G.I.A. certification-- necessary?

Hello people,

I am considering trying to do the GIA course out of its Thailand
campus via the Distance program. I would like to ask some questions to
those of you more involved in the area of stones and this particular
course. Up until now my designs have been based on shape and surface
textures and almost never included stones until recently when I
started using pearls. This has opened my mind to maybe including
stones and thought the best, maybe, quickest way to learn about them
is by taking the GIA course. But I can’t take the year long course
because I don’t live in Bangkok, yet | :slight_smile: so thought the 'at home’
method might work. How useful is the certificate for your business? Is
it worth the quite expensive outlay of money? Is it possible to do it
well in their ‘distant’ method? Any opinions on this would be greatly
appreciated! Thanks a lot in advance.

Sharron in Saigon tired from fighting the termites in my kitchen cupboards.

Hi Sharron, the GIA with all its flaws is the best we have. If you
are entering the field there is nothing better to show the trade that
you are commited to it. Try contacting the AIGS in Bangkok they may
also help you on your way.


Hey Sharon, There is another gemology school in Bangkok that you
might want to check out as well. I can’t remember the name off the
top of my head but it came up on the internet when I was doing a
search. I know the classes are taught in English and they might also
have a distance program. I do remember it was cheaper then GIA. If
you find it let us know. Thanks, Suzi


The GIA courses are excellent. I took the diamond course through
their corresponence program. The only real difficulty with
correspondence course work is your own self discipline. It’s easy to
get distracted. As far as benefits to your business goes, GIA
certification gives you a measure of credibility that you don’t
otherwise have. To reap the full benefits however, you need to
invest in some quite expensive equipment to fully apply the knowledge
aquired. If you don’t plan to invest in equipment, the cost/benefit
ratio may not prove to be worth the effort.


Sharon, You will probably get some negative responses to your inquiry
on the GIA but personally I recommend everyone take any of their
gemological courses. You can never have too much education in this
business. They are still the largest school for gemological training
in the world, and a GG does command a bit of respect in the trade and
to retail customers. If you choose not to do it with them you are
still going to have to get some kind of educational background in the

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

I don’t know if the Thailand location has it, but the California
location has a fabulous new plan for taking your courses. You take 6
weeks of course on campus, and then do the rest by distance learning.
This is as opposed to the year out there. I know it would be hard
to find 6 weeks, but I think it’s a wonderful plan that would make it
more likely that you would finsh your G.G.

Alternately, in the US, GIA travels to major cities and offers one
week classes. To get your G.G., you have to take some one week
classes in addition to the distance learning. I strongly reccommend
taking those classes first, before you begin your distance learning.

As to whether it’s necessary? How else would you learn?


Sharon - I got my Graduate Gemologist certificate from GIA this
spring. I did the whole thing with the distance learning except for
the required 1 week classes in diamond grading, colored stone grading
and gem id. I am an art jeweller and find the knowlege useful. The
classes and courses were very interesting and I enjoyed the studying.
Here’s the “however”. Its a long haul to do, and if I hadn’t had a
friend in the business to answer a zillion queries, I probably would
have been frustrated. The second however is I use a lot of unusual
stones - plasma agate, vasskis, non-precioous opal, etc. I also like
and use the new synthetics - red beryl, and the treated stones -
pariba topaz. GIA isn’t much use for the more uncommon stones. But it
has taught me how to look at cut, values, and useability. My
recommendation is if you can afford it - do it. “You can’t learn
less” - Buckminster Fuller.

Judy Hoch - in hot and burning Colorado. With more tomatoes, zuccini
and cucumbers than I can give away. Just how many pickles can two
people eat? judy@marstal.com

Getting knowledge out of the distance education GIA course is only as
good as the effort put into it. Doing the GG (Graduate Gemology)
course in residence has its advantages, you see more stones, a
teacher directly monitors your progress and you interact with other
students. With learning through distance education you need
discipline, but it does allow you to absorb the info in a longer
period of time. If you are already in the trade, it allows you to
interface you knowledge on a day to day basis. The key to a solid
gemological education is exposure and practice. Look to other
sources of info while you are doing the course. You’ll learn more
and retain better.

