Carlsbad
California

MEET OUR FACULTY

GIA instructors are passionate educators who bring years of industry experience to the classroom. All are leaders in their fields, and all are dedicated to helping you gain knowledge, acquire skills and launch your career.

gemmology

John Cason

John joined the GIA Education team with over 14 years of jewellery industry experience. His diverse work history includes: diamond buying trips to Antwerp, jewellery sales and jewellery manufacturing. After more than ten years in the trade, John received his GIA Graduate Gemmologist diploma. He also has education credentials in multimedia technologies and jewellery manufacturing and design. In his spare time, John has earned his Instructor Certification from the United States Power Squadron in Oceanside, California, and he enjoys teaching safety and sailing skills.

Martin Harmon

Martin’s career in the jewellery industry began with an art class in high school and continued at university. In 1982 he attended GIA in Santa Monica, completing the Graduate Jeweler and Graduate Diamond diploma programmes. He also earned the Colored Stones and Gem Identification diplomas through Distance Education while working full time. Martin’s trade experience includes 16 years in the retail industry and 12 years in management, with stints working as a bench jeweller, production manager and buyer in the wholesale industry. Martin started as an instructor for the on-campus Graduate Gemologist programme at the Carlsbad campus in May 2000, and then worked in the GIA Laboratory as a staff gemmologist, diamond grader and quality assurance grader. For Martin, the most rewarding part of being an instructor is helping students achieve their goal of becoming a Graduate Gemologist.

Brenda Harwick

As senior manager of on-campus instruction at the Carlsbad campus, Brenda's experience is a product of her more than 10 years of demonstrated knowledge of the theory and practice of diamond grading, coloured stone grading and gem identification. Brenda’s expertise comes from extensive retail and formal gemmological training. Her passion for gems and jewellery, her keenness to absorb product knowledge, and her flair for customer relations propelled her to a successful career in retail that included positions in sales, buying, and preparation work for custom jewellery design and manufacturing. Her love of gems and jewellery brought her to GIA, where she earned her Graduate Gemmologist diploma. Brenda was hired as an on-campus instructor at GIA Carlsbad in 1999. She has also taught at several GIA campuses around the world.

Carson Lee

Carson started in the jewellery industry as a goldsmith. His more than 10 years of work experience also includes: sales of fine watches and jewellery, sales training and jewellery design. Carson enjoyed working closely with his customers to provide service excellence in repairs, sales and custom jewellery design. Prior to his work in the trade, Carson spent two years in Brazil; as a result, he is fluent in Portuguese.

Tim Richardson

Tim started in the jewellery industry at the age of 15, learning basic repair and polishing in his family’s jewellery business. At age 17 he started working in sales, gaining experience in engagement jewellery, fashion, appraisals and custom design. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Music Liberal arts in 2012, Tim took on the role of store manager. During this time, he enhanced his sales experience, attended trade shows and earned his Accredited Jewelry Professional credential. Upon graduating from GIA in Carlsbad in 2014 with a Graduate Gemologist diploma, Tim began working as a staff gemmologist/diamond grader in GIA’s diamond grading laboratory. He joined the Education team as an instructor of gemmology in 2015.

Abba Steinfeld

Abba received his Graduate Gemmologist diploma from GIA in 1994. Prior to attending GIA, he worked in the jewellery trade for more than 30 years as a journeyman silversmith, benchman, caster, buyer, designer, service manager, operation manager, owner and appraiser. He uses his considerable experience and knowledge to help students understand the fundamentals of gemmology and gemmological equipment. His greatest satisfaction is when students begin to grasp gemmology: “The lightbulb gets turned on and the spark starts to ignite.”

Nina Switzer-Spano

Nina had been working in the jewellery trade for four years when she realised that earning her GG credential would significantly advance her career. After graduating from GIA, she worked for 11 years at Bergmann’s Fine Jewelry as manager and appraiser. She joined GIA as an instructor in 2007, bringing her experience and in-depth knowledge of selling, designing and buying jewellery to the classroom.

Kate Trunnell

Before joining GIA in 2005, Kate did bench work and design for a glass artisan for six years. She also worked for several years as a jewellery parts supplier. Kate’s experience in jewellery retail, wholesale and design gives her a unique understanding of the art of creating jewellery from start to finish. Kate shares her feelings about working at GIA: "I like being a part of the joy and pride that students have for themselves once they accomplish their goals."

