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GIA Grad. Jeweler Diploma...Worth it?

Hi All, A family member has offered to help me attend the GIA in
Carlbad CA and get the Graduate Jewelers Diploma. This is a 26 week
course and costs $13,000 most of which can be made with student
loans. It will be an expense to be sure and quite a commitment, but
is it worth it? I have had exactly zero hours of formal training
having been buying books and tools for the past 10 years and trying
differnt things. I’m pretty good at whipping 20-40 $20-$50 rings a
day, not a bad days work actually but have never learned the “finer
jewelry” techniques- almost never work in gold.

Local JC teaches metal work but it would take 3 years to gather the
GIA experience and probably not match the quaility… or would it??
The thing is I have suplimented my jewelry income with some web
design and carpentry but a recent injury has me dropping the
carpentry and 1/2 my income as well. Even though I can make a quick
inventory of silver items my marketing skills leave something to be
desired and I just barely make ends meet. I would welcome the
opportunity to work for someone for a few years to pay for the
schooling and have a little financial stability for a while.

So… are any of you out there GIA GJ’s? What did you think of the
experience? I live 10 miles away so it would be the closest to me
and I could continue one of my web jobs to pay bills while attending.
I have till the beginning of the year to decide as that’s when
financial aid forms are mailed.

Feel free to respond off list to me at:

Warren Allen
Whatrix Designs

Hi Warren, A friend of mine attended GIA and was not satisfied with
the experience. (He’s an occasional Orchid contributor and hopefully
he’ll jump in here.) From what I recall, he found it overly rigid.
You’re required to complete tedious, meticulous projects with no room
for error or creativity. On the other hand, there’s something to be
said for learning to do it right.

If I could swing it, I know that I would opt for The Revere Academy
over GIA any day. You’d learn classical techniques, just as at GIA,
but from what I have heard, you’d also enjoy the experience!
Unfortunately San Francisco is a lot more than 10 miles away from
where you live.


Warren, The jewelry industry is notoriously unimpressed with degrees.
The G. G. “degree” is, perhaps, the most respected though somewhat
overrated. Jeweler’s Circular Keystone Magazine just published its
annual comparative salary guide for the industry, I suggest that you
take a good look at it. Assuming that you want to be a bench
jeweler the range according to JCK is 12-80K with a median of about

At that median, most employers are looking for a Master Goldsmith or
something really close. Someone who can fabricate as well as do wax
work. In my experience this requires a five year apprenticeship in
a real shop, not just a cast and polish operation. The G. J. will
provide, at most, a foundation for an mid-level position. Now, it
can be argued the a four year college degree costing about 100k only
provides entry level credentials for most positions. So, the
question is, would you be happy with a $20-30K?

The other possibility is using the G.G. Most jewelers hire G.G’s to
do appraisal work, a job that the training hardly prepares you to
do. A beginning GG is, at most, a gem identification specialist
who can also grade colorless diamonds. Don’t remember the JCK
salary range. Bottom line, both degrees provide an excellent
foundation, just don’t expect to be elected president at your first

Does this help?


Warren mentioned that you could respond to him offlist, but please
respond to this ON list because I am very interested to hear you
input as well. I have been considering the GIA program after
undergrad BEFORE going to grad school for vaious classes such as the
business side of jewelry as well as the Grad Diploma.


    he found it overly rigid. You're required to complete tedious,
meticulous projects with no room for error or creativity. 

This is a good example of american thinking. Do not go to German
schools if you think this way. One of my american teacher/mentors,
German trained talks about this. He believes that in america students
want to learn techniques, that they beat to death, adding new
techniques , piling them up, instead of doing a design and learning
the skill or technique to accomplish that design. He also believes it
better to start a design and finish it the way it was designed, and
if you think of a change, do it on the next piece.

This is just opinion, however he has pieces in Oppi’s book, cover of
Carlos Codina’s book, many other pubications, and pieces in the

Richard Hart
d Hart

When is good education NOT “worth it”?

A close friend of mine (a gem salesman) just landed a $100K/yr job.
The GIA training and degrees were instrumental in him gaining that

There are many other reasons in favor of GIA training. You never
know where it might lead you…

Jeffrey Everett

in a simple word, NO, I didn’t do it, but I wanted to, until I found
out what they teach and don’t teach, I would take Revere over GIA
any day. I know several people who did take it and I am pretty amazed
at what they don’t learn there, the GG is pretty good, did that, but
I still think you should go apprentice and work with a goldmsith
rather than the school just to get the same job.

