Finding Honest Experts

Zambian Tourmaline

How does a new person to the gemstone scene know who is really an honest expert? Well basically by doing some research and paying attention. In other words do not believe everything you hear.

The gem stone business is probably one of the largest and most diverse business’s in the world. But at the same time it is very surprising how small and tight knit some aspects of the gem trade are. Because the gem stone business is so large and varied it attracts all kinds of people, but in some areas the gem business is pretty small and every one knows everyone. It is like a small town. So what you do will get around.

Some people in this business are the types that excel at working for themselves and are very independent. Some are people who work for large manufacturers, some do a bit of both. Also there are people that should not be in the business and there are a lot of dishonest types as well. Unfortunately because of the money involved and the fact that there are no real standards or educational requirements for entry into the gem stone business (the jewelry business too). Finding some one that really knows what they are talking about can be difficult. You can find people that are completely self taught and are frankly often the real experts of the industry. You can also find people with all kinds of degrees or alphabets behind their names that are true idiots and know nothing, and I mean really nothing.

You can also find gemologist graduates that are basically clueless, they may have a diploma, but they really are ignorant. Here is an opinion from my personal experiences. Almost all of the graduate gemologists I have ever met, really do not know very much and frankly have very little experience right out of the classes. A very few of them will continue to learn and maybe eventually become experts, but not many. So do not assume because they have a gemology degree that they know what they are doing.

Yes, there are a few people with gemology degrees that are experts and do know their stuff, as least as far as cut stones, but usually not in other aspects of the business. For example, they seldom know much about rough, jewelry, or even unusual gemstones. But then again these aspects are not what they teach in most of the schools, so you really cannot expect them to know.

The gem stone business especially in relation to the cutting and rough side of the business is basically self taught or some times trade taught like an apprentice situation. People that run a lot of gem stone business’s often grew up in the business and inherited the business. Some times they know a lot about all aspects of the business, some times they just know cut stones or just sell rough and have never even cut a stone. It varies widely.

The few college courses and geology courses available really have nothing to do with the gem stone business and they are in most cases not relevant. So do not assume that you or anyone else can take a few gemology courses and make money in the gemstone business. It will not happen. Frankly in my opinion much of what some of the GIA courses and other gem institutes teach is much more about training people to “sell” or creating low level workers for the jewelry trade. Especially to promote their party propaganda and sell commercial quality stones.

What is the the “party propaganda”? Again my opinion but if you do some studying and research you will easily find out what I am saying is true… Lets say that many of the institutes are too close to the large marketing groups and interests of the gem stone sellers they are supposedly examining and being a watch dog for (a hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil watch dog). This is my personal opinion, but it is accurate.

Note: Also many of the institutes are pushing agendas and politics, that frankly are very questionable and do not belong in the trade. Just look at some of the things happening in the trade and the supposed watch dogs are completely absent from the testing and the discussions of fake and treated stones being marketed (Andesine is a good example). Again my opinion.

Practically none of the “teaching” organizations in the trade deal with rough and cutting gem stones. They are really more about marketing commercially cut stones for the trade. Most of these organizations just do not have the expertise particularly in the rough and cutting side of the trade to be relevant. So depending on what you need or want to do, the institutes are not knowledgeable or even willing to help.

As I have said before just because some one has a gemologist or geology degree does not mean they know much about the gem stone business and in many cases they really do not know much about gem stones. They know what they were taught and told in classes, that is it.

I have seen many Graduate Gemologists that really do not know what they are talking about and frankly in my opinion have believed (swallowed whole) way too much of the party line(s) that they were spoon fed in the classes they attended. I always wondered… Why do not some of these people question the party line? But if they do I seldom see it.

What I am trying to say is that it is the person and their knowledge that is important. I am also saying an opinion is just that… You may get several differing opinions from several different people. It’s the person and their knowledge, integrity, and experience, not the piece(s) of paper they may or may not have on the wall.

So when you choose an honest expert to give you an opinion, look at their real life experience and to me the most important thing to look at is. Examine their work. See if they walk the walk. See if they have really been there and done that. A lot of supposedly “experts” will not be able to meet these tests, they will not have the real work to show you and they will really not have actually done what they claim.

Here is a basic truth. A certification or opinion on a stone is only as knowledgeable, reliable, and honest as the person giving it. By this I mean every thing boils down to the knowledge, ethics, and skill of the person that is evaluating the stone or selling the stone.

Finding Honest Experts

How? Some of the experts may have a gemology degrees, many of them do not… many experts are self made and have the hard experience in gem stones, they have learned by doing. These are the real experts. These are the people you want to find. There are honest experts around, but to know who they are you will have to do some research and also gain some knowledge and education yourself to recognize an honest expert. This is your personal responsibility, you do not bother to educate yourself and you have a problem. It is entirely your own fault.

  • You need to ask people you know and trust in the business who they recommend. Recommendations are one of the better ways of finding honest knowledgeable people to deal with.
  • You need to at least learn the basics yourself. You need to learn enough to know the basics so you can recognize when some one is telling you a falsehood or does not know what they are talking about.
  • You need to examine some ones work and their quality. Go to gem shows, look on the web, examine stones in person so you recognize quality and know what you like. You will also learn who knows what they are doing by looking their work.
  • Do not just believe what anyone tells you. There are a lot of shysters out there in the gem trade unfortunately. Learn what to look for and understand what is quality and what is not. Again, what is quality while to me is not in doubt, you need to realize that the gem trade as a whole has a very different idea of quality than I do. Learn what the trade calls quality and then learn what real quality is, there is a significant difference.

I have seen many people that have not even learned to facet well (rank beginners) open business’s and try to get into selling rough and cut stone. I have seen people that do not know a Tourmaline from a Garnet, try to sell loose cut stones. I could go on, but what I am saying is that there are a lot more people trying to be in the gem stone business and make a dollar than there are that know what they are doing or have a clue about the business.

There are a lot of less than smart people trying to make a dollar in gemstones and if you do not educate yourself and do your home work, well you will either be one of these people or get screwed by one of these people. There are really very few experts, and keep in mind that it is a matter of experience as well as ethics that separates the real experts. So pay attention.

Gram Faceting Archive of Information
This edited version of an article by the late Jeff Graham is part of a special archived informational series from Gram Faceting. Used with permission.