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See what you missed at the
AGA Cutting Edge Gemological Conference in Tucson
February 3, 2016

The Accredited Gemologists Association Tucson Conference calls together experts from leading international laboratories and educational institutions to explore the critical challenges facing the industry today, and discuss the tools and techniques needed to meet those challenges head on.

"This year's program offered our broadest spectrum of gem exploration." explained AGA president, Stuart Robertson. "We learned about both basic and advanced spectra applications and dusted off our hand-held spectroscope to see how useful this tool can really be. We will looked at some individual gems, the newest treatments and got the broad perspective of a world renowned authority on ruby and sapphire.  We also got a glimpse into one of the most spectacular crystal caves recently revealed."

Speakers Spotlights

Richard Hughes, FGA

Forests and Trees—Ten Lessons in Gemology

Richard Hughes, FGA (bio)

Richard Hughes is well known to his fellow AGA members for his numerous contributions to the field of gemology. AGA president Stuart Robertson noted, "We are delighted that Richard once again spoke at the Tucson conference. He is a gifted gemologist and always delivers an insightful and rousing presentation. Richard's participation further broadens the educational impact of our conference. And quality gemological content is what AGA conference attendees have come to expect."

Gemologists are largely involved with exploring the minutiae of the substances they work with, measuring atoms and properties in increasingly magnified amounts. In this program—Forests and Trees—Ten Lessons in Gemology—Richard Hughes stepped back away from the subject, discussing gemology via a number of broad lessons he has learned over his 37-year career. Many of these are personal mistakes he has made. By telling the stories it is hoped that some broad truths can be gleaned that will be of use for both students and practicing gemologists, alike.

10 Lessons in Gemology - The ten lessons that the author will touch upon in his talk are:

  1. Understanding Psychology
  2. Search for Significant Differences
  3. Embrace Pressure
  4. Consider all Possibilities
  5. Beware of Contradictions
  6. Grab Opportunities
  7. Alter your Perspective
  8. Choose the Appropriate Tool (and Understand its Limitations)
  9. Simplify
  10. Increase your Field of View
Dr. Daniel Nyfeler

Determining Gem Country of Origin through Geochronology

Ten Years of LA-ICPMS Applied in Gem Labs: from Beryllium Testing to Age Determination

Dr. Daniel Nyfeler (bio)

Nyfeler's presentation provided keen insights leading to a better understanding of the exciting research applications for LA-ICPMS in the world of gemology. Sparked by the need to detect Beryllium treated corundum, laser-ablation ICPMS was first applied on gemstones in the first years of the 21st century. Its ability to quantitatively measure the concentration of almost all elements of the periodic table, and its very low detection limits down to ppm or even ppb levels made it promising for other tasks in gem labs, such as chemical fingerprinting to support the increasingly difficult task of origin determination. For many colored gemstones, LA-ICPMS has become a standard testing method, and has put the task of origin determination on a much more robust basis. The latest generation of LA-ICPMS systems is capable of determining radiogenic isotopes and hence allowing gem labs to apply the methods of geochronology on clients' stones.

Dr. Nyfeler, Managing Director of the Gübelin Gem Lab in Lucerne, Switzerland, provided attendees with a better understanding of the exciting research applications for LA-ICPMS including country of origin.

A brilliant researcher, this was Dr. Nyfeler's first appearance as a speaker at an AGA conference. His fascinating presentation explores the gemological breakthroughs facilitated through this technology.

Claire Mitchell, FGA DGA

Spectroscopy - Bridging the Gap

Claire Mitchell, FGA DGA (bio)

Claire, a senior Gemmology and Diamond instructor for Gem-A (The Gemmological Association of Great Britain), gave this dynamic hands-on presentation that not only restored the confidence of attendees in using the spectroscope, but also demonstrated how to get the most from this valuable tool.

In today's gemological world, we are becoming increasingly aware of the wealth of information that can be obtained through spectroscopy, from hand-held instruments to the more advanced instrumentation that is now easier to use, and more affordable. Proficiency with these tools allow gemologists to access a wider range of analytical, spectroscopy–based information which can be invaluable for identification, treatment detection, and distinguishing natural from synthetic.

A popular lecturer, this was Ms. Mitchell's first appearance as a speaker at an AGA conference. Her dynamic presentation revisited the hand-held spectroscope, its types, the principles on which it works, and most importantly, how to use it correctly to ensure reliable testing results. She also briefly explored other spectroscopy-based technology now available to enable "traditional" gemologists to more confidently bridge traditional techniques and contemporary techniques. Following the presentation there was a guided, hands-on session in which we honed, and tested, our skills.

Andrew Cody

The Astonishing World of Opals

Andrew Cody (bio)

As gemmologists or appraisers, it is imperative to know the type of opal. It is not possible to assess an opal without first knowing the many types and varieties. The problem is that Opal is a huge and complex family.

Precious opal deposits are located in a number of countries such as USA; Mexico; Honduras; Brazil; Slovakia; Ethiopia; Indonesia and Australia.

The Opal Family is a large and diverse group with many different types and varieties which may have differing quality factors, gemological factors, and in fact may be structurally different.

Today Australia still produces the bulk of the world's opal by value, and a shortage of high quality material together with strong demand, is driving up the prices.

Andrew delved into some very curious opal relationships including water, microbes, Mars, uranium, insects, plants, chickens & dinosaurs!

Matching Potential Substances for Enhancing Gems via Surface In-Filling

Shawn O'Sullivan

While surface-filled emeralds go back centuries, Shawn brought us up to speed on what other gems are now, and will soon be, enhanced through surface in-filling. He explained research into matching potential substances with the gem being treated and the importance of disclosure at all levels. Examples for hands on examination were available.

Marc Beverly

Amazing Crystal Caves of Mexico

Marc Beverly (bio)

Expert rock and ice climber/instructor Marc Beverly presented a look into the Amazing Crystal Caves of Mexico where he braved life-threatening conditions1000 feet underground to reveal football field-sized caverns with 35 foot long crystals. As chronicled by National Geographic, this amazing network of caves near Naica, Mexico was explored by Beverly and a team of scientists to discover not just the formations but the life existing within, both past and present. The stunning visuals was a humbling close to the day's presentations.

About the Annual AGA Tucson Conference & Gala

The evening concluded with a festive dinner and awards ceremony, honoring this year's winner of the prestigious AGA Antonio C. Bonanno Award for Excellence in Gemology, Cigdem Lule, PhD.

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

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

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