Aaron A Tracy

I am a recent Graduate and I agree with Aaron. The prices are tooooo
High and I am extremely disappointed in the administration,
curriculum, and student financial aid.

I came to this business from outside (mechanical engineer, computer
entrepreneur). I knew nothing of how the jewelry business worked or
anything about the materials. The GG diploma gave me the tools to
begin learning. I loved the courses and getting packages of stones
in the mail to play with were highlights. I wanted the course to go
on forever because I so enjoyed the learning process.

The GG is a great beginning, but certainly doesn’t prepare you to
appraise or make jewelry. It teaches you how to identify and grade
cut stones. That is what you would expect of a “graduate
gemmologist”. If you plan to be in the business, it puts you in a
position to KNOW what you are buying or selling. It is your name
and reputation on the line. You do have to keep up on the
treatments and new stones, because the world moves on.

So if you have a chance to get the GG, do it. As my favorite
engineer (Buckminster Fuller) said - you can’t learn less.

Judy Hoch, G.G.

    I am a recent Graduate and I agree with Aaron. The prices are
tooooo High and I am extremely disappointed in the administration,
curriculum, and  student financial aid. 

What specifics were you unhappy with, just out of curiosity?


The original poster asked whether the GIA Jewelers Program was
worthwhile. While I have no personal knowledge of their jewelers’
program the subject of the gemologists’ program (of which I do have
knowledge) has come up in this thread. I can assure all of you that
taking their gemology program is critical in this country if you are
going to be a serious jeweler who deals in gems and diamonds. I
cannot speak highly enough of their programs, especially when
combined with daily practical experience (i.e. someone working in a
jewelry store every day will benefit more than someone who has no
experience in the industry–although it will help later when they
have had more experience as well). It is absolutely critical that
everyone in this industry has a working knowledge of how to identify
and grade gemstones and diamonds especially with all the new
treatments appearing on the market. Your best source for this
knowledge is the GIA. Unequivocally, hands down, they have the best
gem and diamond programs in the marketplace today. I realize this
does not answer the original poster’s question but since their other
programs were mentioned I felt obliged to speak up. Incidentally we
pay for any and all of our employees’ GIA gemology training in full.
We have two G.G.'s already (myself and my manager) and another
employee on the way. Daniel R. Spirer, GG Spirer Somes Jewelers 1794
Massachusetts Ave Cambridge, MA 02140 617-491-6000

Hello Warren: I was hoping that someone who had actually gone through
the GIA jewelry training course would have commented. I, like
everyone else that has replied to your question so far, have no
about the program. I am in the GG homestudy course and
think it is very good. When you start to talk about a jewelry
training course you must realize that there is no school that can
teach you all that you need to know to do the job. The schools are
going to teach you basic use of tools and technique. Also you must
decide what it is you are interested in doing. There is a very large
difference between being a bench jeweler and a jewelry
designer/maker. Knowing how to make wax patterns and cast and polish
and even set a stone is very different from being a bench jeweler.
This course at GIA is to help you become a Bench Jeweler. Here is the
course description (Quoted Below)

“GIA’s On Campus Jewelry Design and Manufacturing Arts programs and
classes provide intensive hands-on instruction in the basic bench
skills employers require. Designed to prepare students for real-world
jewelry design and manufacturing our core curriculum offers practice
in the work that designers and bench jewelers encounter daily. You
work with the same tools and materials professionals use on the job.
And develop skills and confidence through repeated and supervised

After looking at the GIA site and reading the course description I
think that $13K for a 6 month course is pricey. Maybe that price
includes room and board and tools and the metals used and an
afternoon snack and beer? The course at the Texas Institute of
Jewelry Technology at Paris Junior College in Paris, Texas was about
14 months long back in 1982. It was a work at your own pace type
program. I called recently and the tuition is like $5K for the whole
thing including tools. I know that this doesn’t help you because
Paris is far from you but just as a comparison. When I graduated
from trade school at Paris I could saw a straight
line,solder,cast,make molds and cut them, set stones etc. I felt like
I was prepared to be an apprentice. When I got a job in a real
jewelry store trade shop I was floored by the amount of repairs that
I had never done before. That is why it is so important to work for
someone who can show you how to do the things in the real world. Also
remember that it might not be so much what you learn at that school
as who you meet there. You might learn some basics and find a job
apprenticing through someone there. The big question you must ask
yourself is do you want to make jewelry or do you want to repair
jewelry or both?

