TypeOnline Course
DateJan 21, 2023
Certificate70% of quiz marks
Buy NowBook Now

ISG Gemology Tools and Techniques Course

The ISG Gemology Tools and Techniques is a complete education in how to use gem testing tools to identify gemstones. This course will take you step by step through the most often used gemological tools and explain how to use them, and how to get the most accurate test results that are accurate. Through high-resolution photographs, the course will teach you how to become a more efficient gemologist through professional knowledge of the tools and equipment. A free preview of this course is available below.

The course consists of 16 lessons with many high-quality images designed to help the student get the highest level of education regarding gemology tools.

Completing this course awards the student a Certificate of Completion, provided for download and printing upon course materials and examinations completion.

Please follow these steps to begin your Created and Treated Gemstones course:

Tuition: US$395.00

Certificate of Completion: Yes. You will print your certificate upon completion of this course. U.S. Students may request a printed certificate.


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Section 1Getting StartedFree Preview

Lesson One: Getting Started

The purpose of this course is to provide you with a working knowledge of the gemological equipment, including some special techniques to help you get the most of your equipment. Throughout this course we are going to stress two important issues that you will need to always keep in mind when doing gemological evaluations on any level:

  1. The more knowledge you have about gemstones the less reliant you will be on gemological tools and equipment. Simply stated, the more you know the less you need to own.
  2. It is not required to always have the most expensive equipment on the market to be able to do professional level gemology.

Number one is pretty well self-explanatory to the point that the more experience and knowledge you have about gemstones, the less time you will spend on needless testing that is often done when new gemologists believe they have to run every gemstone through every test possible in order to get an accurate identification. In truth, part of being a professional gemologist is specifically knowing which tests will be important for which types of gemstones, in order to get a totally accurate evaluation in the least amount of time.
Number two goes to the fact that there are some major gemological schools that make big money on selling equipment. The method used is to instill in new students the idea that one must own the best and most expensive equipment in order to truly do the finest level of gemological work. This is usually found in schools that make considerable profits selling equipment and utilize their student body as a captive audience to their teachings regarding equipment requirements. Specifically counter to this concept is the issue that a properly trained gemologist should be able to identify 85% of the gemstones on the market using tools that will fit into their pocket. That is the goal of our education efforts here and our goal for you as a new gemology student.

The Most Important Lesson to Learn

The single most important lesson for you to learn about the gemological equipment, gem testing and gem identification is this: You are not trying to identify what it might be; you are trying to identify what it cannot be.

It is a cliché within the gemological teaching community how new gemology students spend a great deal of time trying to figure out what a particular gemstone might be. They do their tests and list their properties, then try to force these properties to fit certain gemstones…ending up with a whole list of “maybe’s” and have an extremely hard time trying to figure out what they have.

This method is simply opposite to the correct method.

The correct method of gem identification is to determine what it is not! By eliminating possible identifications the gemologist should eventually end up with only one possibility, which will be the correct identification. If all potentials are eliminated, then it should be assumed that some test has been done improperly since, after all, the gemstone must be something. Given the amount of reference material on the market the potential of a new gemologist finding a previously unknown gem species is extremely limited. This is particularly true of gemstones being used in a teaching environment such as a gemology school. The result is that any gemstone presented to the student for identification will be a known gemstone of some type.

The key issue is that a number of test results are usually used to reach the gemstone identification. And if a test result is inaccurate or in error, trying to figure out what something is will leave the student totally in confusion as nothing will fulfill the criteria of identification based on their test results.

If the student endeavors to eliminate rather that add potential identifications based on their test results, in the event that they get to the end of their testing and find all possibilities eliminated they will know that some test has been inaccurate. Also, if they get to the end of their testing list and find only one gemstone remaining, this will provide them with a high level of confidence that they have performed the gem identification properly and accurately.

For these reasons it is important for you, as a new gemology student, not to try to “shoe horn” in a gemstone into a set of properties that does not really fit the identification. In other words, trying to say what a gemstone is based on a list of test results when one of those results is counter to the identification, is a recipe for inaccuracy since one cannot force a gemstone to have properties that it does not have. The only way to truly be accurate in your gem identification process is to eliminate all possibilities and trust that if your testing is accurate, you will have one possible identification left in the end.

If you have just one stone left in the end, then you should have high confidence that you are correct. If you have no gemstones left in the end, then you should have high confidence that at least one or perhaps more of your test results are in error. By using this technique you will not only save time and effort, but be far more accurate in your identifications. While this course does not specifically go into the properties and identifications of gemstones, it will expose you to the test equipment which will set the foundation for understanding the identification of gemstones in the Colored Gemstone course.

Think Long / Think Wrong

One of the most important techniques you will learn about gem identification is that of “think long / think wrong”. One of the most often reported problems from new gemology students is that they perform their tests and eliminate all but one gemstone, but then they start thinking about it and their minds start coming up with additional possibilities, not based on test results but simply thinking about it and trying to see if there are any other possibilities.

This has led to many incorrect identifications, and to many failed exams. As you progress through this course and others here you should remember that the courses are designed to instill in you a confidence about your abilities. Part of that means that when you perform your tests, trust your test results. Don’t sit around and talk yourself into the test results being skewed, inaccurate or perhaps just not convincing. If you have done the testing properly and have eliminated all but one gemstone as the possible identification, go with it and don’t start second guessing yourself. Think long….think wrong.

We have seen far too many students fail on a final exam because they decided to change their answer on an identification question. Their initial response was correct, but they talked themselves into thinking about one possibility or another and pretty soon changed a correct answer to a wrong answer simply out of self-doubt.

