Robert Shipley Jr. (1912–1982)


Prior to the 1930s, there were no instruments designed specifically for gem and jewellery professionals. Robert Shipley Jr., the elder son of GIA’s founder, changed all that with his genius for innovation.

Whereas the elder Shipley possessed the charisma of a born salesman, Shipley Jr. was a mercurial tinkerer who preferred to work behind the scenes in the laboratory. He left Kansas to join his father at the fledgling GIA in Los Angeles in 1933, quickly demonstrating his talent for lab work and instrument technology. He specialised in adapting existing optical instruments to the needs of the gemmologist. Some of his early achievements included a 10× eye loupe, the first gem-testing polariscope, and darkfield illumination for examining gemstone inclusions.

In 1938 Shipley Jr. obtained GIA’s first patent, for a microscope that combined darkfield illumination with binocular magnification. Other instruments he developed included a pocket refractometer and a gemmological polarising microscope.

Shipley Jr. left GIA to serve in World War II. After the war, he founded an instrument manufacturing company that eventually became the GIA’s gem instruments division. He left the field of gemmology and later formed a research laboratory that developed equipment for the fruit industry.