Shipley Shaped GIA Mission on Personal Experience, Commitment to Improvement

February 4, 2013
Robert M. Shipley
Imagine yourself in his shoes:  You are a successful businessman with the intrinsic charm and charisma of a great salesman. You have created a group of highly successful and well-regarded jewelry stores and are convinced you know all there is to know about gems – until two of your best customers challenge you and reveal your lack of expertise.
 
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 for U.S. jewelers in the mid-1920s, those soul-searching encounters ultimately spurred him into changing the gem and jewelry industry.
 
First though, Shipley lost the jewelry stores in 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 gemological correspondence course, the foundation for his personal reinvention from jeweler to teacher and gemology expert.
   
Shipley returned to the U.S. in 1929 and launched his “preliminary course in gemology” in Los Angeles on Sept. 16, 1930. In the years that followed, he covered thousands of miles in secondhand cars, aggressively promoting – with the single-mindedness of a zealot – the professionalization of the jewelry industry through gemological education. 
 
His goal was to restore the public’s trust in the jewelry trade by training “certified” jewelers who would eventually be united in a national guild.
 
“Like the physician, the architect and the engineer, the gemologist must complete prescribed studies and examinations in order [to be] of exceptional service to the public [in] the new profession of Gemology,” Shipley said.
 
His concept was the seed for GIA and would transform the gem and jewelry 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 jewelry 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.

 

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