GIA is a 6-month program in New York City, structured Monday through Friday from 8pm to 4pm. There are usually about 20 students per class, only 10 to 15 of which actually pass and complete the program. The course is broken up into two segments, diamonds and colored stones. In the diamonds portion of the course, the first half of the day had lectures about how diamonds form in the earth, the 4Cs, and how the industry works. The remainder of the afternoon consisted of labs, to put our knowledge to the test under the microscope. We were challenged to figure out if a diamond was natural or synthetic and learned how to grade each stone.
I found the second half of the course, the colored stones portion, the most challenging. There are about 300 different types of colored stones; many of them look extremely similar at first glance. The only way to appropriately identify each stone is by testing the refractive index and following the proper observations to get to your identification. You also have to be able to tell the difference between natural, synthetic or treated stones. One of the more challenging stones to identify as natural or synthetic is a ruby, which many students struggle with. It may sound pretty simple, but the synthetic precious stones look almost identical to the natural.
Once you’re educated on each stone and its properties, you begin focusing on the identification process. Every day, you will be identifying about 100 stones under a microscope to prepare you for your final exam. Ultimately, this will train you on how to figure out which inclusions are synthetic and how to tell if something is treated with heat or if the stone is natural.
Once your final exam arrives, that is your big chance to use what you’ve learned in lab and apply it. In order to pass the exam, you are given 20 stones to identify and you need to score 100% to graduate. It’s not easy, but it will train you to be precise in a field that can have zero margin for error when certifying stones.
For anyone who is thinking about attending GIA I highly recommend it. The knowledge and relationships you make are indescribable. I found my path after school and figured out that I have the proper skillsets, people skills and passion to pursue my dreams of owning my own business at the age of 27. My future is bright and I’m excited to go through this amazing journey.