Behind the Acronym: Jewelers Work Hard to Earn their Credentials

By Donna Jolly, RJ

We often urge you in this blog to locate a credentialed jeweler before you make a fine jewelry purchase. A skilled professional can help you find the right piece of jewelry so that you are not only satisfied with what you’ve bought, but confident that you made the best choice.

If their role is, therefore, crucial in the jewelry buying process, then what does it take for jewelers to stay on top of their game so that they can best help you? What is the level of skill that the initials after their name represent?

Every fall, members of the American Gem Society undergo a proud tradition: recertification of their credentials. In order to maintain their AGS titles, they are required to take an exam that tests their knowledge of gemology. The recertification exam comes with pages of articles and abstracts that AGS members must read before taking the challenging test.

The person in charge of creating the recertification exam is Alethea Inns, CGA, Director of Gemology and Education of the American Gem Society.  Ms. Inns took time out of grading recertification exams to answer three questions that will help you better understand why professional credentials matter when buying jewelry.

Alethea Inns, CGA, Director of Gemology and Education at AGS

Alethea Inns, CGA, Director of Gemology and Education at AGS

What exactly is a credentialed jeweler and why do you think it’s important to shop with one?

Shopping with a credentialed jeweler is like seeing any professional who is certified annually—like a CPA, for example.  It means they have committed to ongoing professional development, including staying up-to-date on developments that affect their customers. AGS credentialed jewelers are called “Titleholders” because they hold titles that differentiate them as committed professionals.

What is the importance of the recertification exam?

AGS requires each of our Titleholders to take an annual recertification exam to ensure they are up-to-date with the latest gemstone treatments, ethical disclosures, Federal Trade Commission guidelines, marketing, and appraisal principles.  This test ensures your jeweler has the most relevant knowledge to keep your best interests in mind when helping you shop for your special occasions.

Can you give us a sample question from the exam?

Which of the following is a key identifier of lead glass-filled ruby?

  1. Unaltered rutile needles
  2. Altered rutile needles
  3. Blue flash effect
  4. Fluorescence

How does a jeweler knowing this help them to better help their customer at the sales counter?

It’s important for jewelers to know what treatments or enhancements any gemstones have been subjected to so they can disclose them appropriately to you.  Treatments and enhancements to gemstones can affect their value, care, and cleaning requirements, and ultimately your purchasing decision.  Glass-filled rubies have become commonplace in the market, and it’s important that AGS jewelers know how to recognize them.  This knowledge is an important way AGS jewelers keep the customer’s best interests in mind.

Shop with a knowledgeable, credentialed jeweler. It’s the number one way you can ensure that you are making an informed decision at the sales counter. Find your local AGS jeweler here: https://www.americangemsociety.org/find-a-jeweler

From Old to New Again: Jeweler Gives Heirloom Jewelry an Updated Look

By Donna Jolly, RJ

Laura Stanley is like many American Gem Society jewelers: her family has a rich history in the industry. In her case, she is a third generation jeweler. It started with her grandfather, Charles B. Stanley, a watchmaker in downtown North Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1936, he and his wife, Sally, opened a small jewelry store that throughout the years grew, and was passed down to their son, Loyd. Today, his daughter, Laura is a vital force in Stanley Jewelers Gemologist, a family business specializing in fine jewelry and fine service. With such a rich history, it is no wonder that they know a thing or two about heirloom jewelry—and how to give these cherished pieces a beautiful, updated look.

Customizing heirloom jewelry is a growing trend. We asked, Laura, a CGA with the American Gem Society, some questions to learn more about updating these precious family treasures.

Living in an area rich in history, do you see a lot of heirloom jewelry coming in?

I feel like there is interesting and worthy jewelry all around the country. People are very mobile these days.  Jewelry and heirlooms move around!  I have learned to never underestimate what is tucked away in safety deposit boxes in small town America. I’ve seen everything from worn out 150-year old pot metal jewelry to large, impressive diamonds (over 10 carats).

Are there any rules of etiquette a person should consider before they update a piece of heirloom jewelry? For example, if the person who gave them the jewelry is still alive, should they let them know their plan?

Many people are uncomfortable resetting diamonds or gemstones received from a relative who is still alive, even with their permission. However, there are no rules and you should do what is in your comfort zone and makes you happy. And know that once you take apart your vintage piece, there is no going back.

What is one of the most interesting piece you’ve revamped?

A ring we nick-named “Jaws.”  It was a 3-row antique platinum ring, about 1” wide, with two rows of marquise cut diamonds and one row of baguette cut diamonds. We made a wedding band from the baguettes and a bracelet from the marquise cut diamonds. Here’s a picture of the “after” pieces.

braceletringWhat is your top piece of advice for someone who has a piece of heirloom jewelry that they want updated?

Be sure you want to take apart your heirloom, then find an experienced jeweler to help you understand your options and the possibilities of what you have. Also keep your mind open to adding a few diamonds or gemstones to achieve the look you ultimately want. Conversely, be aware that you might not to be able to use every single diamond in grandmother’s brooch or ring. You may have some leftovers.

Does it cost more to update a piece of heirloom jewelry than it would be to buy a new piece of jewelry?

That totally depends upon what you have and what you want. Here’s an example of earrings we made from a beautiful platinum antique diamond watch. A young woman inherited the watch and knew she would never wear it. So for a modest labor fee, we cut these clusters out of the case and she used the leftover platinum and diamonds to help defray costs for the project.

earring

What is more fun for you as the jeweler: creating a new piece of custom jewelry or updating an heirloom piece?

I think they are both thrilling because working with a customer to get exactly what she wants is always fun. It’s one of the best parts of being a professional jeweler!

What are the challenges of working with heirloom jewelry?

Occasionally you have to work around diamonds and gems that have been damaged over the years. Sometimes you can’t tell the extent of the damage until after you take it apart. That’s no fun for anyone, but sometimes it is unavoidable.

Do you find that there is a tug-of-war of emotions for the customer between wanting to keep the heirloom piece in-tact, versus the desire for a new look?

Well, people are funny. Sometimes a client will walk in the door and say, “ I will NEVER wear this. My great aunt was so gaudy! Help me!”

Other times it’s a long process to determine what the right decision is, and if we should even touch it. Sometimes the right answer is to do nothing, expecting that their next generation will want a piece intact.

What other advice do you have for someone looking to update their heirloom jewelry?

Find an AGS jeweler to help. That way, you’ll be in good hands regardless of your needs.

To learn more about Stanley Jewelers Gemologist, visit http://stanleyjewelers.com/. To find an AGS credentialed jeweler in your area who can help you customize and heirloom treasure, visit http://www.americangemsociety.org/find-a-jeweler.