I never did tell you about my first trip to Carlsbad, so now you get a two-for-one blog post about both trips. That’s three, three, THREE LABS in one!
So first, let me show you around.
The first thing I noticed when I got to GIA Carlsbad — because it’s quite sparkly in the morning light — is the campus “bell tower”. (I don’t know what it’s actually supposed to be, it just reminds me of a bell tower.) Instead of a bell, there’s a rotating figure of a diamond crystal, strung with Swarovski crystals, surrounding a silvery faceted “diamond”. Out front, there’s a life-size statue of gemologist and founder, Richard Liddicoat. You can see me befriending Mr. Liddicoat here.
The building is airy and bright inside, with a library, museum, cafe and lobby in front, classrooms in the middle (upstairs and downstairs), and a large student common room in the back, open to the second story. There’s lots of room to relax, get snacks, play ping-pong, and walk around.
If you need a breath of fresh air, there’s a large outdoor patio and lawn, with plenty of places to sit and eat lunch, and superb views of the sea. GIA overlooks The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch, so I’d imagine the view is even more dramatic, once spring arrives! (Which looks to be about now; The Flower Fields open on Thursday. Did I mention we had a massive snowstorm last night, in the frozen north? I don’t think I did.)
Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of gemstones and jewelry on display, and I spent most of my free time enjoying it. I admit, mostly I was glued to one particular display case (in the student common room), featuring stones from the Dr. Eduard Gübelin collection. Dr. Gübelin was a prominent gemologist who had an unbelievable personal collection of stones, of which the water opal to your left is but one.
One that stood out to me (no decent photo, sorry) was a 13.23 carat taaffeite, a lovely pinkish-purple stone, one of the rarest gemstones in the world. There’s also a gorgeous alexandrite that I desperately wanted to see change color — GIA should install some sort of push-button light-switching device, like an interactive museum display. Make it happen, GIA. I want to push that button!
But what you really want to hear about
maybe is my lab experiences.
I took Colored Stone Grading and Pearl Grading in November, and Gem Identification at the end of January. They were all a blast; my favorite by far was Gem Ident. It was definitely the most challenging, but I loved using the equipment and figuring out what a stone was (and what it was not). This will sound super-nerdy, but I love my lab manual. It is a magical, wonderful tome of gemstone-demystifying.
I enjoyed Pearl Grading — or maybe I should say, I thoroughly enjoyed the pearls; I found the grading pretty difficult. It was marvelous to see and handle green and grey Tahitian pearls, golden South Sea pearls, pastel Chinese freshwater pearls… I graded a bright golden South Sea pearl shaped like an acorn, with beautiful pink and green overtones and excellent luster. (Golden and shiny!) I had a hard time determining body color (base/background color), versus overtone (an overlay of secondary color), versus orient (multiple overtones.) Is it green, with a pink overtone… or is it gray, with pink and green orient? I salute the experts in this field. (I am not one of them.)
I spent my time in Colored Stone Grading looking at as many different species of stones as possible. The more, the merrier! I partook in much “microscope therapy”, as one of my wonderful instructors put it, and got lost in the jardin of emerald inclusions. (Jardin is French for “garden”, and it’s an apt description of what you see when you look at an emerald under magnification. Marvelous stuff.)
After microscope therapy, I promptly mis-graded the clarity of my emerald, having been overwhelmed by SO MANY INCLUSIONS. The grading system changes based on the type of stone, for each grade; an emerald could never have Excellent clarity if it were compared to, say, an aquamarine. Emeralds are almost always included; aquamarines are frequently water-clear. My emerald was Excellent; I think I graded it a Fair. Oops.
Gem Ident left the biggest impression on me, because it was amazing. While I have a lot of learning and practicing to do, I’m astounded that I can actually determine what a stone is (most likely.) I can’t wait to get my own set of equipment and start identifying things I have on hand. It’s so exciting!