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AGA Tucson Conference, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017
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Spotlights on Tucson - Cutting Edge Gemology to keep you in the loupe

From Gemology to Mineral Physics & Back Again

Including an update on a gem of the future: Nano-Polycrystalline Diamond

Elise Skalwold, Consulting Gemological Curator, Cornell University (bio)

In the author's ever-expanding experience of the world of gems, the study of gemology has led her on an unexpected and fascinating journey into the realms of mineralogy and high-level mineral physics research. Through a behind-the-scenes tour of her own collaborative research projects, this presentation gives the audience a taste of the complex scientific efforts which directly or indirectly support the day-to-day gemological science on which the gem industry relies, but which often remain relatively invisible. Central to the story are her co-researchers and other colleagues who enrich the quest for understanding and interpreting this fascinating world.

The thread which binds this journey is the intense investigation of a blue crystal included within a diamond macle. Over a four year period, some of the most technologically advanced instrumentation in the world has yielded volumes of data and a conclusion that this pleochroic crystal is olivine, though as yet no conclusive reason for its anomalous color. Nonetheless, the high degree of scrutiny to which this diamond and its inclusions have been subjected is in itself a remarkable story and provides insights into a world deep within the Earth – arguably one of its last frontiers and one which is otherwise inaccessible.

Inextricably linked to this story is the Diamond Anvil Cell (DAC), a remarkable instrument used in high pressure research. Not only does the DAC utilize gem quality diamonds in its own construction, it is also used to study the Deep Earth environment in which diamonds form. Gemmy nano-polycrystalline diamond (NPD) plays an important role in both the DAC and in our understanding of natural gem diamonds.

Elise A. Skalwold is an AGA Accredited Senior Gemologist, independent researcher, educator and author. She serves as Consulting Gemological Curator at her alma mater, Cornell University (B.Sc. 1982), and is Contributing Editor and author for the quarterly column G&G Micro-World featured in Gems & Gemology, the peer-reviewed scientific journal of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). READ MORE…

Secrets of the Hope Diamond Revealed

Recent research projects update a storied history

Dr. Jeffery Post, Curator, Gem and Mineral Collection, Smithsonian Institution (bio)

The Hope Diamond is one of the most famous gemstones in the world. It is familiar to most people because of its fascinating human history which includes kings and thieves and perhaps a curse or two, but it is also a rare blue diamond, the largest and finest of its kind known. Despite its long history in the public eye, the diamond still prompts many questions.

Was the Hope Diamond cut from the great French Blue Diamond that was stolen during the French Revolution in 1792? Are there other blue diamonds that were cut from the same original parent stone as the Hope Diamond? Why does the Hope Diamond emit an intense ember-orange glow after exposure to ultraviolet light? This illustrated presentation will explore the history of the Hope Diamond and describe recent research projects that attempted to unlock some of the secrets of the Hope Diamond.

Dr. Jeffrey E. Post, a native of Wisconsin, received Bachelor of Science degrees in geology and chemistry from the University of Wisconsin - Platteville, and his Ph.D. in chemistry, with a specialty in geochemistry, from Arizona State University. READ MORE…

Hands on with The New Blues

Learn about two new gem discoveries and the persistence it took to find out what they really are! Find out when, where and how they were discovered, how they were accurately identified, and how they differ from other gems that are similar in appearance. Then have a chance to be among the first to handle and examine wonderful samples of the material. In addition, speaking of blue, you'll be seeing and examining fine quality sapphires (and not just blue) from the reactivated mining efforts at Rock Creek, Montana.


Yianni Melas, Gem Explorer

When veteran gem hunter, Yianni Melas saw the rich greenish-blue translucent material on an African trip, he knew that he was holding something special - something "new". Found along with chalcedonies and opals, the material had qualities that prompted him to submit it for testing. Not convinced is was chrysophrase, as first told, Yianni left it in the hands of the GIA, whose advanced testing confirmed his suspicion and "Aquaprase" entered the gem market. Learn the story and get a first glimpse of this truly new material.

Apache Blue Stone

Warren Boyd, FGAC, BSC, FCGmA, FGA (bio)

There are very interesting rocks and minerals on and near the San Carlos Indian Reservation is Arizona, including peridot, turquoise, chrysocolla and garnets. Recently another gemmy-looking material was discovered, one that is similar in appearance to both turquoise and chrysocolla, but also different; it is being called Apache Blue Stone. Testing has shown it has different gemological characteristics from either. Come discover whether this is a new gemstone or a new species, or a new color of a known species. Experienced geologists, mineralogists and gemologists realize that the answer often is not easy. Warren will share his experiences in the quest for gems and the thrill of finding something "new" and unexpected and explain what characteristics to look for to identify this material, and provide samples from this exciting new find for you to handle and examine.

