African Students Discover the Wonder of Gems


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Thirty-five students from Johannesburg, South Africa, and Gaborone, Botswana, eager to get their first glimpse of gemmology – from rough crystals to finished jewellery pieces – learned the basics of gemmology, mineralogy and geology when GIA brought its Junior Gemmologist Program workshops to Johannesburg and Gaborone for the first time.

In April 2012, students from Tshwaragano Primary School, Ikageng Primary School, Legae Academy and Mogoditshane Community Junior Secondary School, all in Gaborone, and PS Tsosane Primary School in Johannesburg, participated in the program. This was the first time that GIA offered the program in either country.

“Their fascination was evident during the science portions of the presentation,” said instructor Andy Lucas, product manager of gemmology for GIA. “They were amazed when I showed them how gemstones form and where they come from. Their excitement grew as I explained how the rarity and romance of gemstones was tied to the science.”

The students, ages 10-15, also received hands-on, practical training with loupes and other specialised gemmological equipment as they learned to identify and assess gems such as quartz, fluorite, corundum and calcite.

“Their excitement turned to outright exuberance,” Lucas said. “We practiced what they had learned about gemstone durability with hardness tests and showed them where each fell on the Mohs scale. I also demonstrated the basic principles of hardness and how stones of equal hardness can scratch each other – how diamond can scratch diamond, for example.”

The students also learned how to use standard gemmological tools, including locking tweezers, a stone cloth and a jeweller’s loupe.

“The jeweller’s loupe was very popular: everyone wanted to look like a professional when they louped a stone,” he said. “They actually started out by looking at fingerprints: not the ones in stones, but the ones on their fingers.”

Lucas said that the greatest excitement and fun happened when the students observed inclusions in gems using a professional gemmological microscope.

“I loved seeing the awe in their faces as they discovered the horsetails, included crystals, multi-phase inclusions and fingerprints, inside stones,” he said.

Some students were so inspired by what they learned, they changed their career plans.

“I now want to be a gemmologist. I wanted to be a graphic designer before because I’m good at design. This is my first time learning about diamonds,” wrote Maphanga Njabulo, an 11 year-old from PS Tsosane Primary School in Johannesburg.