GIA certification

What would be the right path to become a Graduate Gemologist with
the goal of being an appraiser?

I need to work somewhere that will pay for classes and help educate
me. Working in sales or at a coin/jewelry/pawnshop buying placee? I
am distraught about having payed a lot of money for a professional
bench training school and changing my mind about doing it for a
living. After struggling to work the bench for almost a year, I
decided that doing repairs and production for a living is not for
me. I enjoy creating custom jewelry at my own pace. It is my
passion. But I really need an apprenticeship to do it for aliving.

Please, any advice would be much appreciated.

If you can swing it go out to Carlsbad and get it all done in a few
months. Your bench experience will help a lot.

Gerald A. Livings

Working retail does help to prepare you for appraising. A graduate
gemologist diploma covers 1/4 of your jewelry appraising
requirements. Just for the record, GIA does not certify any person of
any thing. They do not accept the useage of “certified” in
conjunction with their name or abbreviation.The other three skill
sets of an a jewelry appraiser inclquality of workmanshipValuation
principals and procedure. American Society of Appraisers and National
Association of Jewelry Appraisers can train you up in these skills.
There are other organizations that teach thisas well. Do your
research for the most credible of these organizations. I’ve already
suggested the ones I use. Legal and policy liabilities. The USPAP
(Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice) course
andcertification can help you here as well as working relationships
with accountants and lawyers. Appraising jewelry is not regulated
like real estate, so there are many hacks and responsible
appraisersout there. Anyone can call themselves and appraiser other
than in real estate. But all appraisal documents and their signers
are legally responsible for their content and how they came to their
conclusions. The more you learn and behave diligently, the better
your chances of a responsible product. We’ve been an appraisal firm
since 1998 and have been quite involved in the contributing
educationally to the quality of appraisals being produced in the
jewelry industry. We also have a school that teaches gemology with an
emphasis on value and appraisal research.

Some articles we wrote on appraising:

The archives at ProfessionalJeweler has several articles we wrote on

Just do a search for articles by Anton Nash. They are older but
still relevant.

Arthur Anton Skuratowicz

What would be the right path to become a Graduate Gemologist with
the goal of being an appraiser? 

I need to work somewhere that will pay for classes and help educate
me. Working in sales or at a coin/jewelry/pawnshop buying placee? I
am distraught about having payed a lot of money for a professional
bench training school and changing my mind about doing it for a
living. After struggling to work the bench for almost a year, I
decided that doing repairs and production for a living is not for me.
I enjoy creating custom jewelry at my own pace. It is my passion. But
I really need an apprenticeship to do it for aliving."

Let’s see here -

You went to school to learn how to be a bench jeweler, but found out
that it is hard work and you don’t want to do it any more. You would
like to have someone hire you so that they would pay for you to get
a GIA certification so you can be an appraiser and make jewelry at
your own pace.

  1. Why would anyone pay for you to get your GIA cert? You don’t like
    the hard work of being a bench jeweler so you don’t want to do what
    you are trained for. So they would teach you (that’s what apprentice
    means) to do something else and pay for you to get a certification
    to do appraisals.

2 Getting a GIA G. G. won’t make you an appraiser. You also need to
learn what appraisers do. The G. G. just gets you to where you can
figure out what someone’s old jewelry is made of. Then get your
education to be an appraiser. If you thought being a bench jeweler
is a struggle, think about what it is like to have a tangle of old
jewelry, some valuable, some junk and the estate lawyer wants you to
be an expert witness on value. Go look at the boilerplate for
appraisals, bench work is going to look like a cakewalk. You have to
be a sleuth and spend lots of unpaid time learning values and never
quit following the markets. Every single bit of each piece has to be
identified, documented and assigned a value, talk about tedious.

  1. And you probably don’t want to keep working for someone else, you
    want to get the appraisers fee your self. But you want someone to
    pay you to learn how to do all this? Oh - did I mention, there are
    very substantial liability issues with being an appraiser?

Here’s my advice, from the real world. Keep your bench job, get
really good at it. Study for your G. G. at night - most of it can be
done with remote learning. Pay for it yourself, you will study harder
when it’s on your checkbook. If you want to make jewelry of your own
design, do that. Get a tent and go compete to sell at art fairs on
the weekends.

So you have a job for daytime. Study for your G. G. and make jewelry
at night, and use your weekends to sell what you make. If you do all
that, after six or seven years, you will have a grasp of what the
business is about.

