Groundbreaking Research & Innovation

About the AGA Gemological Research Grant

Are you developing a scientific gemological research project? AGA may be able to help.

In keeping with our mission to encourage and support gemological education and research, the AGA Gemological Research Grant provides funding of up to $10,000 for approved gemological research as authorized by the AGA Board of Governors.

Press Release: 2024 AGA Scholarship & GrantAGA Research Grant Application

Meet our Grantees

AGA Gemological Research Grantees

AGA has broadened its mission to support high quality gemological education by providing intellectual and financial support for scientific gemological research projects through AGA Gemological Research Grants. 

Grant recipients are selected from applications and proposals submitted to the ESRGC (Educational Scholarship and Research Grant Committee) by gemologists and scientists around the globe. 

2019 Grantee

Billie Hughes

Billie E. Hughes headshot.

The Accredited Gemologists Association proudly announces that research gemologist, author, and award-winning photographer E. Billie Hughes of Lotus Gemology, has been awarded a $10,000 research grant to help fund a comprehensive research study focusing on ruby and sapphire’s chief value determinants—whether or not the stone has been treated and its origin.

“The importance of this study cannot be overstated,” said AGA president Stuart Robertson. “Billie’s has designed an experiment-intensive project that clearly has the potential to vastly expand the industry’s understanding of treatments and origin determinations, especially for corundum from recently discovered sources.”


There are serious gaps in our understanding of the extent of alteration possible in corundum through heating. This is especially true of low temperature heat treatments which have only recently even been acknowledged by the labs, but still often go unreported. This is one of the specific areas of heating that Hughes intends to conduct numerous experiments for this project.

Writing in support of Billie’s grant, renowned physicist and AGA Bonanno Award recipient Dr. John Emmett stated, “This is an area of research that has received little formal study even though it has been used to great effect at least from the time of al Beruni (ca. 1040 AD.)” Dr. Emmett further notes that “Conventional heat treatment is usually identified by the impact on inclusions contained within the gem…If we cannot easily determine inclusion disruption as an indication of heat treatment, it is imperative that we develop other observational techniques to do so.”

The AGA’s Education Scholarship and Research Grant Committee recognized the significance of this study for its potential to ultimately increase the accuracy of testing as well as harmonization between different laboratories, which remains an issue for gemology, if consumer confidence is to increase.


Billie’s research will include numerous ruby and sapphire samples of known origin which will be carefully examined, cut into sections to for testing and control groups, with careful analysis of properties recorded at each treatment stage.

AGA Support

We are happy to be contributing to its funding. AGA Committee Chair, Heidi Harders, noted, “Ruby and sapphire are among the most valuable gemstones in the market. This treatment study clearly holds important implications for the international gemological community.”

Stuart Robertson and Heidi Harders are especially delighted to be presenting this grant to Billie Hughes on behalf of the membership of the AGA. “Billie’s contributions to gemological research have already earned her respect among her peers. And if her past work is any indication, this study will provide breakthroughs that will be taught for years to come.”

2018 & 2017 Grantee

Dr. Thomas Hainschwang

Dr. Thomas Hainschwang headshot.

The Accredited Gemologists Association is pleased to announce that Dr. Thomas Hainschwang, Managing Director of the Liechtenstein branch of the GGTL Laboratory, has been awarded a second $10,000 research grant to help fund his cutting-edge diamond research.

In announcing this decision, AGA president Stuart Robertson noted that Dr. Hainschwang’s proposed study outlined in considerable detail an incredibly advanced diamond treatment research. His accomplishments to date are encouraging. The AGA’s Education Scholarship and Research Grant Committee recognized the significance of this study for its potential to unlock new and important details for determining origin of color in diamonds.

The Project And Process

Dr. Hainschwang is conducting this study in cooperation with other institutions in Switzerland, Germany, and Ukraine, and includes more than 100 diamonds, the properties of which will be analyzed in rigorous detail both before and then after each phase of research. This comprehensive study promises to be the most significant on the subject to date.

