Alumni Association

Shared Bonds: GIA Education Connects Alumni Members Around the World – for Life

A view of a pearl farm in the Sea of Cortex, including a thatched-roof structure and a small boat docked at its base.
Alumni members travel the world to meet fellow graduates and experience all the gem and jewelry industry has to offer, such as the Mexico chapter’s annual visit to pearl farms in the Sea of Cortez. Photo courtesy of the GIA Mexico City Alumni Chapter

Alumni members around the globe continue to amaze me with their commitment, dedication and pursuit of excellence.

In recent months, I have had opportunities to interact with many members worldwide as I visited some of our global chapters. I shared celebrations of longevity, observed the positive evolution of change and supported the advancement of both chapters and individuals. Each experience made it possible for me to observe first-hand the impact GIA education has had on so many.

I visited with chapter members in Japan, Korea, Malaysia and across the U.S., and connected with members from Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North and South America at trade fairs. Alumni shared stories of personal achievements and lifetime opportunities that they attribute directly to their GIA education, including increased personal confidence and professionalism; the significance of their reputation and responsibility as individuals to uphold ethical industry standards; and the value of a lifetime of learning.

These foundations − along with the relationships that began between classmates or developed as industry associates − continue to connect our alumni worldwide. Their shared experiences and mutual respect often bring alums together for business success. It’s heartwarming to hear of so many personal successes and commitments of alumni − to the Institute and themselves − to uphold GIA’s legacy of excellence.

I applaud members around the world for their actions, and encourage others not active in the alumni community to take steps to get more involved. One of the ways alumni can do so is to take the opportunity to network ‒ whether in your home city or when you travel ‒ at GIA Alumni Association chapter events. These provide limitless possibilities for you to stay relevant with issues and to make new connections in the industry to become more successful. More than 40 events were hosted by GIA Alumni Association chapters since May 2016. You can visit our events page and the alumni Facebook page to learn when events are scheduled.

Group photo of more than 50 people. A group of alumni gathered to celebrate the GIA Alumni Association Japan’s 25th anniversary. Photo courtesy of Bunkyo Yuno

Alumni Visits to Asia    

A special thank you to the alumni leaders and members of chapters in Japan, Korea and Malaysia for the exceptional experience of visiting your chapters in May. Highlights of this trip include:

  • Alumni Association Japan (AAJ)’s 25th anniversary, which included a celebratory reception, education seminar and recognition of Ms. Yoshiko Doi for her 40 years of service to GIA Tokyo. More than 100 members of AAJ attended, along with GIA’s Susan Jacques, Seung-Hae Moon, Phil York.
  • The Korea chapter elected new leadership, Phil Oh, GIA GG, as president, and re-launched the chapter. I gave a brief alumni update to more than 60 attendees, which included past chapter leaders, alumni and members of the gemstone and jewelry trade in Seoul.
  • The Malaysia chapter hosted a luncheon during which I presented an update on GIA education news and alumni benefits. The chapter welcomed new board members and recognized the immediate past president, Yihchen Ng, for his leadership and formation of the chapter in 2011.
A group of 10 people in a restaurant setting. Malaysia Chapter meet-up with GIA Global Alumni Relations Manager Kate Donovan (center, 5th from right), in Kuala Lumpur. Photo courtesy of Kelvin Chow Fook Yoong

Chapters News

  • The following chapters celebrated milestone anniversaries in recent months:
    • Alumni Association Japan – 25 years
    • Mexico City – 10 years
    • Monterrey, Mexico – 1 year
  • New chapter leaders were welcomed in Houston, Korea, London, Malaysia and South Florida
A group of 10 people in museum setting. Six industry organizations celebrated “A Night Among Gems” at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of Gaelen Casey

Chapter Activities

  • Susan Jacques, GIA president and CEO, spoke to members of New Orleans chapter and attendees of the Louisiana Jewelers Association conference in August.
  • Synthetic diamonds in the jewelry market remain a primary topic and have been the discussion at five chapter events – Johannesburg, Georgia, San Diego, St. Louis and Manhattan.
  • Colored gemstone talks were hosted in London, St. Louis and Washington D.C., featuring Evan Caplan on alexandrite, Renee Newman on exotic gems, and Vincent Pardieu on gems of Madagascar.
  • Fancy colored diamond lectures featured speakers Alan Bronstein, in Manhattan and Diana Benoit, in Mexico City. GIA’s Ric Taylor provided education on diamond fluorescence in Johannesburg.
  • Updates on gemstone treatments were popular events held by Japan, St. Louis and Wisconsin. The Los Angeles chapter launched the first annual Rossman Caltech Research Lecture. George Rossman, professor of mineralogy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), presented research updates and discussed the cause of color in gem materials to 99 attendees. Rossman is also a member of Gems & Gemology editorial review board and is a former GIA Board of Governor.
  • Hands-on gemological sessions continue with members of Twin Cities, who are participating in a multi-part 2016 “Year of Corundum” study group.
  • Appraisal methodology was taught by appraising professional Bill Hoefer, GIA GG, in Cincinnati and Michigan.
  • Jewelry history, design and lapidary talks were held in Manhattan, San Diego, Switzerland and Washington, D.C. presented by known experts Come Remy, Tim Adams, Denise Nelson, Jacqueline Stone and Helen Serras-Herman.
  • A Kimberly Process review was presented by Pat Syvrud, executive director of the World Diamond Council (WDC) to Washington D.C.
  • A film night featured a screening of the documentary “Sharing the Rough” in Monterrey, Mexico, St. Louis and Vermont.
A group of people in a restaurant setting – overlooking the water. Cincinnati’s Summer Social with members of the GIA alumni chapter and AGS guild. Photo courtesy of the Cincinnati chapter
  • Business-focused educational events included speakers Molly Clark on social media in Manhattan and Bosco Chow on “Understanding Intellectual Property” in Hong Kong.
  • Local networking socials were successful in Cincinnati, Hong Kong and Toronto.
  • “A Night Among Gems,” celebrated by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles gem and mineral collection, welcomed its newly appointed curator, Dr. Aaron Celestian. The evening was organized by the Los Angeles chapter and brought together six industry associations, and more than 175 members and guests.
  • Members from across the globe gathered for mixed chapter meet-ups. Canada, Malaysia and Taiwan visited Sri Lanka; Spain and Monterrey, Mexico paired in Las Vegas to host an all alumni event with 80 attendees; Hong Kong, Manhattan and Georgia welcomed visitors at events they hosted and planned around major trade fairs in their area.
  • The annual “Gemstone Safari” to visit pearl farms in the Sea of Cortez was a success for Mexico City and included members of Monterrey, Mexico, plus GIA’s Robert Weldon, who  lectured on the “Splendor & Science of Pearls,” a book he co-authored with Dona M. Dirlam, director of the Richard T. Liddicoat Library and Information Center in Carlsbad.
A group of people wearing surgical-style gloves and aprons line up on both sides of plastic tubs. Mexico’s alumni members went on their annual “Gemstone Safari” to visit pearl farms in the Sea of Cortez, including a hands-on look at mollusks and pearls. Photo courtesy of the GIA Mexico City Alumni Chapter

The value of the GIA Alumni network and its people is immeasurable. Whether its business relationships, connections for resources, mentorship or a shared affinity for the gems and jewelry that brought us to study at GIA, the benefits and bonds between all graduates is easy to see.

I hope the education and networking events organized by our chapters inspire you to take action and attend a chapter event in the future.

Kate Donovan, manager of alumni relations, is a GIA Graduate Gemologist with more than 20 years of retail jewelry experience.