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A sparkling career choice

education Updated: Jun 20, 2012 17:39 IST
Shubhodeep Chakravarty
Shubhodeep Chakravarty
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

For 22-year-old Aarti Shekhar, gemstones were never just shiny little things that people wore to enhance beauty. The incredible detail that each stone fascinated her from childhood. It is little wonder then that gemmology as a career was a natural path for her after graduation.

A graduate gemmologist (GG), Shekhar’s acquisition of a small space in a premier mall in south Delhi is a reflection of her ambitions. The young gemmologist has a natural flair for observing and identifying stones, an activity which has become critical in the high value business of gemstone trade. “Gemmology is often linked with astrology and that is where a gemmologist steps in. A gemmologist’s job is to ascertain the quality and property of precious stones,” says Shekhar. S/he examines the true nature of stones and educates buyers.

The need for trained gemmologists has spiralled in the past few years, owing to a greater consciousness amongst buyers. The jewellery trade, becoming scientifically oriented, requires a class of professionals who fit in between retailers and buyers. Greater costs involve greater risk and, therefore, a greater need for quality control. “It is a highly technical and scientific profession,” says Shekhar.

Another gemmologist in the city, Swati Singhal agrees. “The work of a gemmologist also includes providing elementary knowledge to people about what they buy,” she says. Shekhar warns, however, that the profession is not meant for all.

“Much of the success in this profession comes to those who have a genuine liking for precious stones -- what goes into their making, what natural processes change their characteristics and all other processes right from their raw to finished stage,” she says.

There are a number of institutes in India and abroad providing hands-on training in the ‘art’ of gemmology (see box). At the elementary level, students begin with a basic gemmology course that involves identification and grading of cut stones as well as theoretical lectures. This may be followed by an advanced course that introduces learners to the advanced equipment increasingly being used in the field. These include the refractometer, spectrometer and poleroscope that help in accurately identifying minute features to determine the right price of a stone. Although very elementary knowledge of stones is required to take the course, most institutes have stringent examining processes.

What's it about ?
Gemmology has been the art of identifying and evaluating gemstones. In today’s world, it has become a science and profession dealing with precious and semi-precious stones. A branch of mineralogy, it is considered a geoscience

Clock Work
10.30 am: Meet with retailers to look at quality of the latest shipment of gems
11.30 am: Prepare and finalise stock itinerary
Noon: Clean high grade and sensitive equipment
12.30 pm: Examine stones purchased recently and previous stock in private laboratories
1.30 pm: Lunch
2.30 pm: Examine global trends in gemmology online and through hard manuscripts
4 pm: Deal with customers (Queries are aplenty in this profession while feedback plays a part in future planning)
6 pm: Itemise stocks available
6.30 pm: Go through financial records (if independent outlet)
7 pm: Pack up for the day

The Payoff
The pay scale varies with not just the level of training but also the nature of the employer. While gemmologists with basic training can fetch between Rs 10,000 to 20,000 a month, those with advanced level of training and experience can look at a pay package upwards of Rs 30,000 a month. A self-employed gemmologist involved in retail starts slow but once established, s/he may even look at a seven-figure income, per annum

Skills
.
A genuine interest in the non-ceremonial attraction of precious and semi-precious stones
. An eye for detail, capable of seeing the minutest of details that determine the grade, quality and worth of a stone
. A deep knowledge of not just stones but also of equipment
. Good communication skills to deal with customers
. The high cost retail dealings require integrity and honesty in customer dealings to win buyers’ trust
. A genuine interest in the non-ceremonial attraction of precious and semi-precious stones
. An eye for detail, capable of seeing the minutest of details that determine the grade, quality and worth of a stone
. A deep knowledge of not just stones but also of equipment
. Good communication skills to deal with customers
. The high cost retail dealings require integrity and honesty in customer dealings to win buyers’ trust

How do I get there?
Most institutions offer a graduate gemmologist (GG) degree to graduates. Students need to clear a practical-cum-theoretical test to earn the GG credential.
An undergraduate may also apply for a degree in gemmology but there are few reputable institutions offering degrees to school graduates.
The tuition fee for a typical six-month course abroad is between Rs 4 lakh to Rs 8 lakh.
A six-month course in a private college costs about Rs 1 lakh and less than half of that amount from a government institute

Institutes & urls
Abroad:
.
Gemological Institute of America, Carlsbad, USA
www.gia.edu
. Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences, Bangkok
www.aigsthailand.com
. Gemmological Association of Australia,
www.gem.org.au

India:
.
GIA, Mumbai
www.giaindia.in
. Gemological Institute of India, Mumbai
www.giionline.com
. St. Xavier’s, Mumbai
. International Gemological Institute, New Delhi

Pros & cons
.

A highly lucrative field. Financial possibilities are limitless if you are able to establish an independent set-up


.

‘Lab-monotony’ can be easily combated with business tours to major gemstone producing areas


.

Interactions with retailers and customers bring in the human angle


.

Initial investment is high

A high-value, high-risk business

A gemmologist talks about the trends in the field

What does an ideal course in gemmology comprise?
An ideal course will take you six months, while a professional course can be for as long as a year. The course is divided into different modules. The first module generally deals with introduction to gemmology — the different precious and semi-precious stones and how to treat these stones.

The subsequent modules introduce a student to the different equipment used to identify and grade these stones. In addition, some complex stones require extreme precision while being analysed. Therefore, they are introduced in the later part of the professional course.

What are the latest trends in teaching as well as in learning gemmology?
With each passing year, a range of high-grade equipment is being brought into the profession. A modern gemmological institute seeks to train students to use this equipment and enable them to be at complete ease with a wide variety of precious and semi-precious stones.

Youngsters are not taking up gemmology in a big way. What are the possible reasons?
It is a misconception that the youth is not developing a liking for this profession. The average age of people in my professional group is 26. Earlier, gemmology was more of a family-oriented enterprise. Today, however, big business enterprises are increasingly hiring enthusiastic young professionals.

What are the human skills that one can cultivate through training in gemmology?
Gemmology is not just about being constricted in a four-walled laboratory. Professionals are increasingly interacting with prospective customers. A significant part of gemmological training focuses on inter-personal relationships and how to address queries.

One should also have a sharp eye for detail and a strong sense of discernment while grading the stones. Gemmology training also evokes a sense of responsibility in the student as s/he enters a high-value, high-risk business.

Swati Shekhar Interviewed by Shubhodeep Chakravarty

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