Just for the record, GIA does not certify anybody or anything. They
only issue diplomas. Certification implies a warrantee or guarantee
of performance. It can also imply an endorsement. GIA is a school
and has no control over how the education of a student is used after
graduation. It is up to the individual to keep up with new
technology and not forget the old.

(Taught at GIA from 1989 to 1996, still do contract teaching for them now)

Sharron, for what it’s worth, my graduate gemologist diploma has been
very useful over the years. In fact, it seems to have made more of a
difference in my earning power than has my Master of Fine Arts in
metals and jewelry degree from a very fine art school, which cost a
hell of a lot more money than the G.G. ever did. And yes, you can do
it very well by the home study method. It cost a lot less than the
resident courses too. In fact, GIA’s own research suggests that the
home study/correspondence students actually end up BETTER trained
than the residence students. The reason is that with home study, you
only pick up the subject when motivated. And the lessons are designed
so that you actually review the material several times, at your own
speed, before moving on, including testing yourself as you go and
going back to recheck anything you may have missed. And you’re
studying from a written document thats been very carefully written and
refined over the years, to maximize training effectiveness. By
contrast, in a classroom course, perhaps you’re distracted some
morning, or not totally with it some sessons, or otherwise miss a bit
and don’t realize it. then it’s harder to go back. Or perhaps your
speed is a bit different from the rest of the class… Or it’s a bad
day. Anyway, it’s not hard to miss something in a classroom. And
it’s then hard to get the instructor to back up, since he/she is on
somewhat of a schedule. Plus, though the instructor is live and
responsive to you, he/she is still only the one person, who might
change some words, or otherwise maybe not always explain a subject
quite right one day for everyone to understand. The correspondence
courses are written and refined and improved, word for word, by many
people till they get it just right. And you only pick it up when
you’re motivated. Yes, the residence courses may have more in the way
of equipment and resources with which to train you, more stone
examples to show, tours of the lab, and whatever else. But if you
don’t get the basic material down right, then all this other stuff is
just fancy “gee whiz” fluff. In fact, the biggest advantage for the
residence course may simply be that some folks, not motivated and
disciplined enough to be able to get themselves to study a course and
finish it on their own probably can manage to daydream their way
through a class, then bone up enough at the end to pass the test. But
the result is that among people with G.G. diplomas, the correspondence
students, as a whole, have clearly been shown to have higher long term
retention rates for the in the courses than do the
residence students. In short, if you’re motivated enough and capable
of doing the course by correspondence, then it’s not only a much
better deal financially, but probably a better education as well.

Peter Rowe G.G. (correspondence, '79)

Hi Sharon,

As you describe your position in the supply chain of the gem trade,
that means A buyer, basic education will benefit you in the long
term. Considering you location, Vietnam, I would say that it is
mandatory. Getting the knowledge and tools that will help you to
identify fakes is very good investment. Take any course available
to you, get basic equipment and few books on gem ID and go out there
and explore…

And get some Baygon, it is great termites killer.


Try Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences, Bangkok, Thailand. Ms.
Metta Uannaruemit, Managing Director, AIGS. website: www.aigsthailand.com.

Hi Sharron, I took the GIA courses in 1972, I never really needed the
diploma, but the gained from their excellent lessons
proved to be invaluable time and again over the years. There are
several books you might want to buy to get you started ( “Gemstones of
the World”, by Schumann for example). Now, as far as to the usefulness
of this Left brain approach to gemstones in jewelry design…? Could
be the start of another thread. Regards, Will Estavillo

 As to whether it's necessary?  How else would you learn?

I think someone with a scientific mind or a science background could
learn all they needed to know about gemology to ID gems through
reading Liddicoat and Webster and a few other good reference texts.
Similarly, broad knowledge of gems could be gotten by broad reading
about them. What GIA provides is a credential, should you need such,
and a convenient packaging of the material. It would also be
difficult for some to come up with the range of stones to identify.
Hobbyists might want to consider self study and William Holland or
Widacres courses. Professionals will need the GIA or the FGA, which
has even more cachet, I think.



An alternative to a G.I.A. diploma would be F.G.A. from U.K. who also
have a correspondence course which is well recognized in the industry.

Saeed Motiwala, G.G.,
in Karachi, Pakistan.