Implications For Gemology Worldwide

We are happy to be contributing to its funding. AGA Committee Chair, Heidi Harders, noted, “It was immediately clear to us that this research would have important implications for the international gemological community.”

Antoinette Matlins, Special Advisor to the AGA Board, noted the significance of AGA’s support of cutting-edge research conducted by independent gemologists in conjunction with institutions that can offer expertise beyond the scope of gemology alone. As she points out, “the AGA is the only international gemological organization not associated with any industry organization, and its support of independent research that includes not only gemological expertise but working in collaboration with some of academia’s brightest minds from other sciences, is of critical importance to having a fuller understanding of the gemstones we love.”


Matlins also shares a story she remembers from a number of years ago about how a relatively young “upstart” became suspicious of some natural pearls that were being offered in the marketplace, which had reports from respected laboratories confirming they were natural. “But Thomas had serious reservations about the number that were entering the market and became highly suspicious, so he undertook doing his own research, using advanced instrumentation available at one of the universities, and proved they were NOT natural pearls,” Matlins recalls! And, she adds, “Having an inquisitive mind is what makes Dr. Thomas Hainschwang the ideal recipient for this grant.”

AGA Support

Stuart Robertson and Heidi Harders are especially delighted to present this grant to Dr. Thomas Hainschwang on behalf of the AGA membership. “He has demonstrated that he is one of those exceptional people who has not only a keen mind and extensive knowledge in multiple sciences, but also the curiosity, passion for the field, and dedication to approaching all that he does with integrity,” says Stuart Robertson, and Heidi agrees, adding “AGA’s Founding Father, Antonio C. Bonanno, would indeed be very pleased that Thomas Hainschwang is the first recipient of this AGA Research Grant.

Frequently asked Questions

Everything you need to know about the AGA Gemological Research Grant. If you have further questions, please contact us.

  • The proposed research subject must be in or directly related to gemology.
  • Applicants should have a degree in science and/or extensive experience in a related gemological field and present proof of their qualifications.
  • Applicants must have established a relationship with a gem research laboratory or a scientific institute to accomplish the proposed project. A detailed acceptance letter for the project and the potential outcome of the research from the institute or laboratory must be submitted with the grant application.
  • Applicants must provide a detailed project plan, estimated timing, detailed budgeting, and potential publication of the results.
  • Applicants must provide three reference letters from research professionals, preferably in the field of gemology.
  • Applicants are required to demonstrate English proficiency.

The project must be finished one year from the transfer of funds. However, the committee will consider a reasonable extension for unexpected circumstances. Quarterly progress reports to the ESRGC (Educational Scholarship and Research Grant Committee) are required.

AGA Gemological Research Grants are open to gemological research projects worldwide. The AGA Gemological Research Grant application and all communication are required to be in English. Results of the research project must be presented to the AGA membership in English.

AGA Gemological Research Grant funds cover test specimens, materials, and equipment necessary to complete the research.

ESRGC (Educational Scholarship and Research Grant Committee) requires quarterly progress reports and completion of the research project in one year.

The results of an AGA-funded research project are required to be delivered to AGA Membership through a virtual or live presentation and a published paper.

AGA Gemological Research Grants do not cover travel, hotel, wire transfer fees, or other expenses associated with the research project for which the Grant was awarded.

Applications for AGA Gemological Research Grants are accepted from April 15 through June 15, 2024.

AGA Gemological Research Grants are funded by membership dues, sponsorships, and generous donations.

All AGA Gemological Research Grant applications are reviewed and vetted by the ESRGC (Educational Scholarship and Research Grant Committee). Evaluation criteria include the importance of the proposed scientific gemological research, strength of methodology, relevant research, and experience of the applicant. Following interviews with the finalists, ESRGC recommends a recipient to the AGA Board of Governors for a final vote.