Shelly Verwymeren

A 14-year veteran of the jewellery industry, Shelly’s experience includes retail management, sales, jewellery design and purchasing for a leading jewellery company in the United States. Shelly now works as a GIA Lab class instructor, and thoroughly enjoys teaching the fundamentals of gemmology. Before becoming a gemmologist, Shelly was an accomplished musician and music teacher. She operated her own entertainment company and worked in several European and Asian markets. While in Asia, Shelly worked for a Hong Kong-based jewellery company, where she specialised in international sales and marketing.

Kate Waterman

Kate has worked in the gem and jewellery industry since 2000 and joined GIA in 2011. Her passion for Mother Nature’s awe-inspiring creations inspired her to work in many areas of the trade, including: sales, management, operations, apprenticeship, goldsmithing, jewellery design, diamond grading, diamond research analytics, and she has now found her calling as an instructor of gemmology. Kate earned her Accredited Jewelry Professional certificate, and Graduate Jeweler, and Graduate Gemologist diplomas from GIA and thrives in an educational environment. As she puts it: “Sharing my love of gemstones with students and watching them learn inspires me on a daily basis.”

jewellery manufacturing arts

Darla Alvarez

Darla spent the first two years of her career in jewellery sales, earning her Accredited Jewelry Professional diploma, but was quickly drawn into the world of jewellery creation. After completing the Graduate Jeweler programme, she worked in a trade shop for two years before being recruited by a custom design jewellery studio. She spent the next seven years absorbing everything there is to know about being a custom jeweller, learning all phases of repair, casting, fabrication, setting and especially CAD/CAM. Darla joined the GIA team to share all of those real-world experiences with students to best facilitate their future growth.

Manuel Basmajian

Manuel’s passion for creating jewellery started in his youth, when he apprenticed at a manufacturing company that produced hand-crafted tennis bracelets. At the age of 16, he started working for a firm that specialised in CNC-machined wedding bands. He then worked in retail shops as a bench jeweller and in retail sales. In 2002, he became the factory manager and CAD/CAM designer for a manufacturing company that specialised in the production of diamond and coloured stone jewellery. In 2009, Manuel became the director of design for a company that created award-style military rings. He also created custom-model designs for leading jewellers. Joining GIA in 2016 as a new CAD instructor, Manuel brings more than 23 years of experience in the industry and a love of helping others.

Doug Hall

Doug first began making jewellery in 1973. With experience in everything from blacksmithing to diamond setting, he brings an impressive set of artistic, technical and academic skills to GIA. He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in metalsmithing from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and has studied diamond grading and coloured stone grading at GIA. Doug has conducted technical training at GIA’s laboratories around the world, and brings a wealth of experience to his students.

Shaun Peterson

Shaun started as a bench jeweller apprentice in his father’s jewellery store at age 15 and, following graduation, became a full-time bench jeweller. Shaun received an AOS degree in illustration and design from Pratt Institute in New York to become an illustration professional, ultimately applying those skills to jewellery design and rendering. Shaun has now worked in the industry for 15 years as a bench jeweller, designer and shop manager. Most recently he has developed advanced skills in the field of Computer-Aided Design/Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) for jewellery design and production. Shaun joined GIA in 2014 to teach Jewellery Manufacturing Arts.

Michael Turinetti

Michael started out in the jewellery industry as an apprentice at a family-owned jewellery store. While there, he reconstructed vintage jewellery. He then went on to manage trade shops specialising in repair and large companies that had a focus on manufacturing and high-quality new production. Michael earned a Senior Bench Jeweler Certificate from Jewelers of America. Teaching jewellery manufacturing is a passion of his that he discovered many years ago.

Javier Zavala

Javier apprenticed to a local jeweller as soon as he finished high school. He continued his path of self-study and apprenticeship by working closely with goldsmiths Lance Frank and Isauro Martinez, and by attending numerous weekend seminars. Javier then spent 15 years running his own shop, where he specialised in repair and custom work. He also developed expertise in CAD/CAM and milling. Now he is eager to share his experience with GIA students.