I believe that the Gemological Association of Great Britain also has
a similar course. It’s very, very tough - only 5% pass the first year
and 25% get through the second. You are awarded a Fellowship at the
end of a completed practical, viva and written exam.

Top to bottom its six terms, I think you can do it by correspondence
and they do have outreaches in Hong Kong and India I know.

I did it about ten years ago and it nearly killed me, all I could
think about for days after the exams were tables of figures. I dreamt
refractive indices, specific weights an dichroic character for

Tony Konrath FGA!

All, I have changed my way of thinking about Certified Gemologists and
gemstone certificates. Is certification necessary? Gemological
courses do not offer certification. They offer training in the basic
subject knowledge of gemology. This is not certification.
Certification, as in any trade, is bestowed upon an individual after
an apprenticeship where they prove to a master that they have the
knowledge, skill, and can apply their ability in the real world. In
the stone business certification does not exist. People with diplomas
or without diplomas do not have to undergo a rigorous apprenticeship
to be sure that they meet a standard. Therefore, certification is
not necessary. I have never completed a formal school of gemology.
25 years of studying cutting them, and making jewelry
which includes them gives me enough confidence to speak up and stand
behind what I say. That is what it is all about in the gemstone
business. Gemstone certificates are not really certificates. They
are papers that show that the stone exhibits the following
characteristics as measured by specific instruments or observed under
magnification. It is up to the buyer and seller to know what they
have. Certification is not necessary, knowledge and integrity are

Gerry Galarneau

I have to disagree. I did take the GIA courses to become a GG. I
didn’t do it so I would have a diploma or a certificate hanging on the
wall. Rather, I did it so that if I ever had to stand up in court
backing up an appraisal I had written, I could say the appraisal was
based on my “educated” opinion rather than on experience alone. It
never hurts to get all the education and training you can, especially
with all the simulants and synthetics in the marketplace today.
Gemology training is never ending. It doesnt stop once you have the
certificate, that’s only the beginning.

Ken Sanders

   An alternative to a G.I.A. diploma would be F.G.A. from U.K. who
also have a correspondence course which is well recognized in the

The founders of the GIA attended FGA and then moved the craft to
USA.I graduated FGA and also Columbia School of Gemology,Silver
Spring,Md.The FGA is more oriented to the technical aspects as opposed
to GIA which offers more of a commercial slant.The FGA course was
intensive.They even grade you on penmanship and spelling in a final
test in a classroom in which you have an hour or so to scribble out
5-10 pages.I got a C- but the grader said the content was A++,he said
my penmanship was deplorable. Mark Liccini

http://www.LICCINI.com -

Ken, Education and certification are two entirely different topics.
How you obtain your education is entirely up to you. Obtaining an
education by a formal school is limited to only the basics of the
curriculum and the slants the educators want to put on the education.
An educated opinion is not based upon your diplomas. It is based
upon your knowledge and how you apply it. Certification requires
testing in a controlled real world application of your knowledge.
That exists only in the economic arena, not in the academic.
Academic knowledge is constantly gathered through reading,
application, and sharing ideas. A trade training center can be used
as a starting point, but so can the local library. Therefore, a
diploma from a trade training center is not necessary.

Gerry Galarneau

Hello Sharon alias termites killer

In all those years that GIA developed their programs,they build a
well respected name all around the world.There is no thought about
their well formed and educative programs.If you’re in the position of
finishing a program by GIA,you earn respect.The better you do the
more respect and acknoledgement you get from others. However
Sharron,some people know me from other articels I’ve wrote and I like
to say that “It’s all up to you”!After you finish your course,live
go’s on and the learning proces never stops.What you learn in a
school is not the hottest from the needle,which means that new
treatments and new sources are not known in those schools.As a
start,I would do exactly the same as you,but you have to keep
yourself busy with selfstudy after you finish your graduation.I think
that the money you’re about to invest in this course is well
spend,but it’s your ball game and the finger of knowledge is pointing
to you and not to the school.It’s not only this graduation that comes
up with knowledge and respect,it’s the combination of you AND courses
who make you a reliable craftsmen. In a very short answer,Yes the
money is worth it and yes I would follow this course.For what my
humble opinion is worth it.

Pedro from Heidelberg,where rain is making bad attidutes amongst
people,but we have some sun ones in a while. Palonso@t-online.de