GIA's 'Colored Stone Essentials'

July 1999

For Your Staff:Education

GIA's 'Colored Stone Essentials'

Our jewelry editor takes the second part of a new three-course series that leads to a GIA diploma as an accredited sales professional. Here's what you can expect

For centuries, colored gemstones have been used to express a wide range of emotions. You can improve your sales skills and help your customers make buying decisions if you're able to speak intelligently about the history and characteristics of colored gems. As part of a three-course series that leads to an accredited sales professional diploma, the Gemological Institute of America now offers "Colored Stone Essentials," which provides the foundation needed to sell gems ethically and effectively.

If you're concerned you won't have enough time to take the course, relax. You can do the work anywhere. My course material has traveled with me on planes, trains and automobiles here and on a business trip to Europe. All you need is the desire to learn and the rest will work itself out.

What To Expect
"Colored Stone Essentials," which costs $349 to buy, consists of eight reading assignments. Assignments 1, 3, 5, 6 and 8 have questionnaires you answer and send to GIA (via fax, e-mail or regular mail). Assignments 2, 4 and 7 have self-tests you keep to help measure your progress. An Essential Colored Stone Reference Guideis included and covers gems you'll likely see in jewelry stores.

Each entry presents illustrations and information about where a gemstone comes from, its hardness/toughness, stability, treatments and recommended care/cleaning methods.

This assignment introduces basic terms and concepts to help you grasp the fundamental language of colored gems. You'll learn all gems share three traits: beauty, rarity and durability. You'll also learn color is the most important part of a gemstone's visual appeal because, simply, it's the first thing a customer sees. The introduction also explains gem classifications, including species, based on chemical composition and structure, and variety, a subcategory of species that's often based on color.

Understanding Color & Phenomena
This lesson introduces the rainbow of gemstone choices your customers have. Learn about color's role in determining a gemstone's value and the unique characteristics of phenomenal stones – such as opal's shifting flashes called play of color.

This section will help you help customers understand why a particular colored gem ring is more expensive than another one because of slight variations in hue, tone and saturation.

Clarity, Cut and Carat
Variations in clarity, cut and weight affect a gem's worth and work together in different ways. By understanding a gem's value factors, you can understand market decisions made by miners, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers.

Market Awareness
This assignment makes the connection between a gem's value and its journey through the marketplace. You'll learn how a gem's source influences its value and how consumer preference influences demand. The journey through the marketplace will deepen your appreciation of how colored gems reach the showcase.

Treatments, Synthetics, Imitations & Disclosure
Treated gems, synthetics and imitations can be confusing, and the knowledge consumers have often comes from news stories that aren't always accurate. Learn how to balance an effective sales presentation with full ethical disclosure.

This section gives you background on the development and marketing of treatments, synthetics and imitations. It also explains how advancing technology is closing the gap between what happens in nature and what's done in the lab. As the gap narrows, the issue of disclosure becomes more confusing as well as more important.

Durability, Care & Cleaning
Take the time to find out about the gemstone you care for in your store so you can advise customers how to care for it at home. This is where the reference guide is essential. You'll learn why some gemstones require special care. For example, steam cleaning a pearl ring is a bad idea no matter how dirty it is because pearls have a low tolerance for heat.

A retipping or ring resizing job can damage treated gemstones. For example, the heat from a jeweler's torch can cause irradiated red or purple tourmalines to fade or change color. In the same way, using a torch around an enhanced emerald can cause oil or resin filler to change color or seep out.

Presenting Colored Stones
A successful sale doesn't happen by itself. This section identifies seven steps in the typical sales process. They are:

  • Approaching the customer.
  • Exchanging information.
  • Building value.
  • Creating desire.
  • Attempting a trial close.
  • Closing the sale.
  • Following up.

Presenting the Big 3
People have desired emeralds, rubies and sapphires just as passionately as they have diamonds. In this lesson you will learn about this trio's history, virtues, strengths, weaknesses and imitators.

You'll also learn the difference between information (the bare facts) and knowledge (the understanding of how to analyze information correctly and effectively). Throughout this lesson are exercises to give you the opportunity to apply what you have learned.

Eye Candy
As you make your way through the course, you'll see photos of such famous gemstones as the first known emeralds that came from Egypt's Cleopatra mines and the world's largest (138.7 carats) fine star Rosser Reeves ruby that resides at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Excerpts from the Federal Trade Commission Guides for the Jewelry, Precious Metals and Pewter Industriesare sprinkled throughout each lesson.

Test Your Knowledge
Like GIA's companion "Diamond Essentials" course, you'll need to score 75% or better on the questionnaires to take the "Colored Stone Essentials" exam, which is offered at GIA offices in Carlsbad and Los Angeles, CA; New York City; or by proctor at other locations.

– by Lorraine M. Suermann

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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