Summary
So, you’re interested in gemstones and want to pursue a gemology career? Fortunately, there are many different rewarding job opportunities for a certified gemologist. Take a look at the following options, compare their estimated annual salaries, and see which one may be right for you.
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spinel, Sri Lanka - gemology career options

Lavender, oval Portuguese-cut spinel, 7.01 cts, 14.0 x 1.0 x 7.0 mm, Sri Lanka. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.

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.

cushion-cut sphene, Pakistan - gemology career options

GIA-certified, cushion-cut sphene gemstone, 2.94 cts, Pakistan. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Jasper52.

Salary Information

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

lab gemologist - gemology career optionsIf 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

Gemstone Appraiser - gemology career optionsDo 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.

morganite and nephrite jade ring - gemology career options

This custom ring features lines that incorporate subtle script lettering for a personal touch and an unusual pairing of the green of nephrite jade with the salmon pink of the heart-cut morganite center stone. Photo © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Gemstone Jeweler: $30,000 to $65,000

Jewelry Store Gemologist - gemology career optionsIf 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.

natural alexandrite ring

The very rare, natural alexandrite shown here changes color from greenish brown in daylight to purplish red in incandescent light. 18k white gold ring with 3.08-ct, oval mixed-cut alexandrite and diamond side stones, 2.16 ctw. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Westbury Auction Galleries.

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.

translucent sugilite

What the gemstone-buying public considers attractive varies between regions and countries. Sugilite is a rare gemstone with a color like “grape jelly,” found in cuttable quality only in South Africa. Currently, the greatest consumer demand for this stone comes from Asian countries. Translucent pieces, like this gem, are especially prized. Brilliant-cut oval sugilite, 0.39 cts, 6.1 x 4.2 mm, Wessels Mine, Northern Cape Prov., South Africa. © The Gem Trader. Used with permission.

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.

Lizzadro Museum - gemology career options

Visitors at a display at the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art, Elmhurst, Illinois, USA. Photo by oakbrookterracehotels. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

Additional Reading

If you’re interested in gemology but still not sure about a career path, here are a few more articles that may interest you.

custom gemstone necklace

This custom necklace project features an 18k gold butterfly with four custom-cut spectrolite cabs, Australian opals, faceted tanzanite, pink and yellow sapphires, and blue apatites for the butterfly’s eyes. The 18k chain includes opal accents and an opal and pink sapphire clasp. Design by Jessica Dow, cabbing, jewelry, and photo by Jessa and Mark Anderson. Licensed under CC By 2.0.