Don’t be that person. Think long….thing wrong. If you have done the evaluation properly, go with the answer you first believe is correct if it meets the criteria. Otherwise you may find yourself having to retake an exam not because you did not know the information, but because you thought too long about it and talked yourself out of a correct answer and into an incorrect answer.

Setting Up Your Lab

One of the most important points about your gemological tools and techniques is having a place to work with both. Whether you are looking to work in the industry as a gemologist or appraiser, or if you are studying gemology just for fun and enjoyment, if you do not formally set up a gem lab area you are not going to be able to do proper gemology. And this does not need to be some fancy office; it can be a small table in your living room, a section of your desk or even a place on the kitchen cabinet. But regardless of where it is, you need to have a place to set up your equipment that is designated for your equipment only. This will save you and your equipment from a lot of headaches.

The first issue is that gemological equipment is based on optics, meaning glass of various purposes and uses. Having to drag out equipment from storage when you want to use it creates undue wear and tear on the equipment. Find a place to set it up and keep it set up, and make sure that you keep dust covers on your equipment. Dust in the air is about 80% quartz, and quartz is much harder than the optics in your equipment. So dust, over time, will wear down the optics and create problems. Use a dust cover.

The second issue is time. If you need to do a quick gem identification and you have to drag out your equipment every time, this will not only cost you more time but make you less accurate. All too often a new gemologist who keeps their equipment stored in a case will only pull out what they “think” is going to be required to do a proper identification. They leave other equipment in the case and as a result potentially miss an important fact of the identification due to lack of a full set of equipment on the table.

We should also note that it is not required that you have a huge list of equipment to establish a gem lab. The equipment listing in the ISG Gem Equipment package is a great starter list and will allow you to perform that overwhelming majority of gem identification tests required for a majority of the gemstones out there. You will always be adding new equipment items, but from the very beginning treat your gemological equipment as a proper gem lab no matter how large or small. Properly maintained and protected, your gemological equipment will last a lifetime if you go with quality equipment from the beginning of your study.

Finally, no trash cans or open receptacles in your gem lab area, and make sure you have a carpet or rug on the floor around your equipment area. It will happen that you will drop a stone or fling one out of tweezers. If you have open cases or purses, waste baskets or other places that gemstones can hide…they will do so and in the most inopportune places that you can imagine. Make sure that all purses are closed, no waste baskets are in the area and that as few places as possible are available for gemstones to fall into or roll under.

Identification Protocols

One of the most asked question regarding gem identification is in regards to what order that gemological testing should be done? In other words, which instrument should one start with when performing gem identifications?

The answer is simple: there is no set order of testing, no set check list of tests to undertake for identifying a gemstone. Why? Because gemstones provide an array of properties and features that lead to their identification that may or may not require a complete evaluation using every piece of gem equipment you have.

For instance, malachite. There is little in the gemstone world that looks like malachite, with the exception of the imitations and now synthetic malachite on the market. But as far as the basic identification of a gemstone as being malachite, the light and dark green swirls of malachite are unique in the gemstone world. It is not required to perform a battery of gemological tests on malachite as the use of your eyes alone is a very strong and virtually diagnostic test for the gem material being malachite.

Another example is abalone shell jewelry. Abalone shell is quite unique in the world of gem materials and once again, it does not require a battery of tests to identify a jewelry item made from abalone shell.

The opposite end of that spectrum would be a diamond. There is a long list of possible imitations and simulants, including synthetic lab-created diamond on the market. The first step with a colorless gemstone thought to be a diamond would be to eliminate all of the possible imitations and simulants that could be the actual identification. Testing in this case would require a full evaluation to the extent that your own gem lab is equipped. Obviously you would most likely not have the tools required to identify synthetic, lab-created diamond and separate it from a natural, mined diamond. But as far as the myriad of diamond imitations and simulants you should be able to identify these based on your knowledge of the properties of most simulants and imitations, as compared to the properties of a diamond. These are listed in the Diamonds Course and the Colored Gemstone course.

The key element is your knowledge and experience. As you gain more and more experience and knowledge you will start to see gemstones for their individual beauty and properties. By learning as much as possible about gemstones you will find that you are able to positively identify more gemstones and identify them faster than you thought possible in the beginning. Just remember, it takes practice. Gem equipment is great to have, but it’s only as great as the gemologist using it. In the beginning you may feel that you need to run every test for every gemstone. That is perfectly acceptable and is actually good practice. But as you move forward with your education and experience you will find yourself looking at a gemstone and knowing immediately what piece of equipment or what particular test will quickly separate all possibilities from the suspected identification. But again…don’t try to test it to see what it is. Test it to eliminate what it is not.

Remember…..you are eliminating, not actually choosing the identity. When you think of which tests to run for a specific gemstone the thought must not be “what could it be”, but rather “how do I eliminate everything else but this.”

When you reach the point that gem identification is an elimination process, you will have moved up to the level of a professional gemologist regardless of what part of the industry you may work with. The reason is that professional gemologists have knowledge of gemstones, know which tests will confirm a particular gemstone and are able to move quickly through that mental inventory to provide accurate identifications with a minimum amount of time required.

Before we move to the next section, let’s test your knowledge of the information thus far:

Section 2Microscope
Section 3Refractometer
Section 4Polariscope
Section 5Dichroscope
Section 6Jeweler's Loupe
Section 7Spectroscope
Section 8Immersion Cell
Section 9Fluorescence
Section 10Specific Gravity
Section 11Chelsea Filter
Section 12Advanced Testing Tools
Final Quiz