In March, JCK and W magazines honored Nagpal, a GIA Graduate Gemologist, for the ring, which features a 4.33-carat (ct.) Lightning Ridge black opal, 0.46 cts. of green tsavorite garnets, 0.24 cts. of blue sapphires and 0.42 cts. of diamonds. JCK bestowed Nagpal with the grand prize and “Best Ring Design Over $10,000” in its Jewelers’ Choice Awards, as well as putting the ring on the cover of the magazine’s March 2015 issue. W pronounced him as the winner of its 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards.
Though the design is creating considerable buzz this year, Nagpal has been around the industry for three decades – and hails from a family whose history in the jewelry industry runs five generations deep.
His parents, Omi and Preeti Nagpal, immigrated to the United States from India in 1975, when their son was just 2. Four years later, Omi Nagpal took him to Tucson for the first time and the 6-year-old was introduced to the “fascinating” world of colored gemstones. “It’s definitely in my blood,” he says. “I discovered a passion for this business there and have been hooked on gems ever since.”
Nagpal’s father founded Omi Gems in the family’s adopted hometown of Los Angeles in 1985. He made it clear to his son from the beginning that his place in the company would have to be earned.
“It was always understood that if I ever wanted to join the family business, I would have to obtain a college degree and a Graduate Gemologist diploma from GIA,” says Nagpal, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Southern California before snagging a spot across town in one of the lnstitute’s last classes at the Santa Monica campus.
Along with establishing new relationships with the GIA staff and fellow students (“the greatest part of my experience”), Nagpal says he learned fundamental skills, such as the proper use of a microscope and how to detect synthetics. He was also exposed to a depth of scientific knowledge he’d been missing.
“I had so much practical knowledge of gemstones, but it was great to learn the science,” he says. “It helps to realize not just that a stone is rare or beautiful, but why it’s rare – and what makes the color so beautiful.”
He also took away important lessons about not taking shortcuts.
“I still remember one gemstone identification that I got wrong!” he says. “I called star diopside a black star sapphire because I looked at it for a split second without shining a light on it, or realizing that it had a four-pointed star instead of six.”
Nagpal, who counts Paraiba tourmaline, Padparadscha sapphire, alexandrite and ruby among his favorite colored stones, says that “working with beautiful gemstones and designing pieces that bring them to life as jewelry” is one of the most “enjoyable and exhilarating” aspects of his career.
“Find what really excites you, what you’re passionate about, and focus on that,” says Nagpal, a board member of the American Gem Trade Association and the newly elected president of the Jewelers 24K Club of Southern California. “Sometimes we get caught up in the day-to-day business of life and forget why we are working in this unique industry. Take time to remember what you really love, and spend time doing it. That’s ultimately what will give you the inspiration and energy to help you get ahead.”
Jaime Kautsky, a contributing writer, is a GIA Diamonds Graduate and GIA Accredited Jewelry Professional and was an associate editor of The Loupe magazine for several years.