Why GIA Research?
GIA research efforts serve to protect all who buy or sell gems by:
- Ensuring accurate and unbiased global standards for determining gem quality
- Establishing the grading and identification methods and best practices GIA uses in its laboratories
- Informing the curricula of GIA's professional training courses and programmes
- Developing practical instruments and tools to improve detection at point of sale
A wide of range of gem material – both natural and synthetic - can be found in the marketplace today. There are also a number of natural gems that have been treated to improve their colour or appearance. These products have become increasingly sophisticated, and details of the growth or treatment process are not always revealed, a situation that compounds the difficulty of gem identification.
GIA research efforts include the characterisation of natural gem materials to understand gem formation, trace element chemistry, and establishing the causes of colour and geographic origin, when possible. Key focus areas include treatment detection and the separation of natural from synthetic gem material.
A Commitment to Research
GIA is uniquely poised to conduct gemmological research on a scale that few other organisations can match. Non-profit GIA continually reinvests its revenues into its research efforts, maintaining fully equipped, state-of-the-art research facilities in Carlsbad (California), New York City, Bangkok and Antwerp. The Institute has unique access to gem-producing localities and a wide range of gem materials, including a database representing the hundreds of thousands of items that are submitted to its laboratories for analysis each year. GIA researchers have academic training from major universities, combined with many years of laboratory experience in gem identification. In conducting gem research, these facilities use a variety of advanced scientific instruments, and collaborate globally with researchers from other facilities, such as the Smithsonian Natural History Museum and the Carnegie Institute in Washington, D.C.
Current Research Activities
- Diamonds: ongoing studies of diamond formation, localities, crystal structure and its optical effects, and origin of colour; advancing identification protocols for natural and artificial irradiation, and multi-step treatment processes; investigating synthetic diamond processes from known manufacturers; and developing a grading system for evaluating the cut quality of fancy cut diamonds
- Coloured Stones & Pearls: analysing and documenting the spectroscopy, trace-element chemistry and internal characteristics of a variety of gem materials from known localities to further efforts in country of origin determinations; investigating new and existing pearl culturing and treatment processes; and understanding the effects of trace elements in corundum
- Instrument and Database Development: developing specialised tools to support GIA research efforts, and provide the trade with practical and affordable gem testing and identification instruments
- Fieldwork: ongoing expeditions to gem mines and production centres worldwide to document and gather samples; investigate local gem manufacturing and treatment processes; and develop a deeper understanding of the geographic, economic, cultural and political influences at play in gem production and distribution.
GIA’s ongoing research projects are useful and accessible to the global research community, the public, and the gem and jewellery industry. The results of its studies appear as comprehensive articles in GIA’s quarterly professional journal, Gems & Gemology (G&G) and many other prestigious publications. Research updates can also be found on GIA’s website, and through the Institute’s monthly electronic newsletter, GIA Insider. The insight acquired through research is also applied to GIA’s educational programmes and professional gemmological instruments.
GIA researchers are frequent speakers and contributors at international gemmological fora and other relevant conferences:
De Beers Diamond Conference
Geological Society of America Annual Meeting
International Gemmological Conference
International Geological Congress
International Kimberlite Conference
International Mineralogical Association Annual Meeting
V. M. Goldschmidt Conference
2015 International Diamond School at Brixen, Italy
GIA Research Milestones
Since 1931, gemmological research has been at the very core of GIA’s non-profit mission. Research accomplishments include:
- building the first gemmological microscope with darkfield illumination, a revolutionary technique in which the gem’s internal characteristics appear bright and vivid against a dark background (1938)
- creating the D-to-Z colour scale and Flawless-to-I3 clarity scale for diamonds (1953), internationally recognised standards for evaluating diamond quality
- detecting irradiated yellow diamonds (1956)
- determining the colour of black cultured pearls to be natural (1961)
- the first study of a new gem now known as tanzanite (1968)
- the first report on faceted synthetic diamonds (1971)
- identifying glass-filled rubies (1984)
- detecting fracture-filled diamonds (1989, 1994)
- evaluating the durability of emerald filling substances (1991)
- distinguishing natural from synthetic diamonds (1995)
- detecting synthetic moissanite, a popular diamond imitation (1997)
- identifying the effect of fluorescence on diamond appearance (1997)
- detecting diamonds decolourised by high pressure/high temperature (HPHT) treatment (1999)
- detecting gem-quality synthetic diamonds created by chemical vapour deposition (CVD) (2003)
- creating a comprehensive cut grading system for round brilliant cut diamonds (2004)
- developing DiamondCheck, a commercially available identification and detection device for natural, synthetic and treated diamonds (2014)