Shipley shaped GIA's mission on personal experience and commitment to improvement
February 4, 2013
Standing in his shoes, how would you feel?
Probably just as Robert M. Shipley did: humbled. And even though his lack of expertise was typical of U.S. jewellers in the mid-1920s, those soul-searching encounters ultimately spurred him into changing the gem and jewellery industry.
First though, Shipley lost the jewellery stores in a divorce and headed to Europe to recuperate from years of relentless pursuit of success. While he was there, he completed the Great Britain National Association of Goldsmiths gemmological correspondence course, the foundation for his personal reinvention from jeweller to teacher and gemmology expert.
Shipley returned to the U.S. in 1929 and launched his “preliminary course in gemmology” in Los Angeles on 16 Sept. 1930. In the years that followed, he covered thousands of miles in secondhand cars, aggressively promoting – with the single-mindedness of a zealot – the professionalisation of the jewellery industry through gemmological education.
His goal was to restore the public’s trust in the jewellery trade by training “certified” jewellers who would eventually be united in a national guild.
“Like the physician, the architect and the engineer, the gemmologist must complete prescribed studies and examinations in order [to be] of exceptional service to the public [in] the new profession of Gemmology,” Shipley said.
His concept was the seed for GIA, and would transform the gem and jewellery industry in the U.S. and, ultimately, around the world.
Shipley’s quest for expertise, his commitment to improving his knowledge and skills and his belief that jewellery customers should know what they are buying are the central principles of GIA’s mission. Today, we apply these same principles in our daily work and in our planning for GIA’s future.