Accredited Gemologist Association
Contact InformationHome
Locate an AGA Member - Membership Information - Donations
AGA Antonio C. Bonanno Award - Resources, Links & Articles- Event Info - Event Gallery

AGA Tucson Conference & Gala Dinner / Dance
February 4, 2015


Gems - Facets to Micro-Features

Whether your interests pertain to undisclosed treatments, new emerald fillers, value-added gemstone cutting, "collector gems," amazing historical tidbits, or how to take amazing gem photographs, this conference had it all.

Emerald Clarity Enhancement

Christopher Smith, President of American Gemological Laboratories (bio)

The clarity enhancement of emerald is a practice that dates back to antiquity in the gemstone and jewelry industry. However, today the clarity enhancement of gems is very common and arguably the most broadly applied type of gemstone enhancement. A wide range of gem varieties are routinely clarity enhanced to improve their appearance. In this carefully illustrated presentation Smith discussed the various types of fillers used to clarity enhance emeralds, as well as their effectiveness in reducing the appearance of fissures.

He also gave the lab's approach to classifying the type and extent of clarity enhancement as well as the specific techniques that gemologist can use to recognize if and to what extent a gem has been filled.

A hands-on session provided samples of emeralds filled with various types of traditional and modern fillers where participants gained first-hand experience and feedback on how best to recognize the various types of fillers and extent of clarity enhancement.

Three Phase Inclusions & Their Relationship to Country of Origin

Shane McClure, Director of West Coast Identification Services, Gemological Institute of America (GIA) (bio)

Gemologists believed for a long time that 3-phase inclusions were unique to Colombian emeralds. More specifically, 3-phase inclusions consisting of a void (often with jagged edges) filled with a liquid, a gas bubble and a cubic solid crystal.

For a very long time this belief was true. We did not know of this type of 3-phase inclusion occurring in emeralds from other localities. However, as often happens in gemology, this changed.

In this thoroughly illustrated presentation McClure discussed the different sources that are known to produce emeralds having 3-phasse inclusions and what gemologists need to know to separate them.

(Photo © GIA)

Tablet to Tablet: Treasured Pages from Past to Present

Dona Mary Dirlam, Director of the Richard T. Liddicoat Gemological Library and Information Center (bio)

In a dramatically illustrated lecture, Dona highlighted 15 different sets of library and gem materials from 1496 to the present. The talk traced the development of the written word while showcasing the GIA Library's extraordinary collection of rare books about gems, minerals, and natural science. Most of these books had never before been on display until a recent exhibit in Carlsbad, California of the same name.

Dona included an overview of how the GIA librarians plan to provide greater access to these rare books for the gem community globally.  This goal is being achieved through a massive digitization project using newly acquired state-of-the art scanning equipment.

(Photo by Kevin Schumacher. © GIA.)

Covering a span over 500 years long, the books described trace the development of gemology, crystallography, jewelry manufacturing, jewelry design, pricing of gemstones and precious metals, diamond mining as well as the documentation of one family's incredible wealth: the Romanov jewels and regalia.

The oldest book described is Pliny's Natural History, from 1496,the content of which dates back to 77 CE. It is our foundation on ancient gemology. Pliny died during the first recorded eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

One-of-a-kind works include original renderings of various jewelers' designs, a handwritten book from 1840 about minerals from Great Britain illustrated with beautiful hand-colored plates and a self-published book containing original artwork that the author, Wendell Wilson, created for the Mineralogical Record.

Contamination: A Common Invalidator

Lore Kiefert, Gubelin Gem Lab - Luzem, Switzerland bio

The increasing need for gemological information on new finds, treatments and origins has lead to a rise in the number of gem labs and researchers performing the tests relied upon by the trade.

Unfortunately, improper training or specimen preparation can lead to false conclusions and Dr. Kiefert revealed some startling mistakes from her encounters.

The Black Opals of Ethiopia

Dr. Kiefert share her current research of the Ethiopian black opal found in 2013. While previous black opal from Ethiopia proved to be treated, natural material is now emerging from Welo Province.

The location, properties and test results to date were examined as well as viability in the marketplace.

Focusing on Photography

The Art of Photomicrography by Danny Sanchez bio

Photomicrography provides us with a glimpse into the otherwise unseeable. In gemology it allows us to better understand a stone's origin as well as any processes it may have undergone. From lighting and specimen preparation to microscopy tricks, "image stack" technology and the software he uses, Danny gave us an inside look at his cutting edge position in the field and how the everyday gemologist can adapt affordable equipment to record the otherwise unseeable.

Smart Phone Photomicrography by Edward Boehm (bio)

On the other hand, did you know that your phone is smart enough to also take some great photographs through the microscope? Edward Boehm demonstrated his road-tested tips and techniques to add photomicrography to your portable arsenal.

Collector Gems: A Co-Evolution of Life, Minerals, and Technology

Jeffery Bergman, International Expert On Exotic Gems bio

A few decades ago names like Bastnasite, Hackmanite, Jeremejevite, Painite and Taffeeite were reverently whispered among mineral collectors, gem geeks and scientists. And while most of us are familiar with trapiche emeralds, few among us realize there are trapiche sapphires and rubies as well.

Today, in no small degree thanks to TV and internet vendors, these and many other "obscure" gem rarities are being sought by a growing number of increasingly savvy rock hounds and consumers. In an evermore competitive marketplace, these gems offer new opportunities, but only for those who are knowledgeable about them.

Jeffery Bergman took us on a memorable journey, explaining and showing how many of these gems were formed, from the Big Bang, to the formation of our solar system and planet, to the development of over 4,500 known mineral species.

We found out more about these sparkling creations and learned how modern technology has affected supply and demand for them and take advantage of the opportunity to see and examine a few dozen of these genuine rarities—an opportunity almost as rare as the gems themselves. Remember: it was just a few decades ago that diaspore, tanzanite and tsavorite were virtually unknown in the marketplace …and just imagine what new discoveries in the mineral kingdom are waiting to be unearthed … and what opportunities are yet to come!

Faceting as a Factor of Gemstone Appraisal on Tomorrow's Market

Victor Tuzlukov, Gem-Cutter Extraordinaire (bio)

Offering gems that are exceptionally well cut will set you apart from the competition, and the results will not only be sparkling gems, but a sparkling bottom line!

Whether talking about diamonds or colored gems, knowledgeable professionals understand how important good cutting is in transforming rough material into the dazzling product we see in jewelry. What many do not know, however, is that many – possibly most – of the cut and polished gems we see today are not dazzling and are not exhibiting their full potential. Even what we think of as beautifully cut gems, based on existing standards, most fall far short of their potential. In the hands of a skilled cutter, however, the results can be nothing short of mesmerizing!

With today's much greater understanding of how light moves through gemstones, and advances in equipment available to lapidary artists such as Victor Tuzlukov, cutters are able to control the light movement, resulting in gems with far greater brilliance, fire and dispersion. A skilled cutter can shape gem rough into a glorious eye-catcher, re-cut a stone that is "pretty" into a gem that is truly stunning, and their allure will yield sparkling benefits in all facets of the field!

The AGA Conference & Gala was held at Marriott University Park Hotel Conference Center, 880 E. Second Street, Tucson, AZ 85719

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