Michael R. Mathews Sr. Victoria,Texas USA

I went to G.I.A. in 1977. At that time there were grumbles and
dissatisfaction from some on course content. There was a small
insurrection by the students in classes ahead of me that resulted in
course revision. I did G.G., hand engraving and faceting. I was
happy with what I learned as I knew I learned basics that I needed to
go practice, practice, practice. And I did. There is no reasonable
way to equate Revere school and G.I.A. jewelry manufacturing. You are
comparing a one or two week workshop with a six month course. Some
of the workshops can be done with the same instuctors at other places
for much less money. The other thing is if you have not done the
same course at both places, how can you judge which is best. It is
reasonable to assume both places have students happy and unhappy
with the value they feel they received.

Richard Hart
G.I.A. Graduate Gemmologist in Residence

schools, I think GIA is the place to go for gemology, esp. if you
want the GG and not just a couple of classes. And Revere is the
place to go for all around training in bench work.

About GIA being expensive, there are ways to control the costs.
Hopefully, they are still offering the option where you take two
distance classes in advance, then travel to GIA for something like 6
weeks and boom, you’re done. You can also take the whole program
via distance learning.

I have taken many GIA gemology classes and this has opened many,
many, many doors for me in the jewelry industry. Without my GIA
training, I would have been just someone who took some jewelry
making classes trying to get a job in the industry.

And who can put a price on finding a job to start a career? For me,
the money spent on GIA was well worth it, and I would do it again.

Elaine Luther

I must clarify, I am a graduate gemologist, would I take it again?
Yes, the GG is very important and I loved the things that I was able
to learn, I did not take the Graduate Jeweler.

Would I do that part? No, most of the things that they teach there
are pretty basic and I have never been impressed with anyone who
finished that part of the course, I know it is the foundation
principals that they teach, but those who I have spoken with and
worked with did not know even what I would consider the basics for
any type of real work, okay, they could manufacture a bezel and set a
couple of stones, but did not understand alloys, why some metals are
better than others for various things and could not identify platinum
from silver. Costing of materials and time is completely overlooked,
and some techniques are kinda well, lame. I have seen some of the
artwork that the design classes do also, they think like artists and
some have no idea why their designs will not work with 22 gauge metal
trying to burnish set a 8mm deep stone.

I learned from some of the best in Seattle, and a lot at that (thank
you Peter Rowe) and how to make really cool things and get great
results from research, practice and notes. I think that the Graduate
Jeweler program at GIA is just a starting block for those who have
no knowledge of the industry, if you know how to solder, polish and
draw, go to Alan Revere in San Francisco, his Intensive Jeweler
looked really good and his school had top notch equipment.

Aaron A Tracy
Graduate Gemologist

As the owner of a large wholesale trade shop and having the
experience of hiring both GIA and Revere graduates and also attending
and graduating from the GIA Graduate Jeweler program I can honestly
say that I would recommend GIA without a moments hesitation. Their
program is fantastic and extremely comprehensive. I found the
Instructors to be nothing but true professionals and the curriculum
of the course to be extremely thorough. Now the irony of all this is
Going to GIA doesn’t make you a great Goldsmith It lays the
foundation for one. We had 18 students in my class and when we
graduated I would say only a few could really do it. Goldsmithing is
and aptitude I feel you have it or you don’t. I can show you how to
do something but I can’t make you master it. All in all I had the
most unbelievable educational experience at GIA, the experience and
training I received set my successful career path. I went on to
receive my Master Bench Jeweler certification from Jewelers of
America. The reputation the as well as the professionals
it attracts sets it above the rest by a wide margin. Good Luck with your choice!

Hi Warren! I graduated last march with a G.J.G. and I want to respond
to several responses I have seen to your question.

The G.J. program was a blast. I had a fairly solid understanding of
silver work going in, as it sounds like you do. The tasks set out in
both silver and gold came easily to me, and most I completed
quickly. This allotted me some free time in which to explore the
craft with a series of fantastic people with a lot of different
backgrounds and abilities. They taught me a lot, from proper use of
tools (some of which I had been using for the wrong things, and
others I had seen, but had no idea of their use), to trustig my
abilities. For this I will be eternally greatful. The teachers were
kind and willing to help.

The G.G. program was a little different. I really enjoyed the
subject, and it was, for the most part, well taught. I had a bit of
difficulty due to the fact that I can be a bit outspoken and some of
the administration had a bit of a problem with me…what can you do?
It did not interfear with my overall experiance.

