Gemology Career Options
Thinking of becoming a gemologist? Consider these gemology career options, compare their estimated salaries, and decide which one may be right for you.
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Gemology Career Training and Certification
A gemology career requires no formal college degree. However, you'll need to take some trade classes to receive your certification. The International Gem Society offers an online Professional Gemologist certification course. The Gemological Institute of America offers a Graduate Gemologist program. You can find programs offered by other organizations, too.
Your specific plan of study will depend on what career option interests you most. For example, those who want to cut gemstones should look into gem faceting classes in adding to gemology training. Those interested particularly in diamonds may consider additional diamond specialist courses. There are also programs and classes focused on colored gemstones, pearls, and retail jewelry.
Of course, much of your education will take place after you land your first job. Real-life experience is sometimes just as valuable as what you learn in the classroom.
Most gemology jobs can begin at salaries of $30,000 per year. Depending on the specific position and job location, some may reach six figures for people with additional experience.
All the estimated annual salaries noted below are in US dollars and based on 2014 information.
Lab Gemologist: $40,000 to $65,000
If you have a scientific inclination, you may want to work for a gemology laboratory. Satisfy your curiosity by investigating new gemstones out in the field or bring them back for evaluation. You'll use sophisticated lab equipment to study the physical and optical properties of gemstones as well as their formation. Lab gemologists are frequently called on to identify gemstones and assign grades to help estimate their value.
Working in a gem lab will likely require a college degree in a laboratory science. This makes an excellent option for those who are passionate about studying gemstones.
Gemstone Appraiser: $50,000 to $70,000
Do you like estimating how much a gem can sell for? A career in gemstone appraisal may be perfect for you. Gem appraisers must conduct careful examinations of gemstones and combine gemology with knowledge of local and global markets for particular types of gems. They must accurately describe the gemstones in their reports. The values they assign to a gem may be used for retail sales or for consumer insurance purposes.
This can be a challenging career. Many variables and subjective opinions go into honest appraisals. Slight differences in grades can sometimes mean differences of thousands of dollars.
Gem Manufacturing, Custom Cutting, and Design: $20,000 to $55,000
Gem manufacturers take rough gemstones and turn them into gorgeous jewelry pieces for sale. They do this principally through the lapidary arts — typically faceting or cabbing — as well as other treatments to improve the appearance and wearability of stones.
Some gem cutters create pieces for custom jewelry, unique creations designed in collaboration with the buyers, while others cut gems as expressions of their singular vision. If you have designs for wearable art you want to bring to life and like to work with your hands, consider gem cutting and design.
Gemstone Jeweler: $30,000 to $65,000
If you like to face different challenges every day, you may want to pursue a career as a bench jeweler. Working in a jewelry store isn't just for sales people. Most reputable jewelry stores have a professional gemologist on hand to repair or recut gems and assess stones of all types. You'll get to work hands-on with fine jewelry pieces and also distinguish between natural stones, lab-created gems, and lookalikes.
If you enjoy talking to customers, take your knowledge of gemology into a retail setting and help them pick the best gems for their needs or restore the sparkle of their treasured heirlooms.
Auction Gemologist: $50,000 to $65,000
Auction houses need professional gemologists on staff to deal with gems and jewelry pieces on the block. They may also need gemology specialists to assist with purchasing jewelry from private sellers.
This can be an exciting and adventurous career. You'll have to combine your knowledge of gemology and appraisals with the sometimes high-stakes world of auctions. You'll also get to see some amazing pieces emerge from private collections.
Wholesale Gemstone Buyer
Like traveling and staying abreast (or ahead) of gemstone jewelry trends? Welcome to your dream job: wholesale gemstone buying. You'll select gems from locales across the globe for import. Scout what's popular (or about to be popular), find those gems, and make them available to the public for a profit.
How much money a wholesale gemstone buyer can expect to make in one year is difficult to estimate.
More Options for Gemology Careers
None of these jobs sound like your cup of tea? There are other ways you can pursue your interest in gems. If you're interested in education, you might consider working in a museum as a curator for gemstone exhibits. If you have a talent for writing, you could write about gemstones for a variety of audiences through print or online media.
You may find opportunities closer to home less adventurous but still fulfilling. Some pawn shops may want a gemologist on retainer to evaluate the gemstone jewelry people bring to sell.
If you're interested in gemology but still not sure about a career path, here are a few more articles that may interest you.
- International Gem Society founder Donald Clark discusses how he entered the gemstone business.
- In The Path to Success in the Gem Trade, gem cutter and gemologist Justin K Prim shares his insight on how to enter this tight-knit world.
- The three books reviewed in this article explore very different lives and careers in gemology: diamond cutters, an international gem trader, and a world-renowned gem carver.
- If you're interested in starting a jewelry business, this article by Mark Cantrell poses some key questions you should consider first.
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