A few weeks ago, I started Gem Identification, the last class I need for my Graduate Gemologist degree. Over the span of the class, I will receive a total of 500 gemstones to analyze at home, using my own lab equipment. (20 stones per box, 25 boxes.) This culminates in the final, a 20-stone “all or none” challenge, where I have six hours to correctly identify 20 stones. “All or none” means exactly what it says – if I miss one stone, I fail. (I can retake it, but it will be with another box of stones, which will probably be completely different.)
I have the required set of equipment (10x loupe, refractometer, polariscope, spectroscope, dichroscope, tweezers, flashlight to stare into), plus a short-wave/long-wave UV lamp (which is great fun for making things fluoresce. Like diamonds. Or cool rocks.) The one piece of equipment that isn’t required, which I’ll probably get eventually, is a microscope. It has better indirect lighting (“darkfield” lighting), making it easier to see things inside the stone that are low-relief. (Some of those things can tell you whether the stone is natural or synthetic, for instance. Important stuff!)
I received my first box of stones on July 20. This box is used with the first several lessons, to help train you in using the various pieces of lab equipment. The stones in box 1 are chosen to show good/obvious examples of various things: a characteristic spectrum, or obvious features visible with magnification, or a specific reaction under the polariscope. After learning about the instruments, I analyzed and correctly identified all twenty stones. (The course gives a lot of helpful hints.)
After I “passed” this box, I sent it back, and am waiting for the next one to arrive. (Cue Jeopardy music.)
So far I’m really enjoying the course. I’ve always liked “lab” better than “lecture” — I guess I’m the hands-on type? — and it’s fun to get a stone to reveal it’s secrets…. I can’t wait to get my next box!