Right now I am working for a well known, large retailer. I am not
making the money that I anticipated with the “most sought after
degree in the industry”. Therefor, I am looking at a move, both in
location and (hopefully) in money. I have heard it both ways,
salesmen make more money, and bench makes more money…with the
advantage of my time spent at GIA, both doors are that much more
open to me.

Overall, I feel that my money and time were well spent at GIA.

If you have any questions for me, feel free to contact me off line
at @Jim_Turner

Good Luck!

Hi Richard,

There is no reasonable way to equate Revere school and G.I.A.
jewelry manufacturing. You are comparing a one or two week workshop
with a six month course. 

I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Both offer G.J. diplomas.
That makes comparisons quite appropriate. The workshops that the
Revere Academy additionally offers are separate and not comparable of
course; but that’s not the comparison that was being made. There’s
no reason why the G.J. awarded by GIA should get any more respect in
the industry than the G.J. awarded by the Revere Academy. (The G.G.
diploma, which Revere does not offer, is something else altogether.)


Richard, I am a bit Confused, which one would you say is a "couple
of week program? Revere and GIA are both intensive,

The up side of Revere, they teach Platinum GIA is not
equipped at this time to do that in anything other than book format.

This is a skill that will make your ability to get a job better,

The up side of GIA, lower housing cost in Carlsbad than San Fran,
but I would say that Revere is better, hands down.

No I am not affiliated with the school.

There will always be some grumbles and disatisfaction when you are
teaching adults. Can not please them all. BUT ! ! !


I am amazed that throughout this thread there has been no mention of
the school I represent. The California Institute of Jewelry Training.
For over 25 years we have been training jewelers for the trade,
hundreds of graduates of an arduous 5 days per week, hands on
training program that results in where the graduate wants to go in
the trade. Program runs from 14 to 28 weeks, with lots of
opportunities for goodies, such as enameling and cloisonn� by Linda
Crawford, a Orchid contributor over the years. The jewelry arts
program runs year round, in a state of the art facility, with state
of the art equipment and tools. The school is stand alone with
several classrooms and recently we started offering a full gemology
program. The Gemmological Association of Great Britain, F.G.A.
Diploma class. It is very exciting. And, the MasterValuer Jewelry
Appraisal program developed by the late Anna Miller. CIJT and Korea
Jewelry Institute are now owners/partners of her program.

Oh, another thing, we are authorized by the federal government to
enroll non-immigrant students. We are California Private
Postsecondary Approved, V.A. approved and Disabled Veterans and
Department of Rehabilitation Approved and are in the process of
school development in other countries throughout the world. We are
progressive educators.

I guess our graduates are not as involved in Orchid because they are
mostly independent bench jewelers, employees of jewelry stores or
independent store owners, therefore you do not hear about us. But,
we do have a banner on Orchid.

The CIJT program is intense, hands on, open enrollment so the
student does not have to continually try to keep up or wait for those
who do not progress at the same level. It is not rigid, but
enjoyable and each student is trained on their individual merit.
Unlike most schools, our teachers are full time, year round with
benefits, we have two and one-half instructors on the classroom floor
at all times. The instructors stay for years and the only ones who
do not last are the “prima donna’s” who spend their time telling how
good they are and what we do wrong in our teaching methods. They
don’t last long and fortunately, we have only had a few.

Our graduate jewelers work for fine designers and artists, retail
stores, independent jewelers and trade shops. Many are self employed
artist designers who could not be successful with out the strong
skills we offer at CIJT. Call for references, we have hundreds…

We have constant calls from employers looking for our graduates. We
have more jobs that we can fill, call us if you want some leads, but
we need a complete resume’ from you. They are all good jobs, they
are not the standard, underappreciated trade shop working jobs, and
if they are in a trade shop, they are paid very well.

On last thing, regarding the other jewelry schools mentioned in this
thread. We often have students enroll with us after looking at
alternatives; we have been the school of their choice. I will not
comment about their programs, I am sure they all think they have the
best as I do. But, it is your responsibility to check us out as
well. Do your homework, call me, would love to talk to you,

By the way, we have a few openings for instructors. They are
jeweler/goldsmith, F.G.A. diploma holder and Shop tech. We also
have openings for workshop presenters. Lining up for 2004. Have a
great holiday season.

Dee Huth, Director/Founder
California Institute of Jewelry Training
5800 Winding Way, Carmichael, CA. (suburb of Sacramento, CA)