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New Member, Discouraged


Hello Gemologists!

My name is Victoria. I’ve been interested in gemology since I was 10 years old and learned all about diamonds for a school project. Since then, I have worked in the insurance industry and have settled many a claim for various gems and worked closely with some gemologists and jewelers in that sense.
My husband and I started talking about how we can grow our wealth and my little embers of interest in jewelry were set aflame again. I figured if I was going to buy jewelry, I should know something about it. Now I’m interested in a career. That brings me here, to the lovely community of gemologists.

Trouble is, I can’t seem to find my footing. I took a bit of a break because I couldn’t seem to grasp a lot of the practical aspects of gemology. I have been reading the material and taking notes, but I got to the section on lapidary arts and how one should cut a gem and I got completely lost, since I’m not sure I want to invest in a machine to practice or pursue that.

I originally thought I would just visit flea markets, garage sales, and things like that to buy up cheap stones or jewelry and see what I might be able to identify. I’m not sure if this is the best option thought if it’s not likely I find anything of real quality. I don’t feel like I know enough to be able to jump feet first and start doing this.

I honestly have no idea what I should do next. Any advice and thoughts would be appreciated.


Victoria, really it depends upon your interest. If you want to get into the lapidary part, there is probably a local, non-profit lapidary club close to you where you can get instructions and access to their cutting and polishing equipment. this will not be very expensive! If you want to learn about all gemstones, how to identify and evaluate them, then I recommend the Gemological Institute of America. They offer classes online, or in residence leading to a professional certification. This can be costly! Also many community colleges offer basic courses in gemology. It really all depends upon how much time, energy, and money you wish to invest in learning about gemstones. In the meantime, be careful as there are lots of outright fakes, synthetics, and “assembled stones” marketed as the real thing.


Do not forget to have fun. Who said you had to jump in feet first. You have worked in the insurance industry leverage that . Go to the web site see what they want . GIA is not the only school and no it is not the most expensive but it is way up there. As an appraiser you will not be cutting any gem stones. You will have to know what a well cut stone looks like . The Gem and mineral club in my town has a few good faceters and one master they all are happy to show you what they do. As fare as flea markets and garage sales that is a hard way to go.I have a friend and she dose well at it but she knows what sells and has moved on to estate sales and live acutions .She buys large lots and spends hours going over the stuff ,lots of work then you have to sell it, oh and the junk goes to the flea market.


Hi Victoria - Sorry to hear that you are discouraged. For the IGS PG exam, you don’t need to know a ton about the lapidary arts, but you do need some exposure. There are a few written questions about cut, but on the Practical Exam, there are no questions about the cut - it’s just a matter of whether you can correctly ID the stones using the techniques taught in the material. You’ll receive a gem kit with 15 small stones to ID, so no need to survey the flea markets just yet!

I think it’s best to take your time with the material. There is no rush - it’s self-study. I agree with the above poster that you need to ensure that you are having fun with it. What I love is the investigation and mystery: the challenge of identifying a stone by piecing information together and getting it right.

Hope this is helpful!


Hello Victoria … First: You are probably not going to find any “gems” at the flea market, most will be costume “jewels”. Shop carefully and you may still make a profit. Nothing high dollar. Estate sales may be a different story. However, keep in mind that the people running the sale probably have a good eye for value. Use caution. As for information…you might want to pick up a Geology book on Mineralogy. There are also advanced books on the subject, like Optical Mineralogy…etc. Check the bookstore at a university near you. Not much of an investment but a lot of information. Most of which can be applied to the study of gems rather than “rough” samples. I think this will be a nice starting point. Keep in mind that there are some mineral specimens that may out price the “gem” counterpart. It really depends on your customer. It seems you may be new to all of this (I may be wrong). A second suggestion…do not concern yourself with the problems of faceting or lapidary work. Maybe later. It can be fun. Keep in touch with the gemology group for questions.


Thanks everyone for your comments and encouragement. I never thought to reach out to my local community to see if there are clubs. I think that might be the ticket for me! I definitely will dig into some more reading material as well.

Thank you all again!


Victoria, you may also want to see if there are any introductory jewelry or lapidary classes in your area. That’s what got me started. I took a beginners jewelry class and it lit a fuse…a big one. I met a lot of great people, got a lot of friendly advice, helped set my focus and I saved a lot of money just from the education. I started with silver and some stones. Now cutting my own cabs, casting precious metals, and creating custom pieces. It can be addictive in a good way. I started this as a hobby, and I’m now showing in several galleries and often make custom pieces for people. I could make and sell more, but it’s still a hobby, and I only try to cover expenses and a bit of my time. But that’s my choice as I still want it to be more hobby right now. With that said, I know a number of people (mostly women) who earn good supplemental income and some even a decent living making and selling silver jewelry.

Not sure where you are, but the John Campbell Folk School (JCFS) in North Carolina is a good place to start. They have students from all over the country, impressive instructors, a very strong jewelry program and excellent introductory classes. You also get to take home some nice pieces you’ll make. They offer many other classes also: painting, woodworking, wood turning, glass work, textiles, cooking, blacksmith, book binding, nature stuff, fly fishing, gardening, writing, music, dance, weaving, nature studies, and many more. There are also a number of legitimate gem mines in the area to visit and try your luck. The JCFS web address is Good luck!!!