Do what you love and the money will follow is one of the biggest
dreams foisted on folks today. It’s really nice if you can love what
you are doing and get paid. Most employment is not that, you do what
someone wants you to do and get paid for that. Save your money and
work like crazy all the non-job time to get where you want to go.

Adjust your lifestyle to live on what you make and save for what you

I’m pretty sure some will say I’m too hard on you Cathy. There is no
easy way to make a living in this or any other business. Buckle down
and get to work. You have a huge advantage with your education so
far - you can actually get a job as a bench jeweler.

Judy Hoch, G. G.

Cathy- I advise my students to get a trade job once I’ve got the
basics taught to them.

I tell them, “Your life will really suck for the first year or so
but you will learn so much.” Tim and I both did it for many years and
hated it.

Now we get to make really fancy stuff of our own design and get paid
well for it.

There is no fast path in this trade. A year of employment is a nano
second when it comes to learning all that there is to learn in this

If you have a scientific mind and love typing reports, taking
photos, working with insurance companies, and lawyers, then being an
appraiser is the job for you. However it still is hours and hours of
drudgery only less dirty than working a bench. You will get to see
some of the most beautiful and some of the ugliest jewelry you can
imagine. Pawn Brokers and Appraisers have the very finest and most
unusual private jewelry collections I’ve ever seen.

If you want to work while learning gemology I’d work for a Pawn Shop
or work as an administrative assistant for an appraiser while in

Best wishes for what ever path you take in this trade.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer


Thank you, thank you for your response!!! This gives me a lot of
Exactly what I am looking for.

I don’t know. Maybe I will eventually get back to the bench. I
prefer creating higher end jewelry than I could afford to make on my
own. Would need a company to apprentice with.

I guess I was traumatized. Bit off more than I could chew.
Unsuccessfully worked for a major industry manufacturer as a stone
setter. I failed miserably. I was being compared to two almost 70
year old men who had been in the business all their lives.
Incredibly talented really exceptional and very kind jewelers. That
should be underlined. I will never forget learning what I managed to
get by with learning from them. But It was way too much for me after
only three months of stone setting training. I really need further
instruction. I should emphasize that I am very talented and capable
of many things at the bench. Good at design too. Not a mediocre
jeweler by any means.

I was thinking gemology could be very rewarding for me. I have some
lapidaryexperience and I’m very much interested in stones. Also have
a Bachelors ofFine Art degree. but my major was in fibers. Maybe
less performance anxiety.

Thanks again,

Thank you everyone

I can’t say enough how appreciative I am of all the responses I have
received. I appreciate the positive ones and even more the critical
ones. They serve as motivation. You might have helped me to change
my mind about the bench. Thank you all!

The problem I have at the moment is that I am unemployed. I would
gladly payfor my own classes if I were making any money. Every
potential employer wants a stone setter. I can’t find a job that
will take a ring sizer, polisher, and basic repair. I need to build
my confidence with the basics before tackling the hard stuff.

Believe me I know about hard work! I spent three years unpaid full
time apprenticing with a retired jeweler. Literally down to my last
dollar, I had to take a job as a security officer while apprenticing
on my days off. Seven days a week of work. I was taught a lot about
custom design, wax carving, casting, and building settings but
nothing about repair or stone setting. That’s where the three months
of classes filled in. I want to be very clear that I mean absolutely
no disrespect to gemologist or appraisers. I know it is a very tough
job and appraising requires a life time to achieve. I thought
examining and researching gems and jewelry might be less stressful
in a different way than the risk involved in setting two and three
carat diamonds. Maybe I am being proven wrong. I have broken my
share of mellee and even a diamond over a carat when lifting it from
a customersring. Spent entire days building some settings and never
getting them right. Very stressful, disappointing and discouraging.
I resigned before being fired. I have completely lost all self
confidence to work the bench.

I may be offered a job as a buyer at a rare coin and jewelry store.
They would pay for intro level GIA classes. I might take this job
while looking for abench position. Maybe I will find something
closer to the holidays. After all, creating jewelry is really about
showcasing the stones. I have cabbing/lapidary experience but know
very little about diamonds and colored stones. Going to quartzite
has always been a dream.

Thanks for the motivation. I will keep searching for an entry level
bench job while doing my best to save for gemology classes.


What would be the right path to become a Graduate Gemologist with
the goal of being an appraiser? 

Do it. Get the G. G. and also get appraisal training from one of the
big appraisal organizations, ISA or ASA.

I don’t understand the question.