In addition, he'll provide an update on new developments connected with mining for sapphires from Rock Creek, Montana. As a principal of Potentate Mining, LLC, Warren will open your eyes to what the recent mining efforts at Rock Creek have brought to the surface, in an amazing variety of colors and significant sizes reaching 40 carats. You will have the opportunity to see and examine samples in a variety of colors, and both rough and polished.

Claire Mitchell

Separating Similar Looking Stones

Claire Mitchell, FGA, DGA - Gem-A (bio)

Class limit: 18

(To register for this limited attendance workshop, AFTER you have registered for the conference, contact Jan via phone: 619-501-5444 or via email. This is a first come, first served session.)

As gemologists, we all "sight id" from time to time, but what if you have several stones similar in appearance sitting in front of you? Can you separate them visually? Students will use hand-held tools to make those separations on several groups of look-alikes. Always a useful exercise with lasting results, this class will greatly benefit newer gemologists and hold surprises for seasoned veterans.

This is an AGA Pilot Workshop - Our first attempt of a break-out session, this will test the waters for future AGA conferences. This class is limited to 18 students. Other attendees will enjoy "The Fabled Viking Sunstone" with Elise Skalwold.

The Fabled Viking Sunstone

Exploring the Optical Phenomena of Pleochroism and Birefringence

Elise A. Skalwold, Cornell University (bio)

The intriguing theory of the Viking's use of a coveted stone to find their way in arctic waters has its roots in the ancient Viking Sagas, optical mineralogy, and in practical application by modern navigators. The proposed minerals thought to be the Fabled Viking "Sunstone" are excellent models for understanding the optical phenomena of pleochroism and birefringence - the very properties which make them useful for navigation are also those which make them valuable as lapidary and gem materials today. There are several candidates for the stone, among them are "Iceland Spar" calcite of which a coveted optical quality was found abundantly in Iceland, and the blue variety of the mineral cordierite, found in Norway and popularly known as "Viking's Compass" and as the gem "iolite." The former is explored in Elise's 2015 paper "Double Trouble: Navigating Birefringence" published by the Mineralogical Society of America, while the latter is featured in her paper "Blue Minerals: Exploring Cause & Effect" published in the special 2016 January/February issue of Rocks & Minerals magazine.

A practical lesson in mineral optics from ancient Viking mariners for today's gemologists!

Other planned programs...

The Art of the Deal

Art Samuels, Estate Buyers (bio)
Street-savvy gemology and tales from the estate department

In Search of Consistency: Color Terms in Gemology and the AGL Approach

Christopher Smith, American Gemological Laboratory (bio)

About the 2017 AGA Conference & Gala (Register Now...)

Conference check-in begins at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Conference sessions are from 8:30 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.
Continental breakfast, light lunch & Gala ticket are included with the conference fee.

The annual AGA membership meeting will be held during the conference lunch break.

The evening will conclude with a festive dinner and awards ceremony, honoring Al Gilbertson with the prestigious Antonio C. Bonanno Award for Excellence in Gemology.

The Gala Champagne Reception is from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. followed by the Gala Dinner Dance & Bonanno Award Ceremony from 7:30 to 11:00 p.m.

These events will be held at the Tucson Marriott University Park, 880 E. Second Street, Tucson, Arizona (map)

Gala Dinner Dance Tickets Only

If you wish to attend our Annual Gala Dinner Dance but not the conference, tickets are available here. Please follow directions for Gala Only tickets.

Early Pricing for Gala Only Tickets (by 1/20/2017)
AGA & Gem-A Members: $75, Non-Members: $105

(Tickets at the door or online after the early deadline
are $95 & $125 respectively.)

No refunds after 1/20/2017

Early Registration Conference Fees
Available on-line until January 20, 2017

Conference registration includes continental breakfast, light lunch and the AGA Annual Dinner Gala featuring great networking opportunities, live band, & dance floor.

Early Registration Fees*:
AGA & Gem-A Members: $195
Non-Members: $245

Register Now...

LOCATION: Marriott University Park Hotel Conference Center,
880 E. Second Street, Tucson, AZ 85719 (map)

* Registration at door or online after the early deadline
are $230 & $280 respectively.

No refunds after 1/20/2017

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