If you have ever come across a diamond in North America, you have no doubt been touched by the Gemological Institute of America. GIA, as it is most commonly known, was founded in 1931 by Robert M. Shipley and is an organization that protects buyers and sellers of precious gems by setting and maintaining the standards used to evaluate gemstone quality. The Institute accomplishes this through extensive research, gem identification, and most notably with a diamond grading system. In 1953 GIA famously introduced the International Diamond Grading System which branded the Four Cs (cut, color, clarity, and carat weight) as a means to evaluate the quality of a diamond. Many a prospective buyer, especially those hopeful romantics, have received a lesson from a local jeweler in the Four Cs.
The Institute is currently headquartered in Carlsbad, California, and operates world-wide.
In the 1930s Shipley took an industry that so far had been anchored in Europe, and brought it to the United States. He established a national jewelers guild, created the “Certified Gemologist” profession, and even patented a jeweler’s loupe and the world’s first gemological microscope. The Gemological Institute of America continued as world leaders as the Four Cs became the gold standard for diamond rating in the 1950s. At the turn of the century, the Institute broke barriers as it developed ways to detect diamonds that had been treated with high pressure and high temperature (HPHT treatment), a process that decolorizes the jewels. In 2007 they introduced the Synthetic Diamond Grading Report, extending their reach far beyond naturally created gems.
For those considering a career in gemology, the Institute offers a wide variety of certifications in diamonds, colored stones, and even pearls. The Richard T. Liddicoat Gemological Library and Information Center, also in Carlsbad, is the world’s most renown gemological library, housing close to 40,000 books. There isn’t anything to know about precious gems that the Gemological Institute of America doesn’t teach.
In recent years more and more people have become concerned about “blood diamonds”. In response, the Kimberley Process (KP) was developed as a way to ensure diamonds to be sold were conflict free. GIA’s policy has since been strict adherence to only working with diamonds that are certified conflict-free through KP. Buyers can now enjoy their precious gems with a guilt-free conscience.
Anyone considering purchasing a diamond should be careful to check out the gem’s GIA rating and report. They are certainly the world leaders in gem knowledge, education, and quality rating.