If you want to be an appraiser, you must get the G. G., so either
move to CA and do it in person or do it remotely.

Good luck!

Hi Cathy,

Judy’s advice is spot on. The lady knows about that of which she

My wife Gaybeth just finished a 58 item appraisal, most of the
pieces were way out of the ordinary. Things like a 14K yellow gold
Tiffany cigarette case (valued at $25,000), a piece of pre-Columbian
jade set into a necklace made about fifty years ago, a ring once
owned by Abigail Adams, several Van Cleef and Arpels bracelets, etc.
Seeing them is cool, appraising them is a work out. Describing them
is one thing, assigning a replacement value to each item is a
completely different animal. She spent at least twice as long
researching each piece as she spent IDing, grading and describing
each piece. Her GG diploma helped with only the identification and
grading of the gemstones involved, which encompassed very little of
the work involved in doing this appraisal.

The GIA doesn’t teach you a thing about research and valuation let
alone how to write an appraisal. That requires a whole new course of
study, and there is no one source for that part of the education. You
will have to design your own curriculum. Check with the American
Gemological Society (AGS) and the National Association of Jewelry
Appraisers (NAJA) for training sources.

Gaybeth took the GIA distance course. Her total outlay for her GG
was $13,000, and it took her eight years to complete, start to
finish. The cost of the course is only a portion of the cost, there
is travel expense for going to seminars and labs and you have to
attend at least two, I think. You are robbing yourself if you don’t
take advantage of the study opportunity available at the Carlsbad
campus, so allow for at least two trips out there. Then there is the
postage for mailing the stone sets back and forth. The Gem ID part of
the course requires that you identify 520 individual 20 at
a time. Then you have to take the final. More than once unless you
are a gem ID savant. And that’s only one part of the course.

Don’t forget about the equipment you must purchase. You will need a
microscope, a refractometer, a scale, a loupe, a dichroscope, a
Chelsea filter, a spectroscope, adequate lighting equipment (far more
than a decent desk lamp), measuring equipment, etc. Our outlay for
gemological equipment exceeded $10,000 and our lab is by no means

There isn’t anything easy about becoming a GG. There is even less
that’s easy about becoming a qualified appraiser. If the bench is
undesirable because it takes so long to learn and requires that you
do a lot of things you don’t enjoy doing, I think you’ll find that
learning the art of appraising is going to be completely undoable.
Because it takes just as long and is every bit as hard as learning
the bench, and I promise that by the time you are working on stone
set number 24, you are going to be sick at the thought of even
looking at another 3mm round green doublet, let alone identifying
both parts and grading it. On top of that, even though you will be
very near completing the GG course, you’ll still be years away from
being able to charge a dime for an appraisal.

I don’t mean to sound negative, but there is very little in this
world that is both easy and lucrative and to add another of your
desired factors, fun. If there was, everyone would be doing it.

Dave Phelps

Spot on David!

And once you complete all that training it never stops in this ever
evolving industry. We tell our students to practice everyday to get
aworkflow that is successful for you. If you put the learning down
you WILL forget it! The ols adage works big time here, “If you don’t
use it you lose it”. Just because you have a cert or diploma means
nothing unless you practice what you have learned… and
consistently! After teaching, grading, and graduating students from
GIA from 1998-2008 in the JMA program, I can guarantee you graduates
have just been taught the basics. But you have to start somewhere
because apprenticeship programs are all but non-existent. What i
wouldpropose for this trade is to have major players step up, create
a real training center to have students work on returned merchandise
to refurbish in all phases of repair. Judge these students on
quality and speed induced into it so they are employable by anyone.
I was lucky to learn the craft from two papered masters of the old
day. I thank them and think of them often when i hear some comments

The Jewelry CAD Institute

Hi David,

I don’t know if you read my last post. Sorry this one is so long.

Everyone assumes I am not willing to put in the hard work. That is
not the issue. At my last job which was my first in the industry, I
was expected to sit down and set stones all day and do it quickly
without additional instruction. I was reprimanded every time my
employer saw me being instructed beyondjust asking a question.
Somehow after only three months training I thought Icould do this!!!
This experience caused me constant distress and to loose all faith
in myself. Although they will hire me back if I learn on my own.

Prior to the schooling, everything I did was of my own design. I
respect andadore the manufacturer’s design where I was working. (My
engagement ring ismodeled after one of their designs.) The other
bench workers were very kindand taught me a tremendous amount. I am
forever grateful. I recommend this place to everyone. I have tried
to get their stone setter to work with me on his own time. If you
are reading this, I will pay, do house keeping, laundry, errands,
and prepare meals :slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile: You are the best of the best :slight_smile: :slight_smile:
:slight_smile: pleeeasee?

