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 GIAs professional training courses and programs
  • 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 color 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 characterization of natural gem materials to understand gem formation, trace element chemistry, causes of color, 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 gemological research on a scale that few other organizations can match.  Nonprofit 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, they 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  

This figure shows, bottom center and to the right, six De Beers experimental synthetic diamonds: two yellow-brown samples weighing 1.04 and 1.56-ct and four near-colorless synthetics ranging from 0.41 to 0.91-ct At the top center and to the left are six natural diamonds, ranging from 1.10-ct to 2.59-ct De Beers cuttable-quality synthetic diamonds are not available commercially; they have been produced solely for research and education. Natural diamonds courtesy of Louis P. Cvelbar and Vincent Kong, Vincent's Jewelry, Los Angeles.
GIA research aims at responding to rapidly changing gem treatment and synthesis technologies, as well deepening the world’s understanding of how gems are formed, extracted, manufactured, and sold.  Key areas of research include, but are not limited to:


  • Diamonds: Ongoing studies of diamond formation, localities, crystal structure and its optical effects, and origin of color; advancing identification protocols for natural and artificial irradiation, and multi-step treatment processes; investigating synthetic diamond processes from known manufacturers; developing a grading system for evaluating the cut quality of fancy cut diamonds
  • Colored Stones & Pearls: Analyzing 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; understanding the effects of trace elements in corundum
  • Instrument and Database Development: Developing specialized tools needed 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 centers worldwide to document and gather samples; investigate local gem manufacturing and treatment process; and develop a deeper understanding of the geographic, economic, cultural and political influences at play in gem production and distribution


Communicating Research

GIA’s ongoing research projects are useful and accessible to the global research community, the public and the gem and jewelry 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 programs  and professional gemological instruments. 


GIA researchers are frequent speakers and contributors at international gemological forums and other relevant conferences:


  • De Beers Diamond Conference
  • Geological Society of American 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


Why GIA Research – GIA Research Milestones

Since 1931, gemological research has been at the very core of GIA’s nonprofit mission. Research accomplishments include:


  • building the first gemological microscope with darkfield illumination, a revolutionary technique in which the gem’s internal characteristics appear bright and vivid against a dark background (1938)
  • use of X-radiography for separating natural and cultured pearls (1952)
  • creating the D-to-Z color scale and Flawless-to-I3 clarity scale for diamonds (1953), internationally recognized standards for evaluating diamond quality
  • detecting irradiated yellow diamonds (1956)
  • use of the spectroscope for gem identification (1957)
  • determining the natural color origin of black cultured pearls (1961)
  • the first study of a new gem now known as tanzanite (1968)
  • report on the laser drilling to hide dark inclusions in diamonds (1970)
  • the first report on faceted synthetic diamonds (1971)
  • identifying glass-filled rubies (1984)
  • detecting fracture-filled diamonds (1989, 1994)
  • copper-bearing tourmalines from Paraiba, Brazil (1990)
  • 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)
  • characterizing natural-color blue diamonds (1998)
  • detecting brown diamonds decolorized by high pressure/high temperature (HPHT) treatment (1999)
  • characterizing and grading of natural-color pink diamonds (2002)
  • detecting gem-quality synthetic diamonds created by chemical vapor deposition (CVD) (2003)
  • photomicrography techniques for gemologists (2003)
  • beryllium diffusion treatment of ruby and sapphire (2003)
  • creating a comprehensive cut grading system for round brilliant cut diamonds (2004)
  • characterization and grading of natural-color yellow diamonds (2005)
  • identification of lead-glass filled rubies (2006)
  • gemological analysis of the Cullinan diamond (2006)
  • durability testing of filled emeralds (2007)
  • copper-bearing tourmalines from Mozambique (2008)
  • color-grading “D-to-Z” diamonds at the GIA Laboratory (2008)
  • advances in understanding the geology of diamonds (2014)
  • developing DiamondCheck, a commercially available identification and detection device for natural, synthetic, and treated diamonds (2014)
  • photomicrography techniques and equipment (2015)
  • review of CVD synthetic diamonds (2016)
  • review of HPHT synthetic diamonds (2017)
  • the very deep origin of the world’s biggest diamonds (2017)
  • development of the iD100 for separating natural and laboratory-grown diamonds (2017)
  • description of natural-color green diamonds (2018)
  • description of natural-color blue, gray and violet diamonds (2018)
  • description of pink and related natural-color diamonds (2018)
  • description of black and of white diamonds (2019)
  • determination of gem tourmaline species by laser ablation mass spectrometry (2019)
  • description of country-of-origin determination for important colored stones (2019)
  • description of the causes of color in corundum (2020)
  • description of natural-color yellow and orange diamonds (2020)
  • description of natural-color D-to-Z diamonds (2020)
  • low-temperature heat treatment of pink sapphires (2020)
  • internal structure of natural pearls (2021)
  • study of the effects of blue fluorescence on diamond appearance (2021)
  • internal structure of cultured pearls (2021)
  • blue sapphires from Mogok, Myanmar (2021)
Diamond Check
In 2014, GIA developed the GIA DiamondCheck™, a device that accurately identifies colorless natural, untreated diamonds in the D-to-N range and refers diamonds that are potentially synthetic or treated for further examination.