in 1977 in New York City's Diamond District. AGL was determined to help develop a similar language for colored stones that GIA had developed for diamonds. They became the first lab in the United States to include gem origin on their comprehensive color stone reports. Then deduced a way to state color since the industry is in agreeance, there are only thirty-two hues to describe the color of stones accurately. These hues can vary in tone and saturation, but having these defined colors allows for positive identification of a jewel as well as an explanation of worth by color description.
For example, an aquamarine is a variety of beryl colored blue to greenish-blue. However, if that beryl mineral is bluish-green to green, it is considered an emerald. The intensity of that coloring affects the stone's value; most of the time, a vibrantly colored stone is more highly valued. The difference can be slight, which is why it takes a careful eye to study and grade color accurately in unison of realizing the internal characteristics of the stone to determine its identity. Gübelin, GIA, SSEF, and AGL use this color grading method in their reporting.
Standardizing gemological practices has been key to enabling decisive deals since information can be presented in a concise, uniform, manner. In the last century, we've formulated an entire science that is still evolving. New institutes have been established to assist in grading and reporting like the International Gemological Institute (IGI) and the Universal Gemological Laboratory (GCI). GIA, SSEF, and DeBeers Group are the frontrunners in developing the technology to help differentiate between the natural and synthetic diamonds that are affecting our current middle market jewelers.
Here at Wilson's Estate Jewelry, we are fascinated by the evolution of the gemstone and its reporting that we find in our vast collection of varied jewels.