HomeContact Info Membership Info Donations
Become an AGA MemberLocate an AGA Member
AGA Antonio C. Bonanno Award for Excellence in Gemology
Resources & ArticlesConsumer Issues
Event InformationEvent Gallery

Register for AGA Tucson Conference Jan 31, 2024

2024 AGA Tucson Conference & Gala

Visit AGA Registration site to purchase your in-person conference and/or gala tickets, or recorded conference registration. Register today!


Al Gilbertson

Al Gilbertson, GIA GG, AGS CG, Project Manager, Cut Research at the GIA Carlsbad Laboratory

Presentation: GIA Fancy Shape Cut Research

In addition to an extensive career with contributions in appraisal science, color communication, and cut research, Al Gilbertson is also an accomplished gem cutter having grown up in the lapidary business.

Earlier in his career, Al lobbied members of the board for the American Gem Society to establish a new firm designation for independent jewelry appraisers. In 1992 Al and Jim Coote (former instructor for GIA) were the first to receive and helped set the standards for the Independent Certified Gemologist-Appraiser Firm (ICGA) designation. They were also the first independent appraisers to be awarded the title of Certified Gemologist-Appraiser by AGS.

Al was on the gemological committee that helped set up the AGS lab. Tools he patented became the core of the AGS ASET light performance model. GIA hired Al in 2000 to be part of GIA's team researching diamond cut evaluation. Al was an essential part of the team that created GIA's cut grading system for the round brilliant. He is currently studying the influence of proportions and other factors on the appearance of fancy-shaped diamonds, working towards a cut grading system for fancy-shaped diamonds. His book, American Cut —The First 100 Years, is highly regarded as the standard work on the subject. In 2017,  Al received the AGA Antonio C. Bonanno Award for Excellence in Gemology. More recently, Al wrote the course on Jewelry Forensics for GIA.

Fatema Almahmood

Fatema Almahmood, FGA
Senior Gemmologist at Bahrain Institute for Pearls and Gemstones (DANAT)

Presentation: The Discovery of the First Pearl from a Saccostrea cuccullata Oyster in the Kingdom of Bahrain

Fatema Almahmood is a senior gemmologist at Bahrain Institute for Pearls and Gemstones (DANAT) and has been working there since its establishment. She is an accredited gemmologist (FGA), with a background in physics.

Her passion for learning has led her to take an active role in published gemmological research, with a particular focus on pearls–in which she specialises. Fatema has published papers and lab-notes in such journals as ‘Minerals’ and ‘Gems & Gemology’.

She has delivered lectures to gemmologists and traders from across the globe. She has a wide range of experience testing pearls, gemstones, and diamonds at DANAT’s headquarters and at several international exhibitions through DANAT’s mobile laboratory.

Rachelle Turnier

Rachelle Turnier, MS, PhD, Richard T. Liddicoat Postdoctoral Research Associate, GIA

Presentation: Geologically Mixed Signals: Mogok Sapphires and Crustal Metasomatism

Dr. Rachelle Turnier is a Richard T. Liddicoat Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in Carlsbad, California. She earned her PhD in Geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying under Dr. John Valley. Her dissertation, entitled "Views on Corundum Genesis from Zircon Inclusions, SIMS Oxygen Isotope Analyses, Geochronology, Trace Elements, and Spectroscopy," is a revolutionary tome on the application of in situ analytical techniques to studying gem corundum formation in different settings.

Despite over a century of research, the processes by which corundum, an aluminum oxide mineral, crystallizes from a silicate melt are still often poorly understood. As a geochemist with a penchant for fieldwork, Dr. Turnier has collected research samples from several important localities, including Naxos (Greece), Mogok (Myanmar), and Montana (USA). Applying detailed analyses at the micron-scale to samples collected directly from the source allows us to answer large-scale questions about the geologic conditions of corundum formation.

Having won numerous awards for academic achievement and contributed to peer-reviewed research, Dr. Turnier continues her research on geochemical and spectroscopic characteristics of sapphires and rubies at GIA, utilizing a variety of analytical techniques such as hyperspectral imaging, trace element geochemistry, and Raman spectroscopy to advance our understanding of gem corundum. Her AGA talk will explore some of the complex oxygen isotope systematics of sapphires from different mines in Mogok, Myanmar and connect these features to the challenges of understanding the geologic origin of blue sapphires.

Jolyon Ralph

Jolyon Ralph, Founder, mindat.org & gemdat.org

Presentation: Diving deeper into Mindat.org and Gemdat.org for gemmological research

Jolyon Ralph is the founder of the mindat.org and gemdat.org online databases. He was born in Wimbledon, UK, and as a child discovered a passion for both minerals and computing. Despite studying Geology at Imperial College, London, he decided to enter into the computing world for a career, keeping minerals as a hobby.

It was, of course, inevitable that the two interests would collide, and this happened during the 1990s when he built his first iteration of the mineral database 'mindat', which would later become the mindat.org website, launched in October 2000. This would be followed in 2010 by the gemdat.org website for gemmology.

Justin Prim

Justin Prim, Magnus Gems

Presentation: Lost Cuts of History: Exploring Forgotten Gemstone Designs through Antique Jewelry and Art

Justin K Prim is an American gemcutter and author. He has studied gemcutting traditions all over the world as well as attending gemology programs at GIA and AIGS. Justin has taught gemology and gemcutting at AIGS and IGT in Bangkok and he has recently published his first book, The Secret Teachings of Gemcutting. He is the founder of Faceting Apprentice, an online gemcutting school, and he also writes articles, produces videos, and gives talks about gemcutting history.

Dr. Gabriela Farfan

Dr. Gabriela Farfan, PhD, Coralyn Whitney Curator of Gems and Minerals, Smithsonian Institution, NMNH

Presentation: Behind-the-scenes highlights at the Smithsonian NMNH

Dr. Gabriela Farfan is the Coralyn Whitney Curator of Gems and Minerals at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Like many gem and mineral aficionados, she began collecting gems and minerals at an early age—which led her to a career in mineralogy. She has visited over 30 mines across the US, Canada, and Chile and has enjoyed meeting miners, gem artists, and scientists during these adventures. After receiving her bachelor's degree in Geological and Environmental Sciences from Stanford University, she earned her PhD in Geochemistry from the MIT-WHOI Joint Program and did a brief postdoc at the Smithsonian before starting a curatorship there. As a research curator and mineralogist, she studies the crystal structures and chemistry of minerals formed under varying conditions in order to answer questions in environmental mineralogy, biomineralization, and gem science. Her research primarily focuses on how aquatic biocarbonates (like coral skeletons, mollusk shells, and pearls) record shifting aquatic environments using crystallography coupled with trace element and isotope geochemistry.

In her new role as curator-in-charge of the National Gem Collection, she is honored to be a steward of this legendary collection and looks forward to building the collection, making it accessible to researchers and other museums, and using it to inspire future generations of gem scientists and enthusiasts.

Contact Information Home Locate an AGA Member Membership Information Donations Event Gallery AGA Antonio C. Bonanno Award Resources, Links & Articles Event Info