It just hurt me to be doing production on someone else’s design
everyday and not doing some of my own. I had to supply everything
but the bench so had no equipment at home. I couldn’t afford to have
two sets. I would probably feel differently if I could have done my
own work on the side.

What I really need and want is a jeweler to work with that does a
mix of custom design, repair, etc. and allows me to do some design.
I have a lot of skills to bring to the bench but need further
instruction. Someone to invest in me to stay with their store

With everyone’s wonderful and supportive comments I am slowly
regaining confidence for the bench.

I have accepted a job as a jewelry and coin buyer. They will pay for
the entry level GIA courses. That will benefit me as a bench jeweler
as well. I would like to have a GG. Now that I have my tools at home
I can practice stone setting on my own designs. Maybe closer to the
holidays I can find a job sizing rings all day just to help with my
confidence. maybe :-/ I was offered a polishing and sizing job a year
ago. They are not hiring right now. I guess my long term goal will
have to be moving back home where I have the jeweler I was
previously apprenticing with to help me. Also an engraver friend who
is eager to teach me her skills. A couple of stores desperate for
talented help that have heard about me and know I have some very
good training.

Hmm. Why did I move across the country? Oh right, I got a job
working for one of the best manufacturing jewelers in the industry.
Too bad I didn’t spend a few years working with the people I already
know and gaining experience before shooting for the stars.


Hi Cathy,

I graduated from the in-residence G. G. program in Carlsbad in
December of 2013. It is 26 weeks of hard work, with lots of outside
studybeyond the M-F 8-3 schedule you put in, and what Mr. David
Phelps said about GIA teaching only identification (with some
lesser emphasis on grading) is absolutely true.

That said, however, I cannot recommend it enough–if that’s the
direction you want to go, and if you can swing it financially, do it
in-residence. I loved it and would absolutely do it all over again,
even knowing ahead of time just how demanding it can be. The
in-residence requirements for the full G. G. program are more
extensive than for theonline course. Everybody has to pass the
"infamous 20-stone," but you’re prepared for it better. You identify
more stones, and you have all the wonderful access to the GIA
library, plus the museum collections you get to look at and, in many
cases, handle and examine. And the last four weeks of the Colored
Stones portion of the program is spent doing virtually nothing but
prepping for the practical final.

I saw what you said about appraisalsand it caught my attention
because that’s where I want to go. And that’s another advantage of
the in-residence program–I got to spend a good deal oftime picking
the brains of my instructors, and I spoke with the people whocame to
the campus for Career Fair, so I have at least a rough idea of what
to expect in terms of studying/learning it. Far from putting me off,
it has made me even more interested–even knowing that it’s still
more study, time, and money above and beyond what I already spent on
my GIA education. It’s not a chore putting in the work when you love
doing it. But I genuinelyliked even the repetitiveness of stone
identification (including wheel after wheel of the green aggregates
and the “darn-it garnets”), plus I’ve always liked research and
writing reports (yup, I even dig technical writing), so I figure
this is a good fit for me.

Just thought I’d put in my two cents as someone who’s still very
much on the learning curve. If you’re looking for easy, this really
isn’t it. But if your idea of fun includes the things that Mr.
Phelps was talking about, then you’re set. Basic gemologyis very
different from benchwork in many ways, but it still requires an avid
interest in strict attention to detail. I guess I’ll be finding out
how my guesses about learning the appraisals process hold true as I
go along.

Lara Scarberry, AJP, GG (GIA)

Hi Cathy,

If there is one piece of advice I can give you that will serve you
well for the rest of your life, it is this -

You must have confidence in yourself if you expect anyone else to
have confidence in you.

It sounds like you might have the beginnings of a career with your
new position, at least they’re going to help you out with the first
GIA course. That’s no small opening, if you approach it like that and
give them back more than they pay you for. I think you said the new
position is as a buyer for a jewelry, coin and pawn shop, if so, you
have an excellent opportunity. You can learn so much in a pawn shop,
it is truly amazing.

Keep your eyes and ears open and don’t be afraid to try any task
they ask you to do. You might just find what you’ve been looking for
all along, right where you weren’t looking for it.

The best of luck, Cathy. Don’t ever give up aiming for the stars.
You darn sure won’t ever get there by aiming for the horizon.

Dave Phelps