scottish Gemmological association
Our 2020 Conference will be held from the 1st of May to the 4th of May, 2019, with optional excursions on Monday 4th of May.
Our 2019 Conference was held from the 3rd to the 6th of May, 2019, with an excursion to the new V & A outpost museum in Dundee on Monday 6th of May. Once again, it was held at the Westerwood Hotel at Dullatur near Cumbernauld (a bit closer to Glasgow than Edinburgh!).
2019 Conference Report
written by Rebecca Bohle, who was received the 2019 Robertson / Lule Sponsorship Award.
As a first timer to the annual Scottish conference I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived on Friday evening at the Westerwood Hotel but knew I would be well looked after and educated in different fields of gemmology.
Drinks were served before the much anticipated talk by John Benjamin, a familiar face on the BBC Antiques Roadshow. A time to catch up with old friends and for me to meet new individuals in other areas of the gem world.
A most entertaining and educational talk on A Brief History of Jewellery from Elizabeth I to Elizabeth Taylor enthusiastically delivered by John Benjamin got the conference off to a colourful start. A talk on how Jewellery has evolved but it’s status has remained constant since the 17th Century giving great confidence to those in high places such as Elizabeth I, the first real power dresser. In the 18th Century the facetted gem became popular and Neoclassism became the major influencer of style. Sentamentality of the early 19th Century was soon superseded by colourful souvenir jewellery from travels around Europe towards the end of the 19th Century. As jewellery production became more mechanised a desire for more naïve pieces representing integrity became popular during the Arts & Crafts period morphing into the fluid Art Nouveau period. Continuing into the 20th Century saw great social change with working women buying their own jewellery leading to the rise of such powerful women as Elizabeth Taylor who symbolised wealth and glamour encapsulated by the rise of the Houses such as Aspreys and Garrards. John concluded with the well known adage in the business ‘provenance is everything’.
Fresh faced and fuelled with fruit and porridge Saturday began with a technical look at the clarity enhancement of emeralds by Christopher Smith, President and owner of American Gemmological Laboratories. An insight into the use of different types of fillers from Cedarwood oil to polymer resins and the impact on the refractive index of the fillers. Interestingly, it was mooted that beryl is more thermally stable than originally thought. Chris finished the presentation showing us an eye-opening slide depicting an unheated Burmese ruby that had been left in acetone overnight. What it revealed was a stripped back sorry looking stone which had obviously been oiled extensively but because it hadn’t been heated it escaped full disclosure. Disclosure is key at all levels to maintain confidence in the industry.
After coffee John Andrew, Curator of the Pearson Silver Collection, enlightened us on the wonderful work of living artist Maureen Edgar – Scotland’s Great Enameller. I was among the many who hadn’t come across her before and I was especially thrilled to hear she was born in Duns, which is where I was born! A graduate of both Dundee Art School and the Royal College of London. John’s slides certainly gave us a flavour of her intricate silver and enamel work including the pepper mill and salt pot commissioned for Bute House for the Millenium 2000. An artist I shall be looking out for her work at auction and on display at the V&A Dundee.
The ever evolving lab grown diamonds was the topic on Alex Grizenko’s talk entitled ‘The Coming of Age of Lab Grown Diamonds’. Alex is the founder and CEO of Lucent Diamonds. A complex and fascinating talk on an area that has been researched since the 1940s with the first commercial synthesis using High Pressure High Temperature achieved in 1953 by Tracy Hall. Slides were shown to illustrate how diamonds were grown by the process of Chemical Vapour Deposition. Interestingly, thin slices of diamond seed grow into flat tabular crystals which are then colour refined by HPHT. We learnt that the big game changer occurred in 2012 when the ability to make colourless diamonds was discovered and the fact that DeBeers have cashed in on synthesized diamond market with their range ‘Lightbox’. A talk we could have listened to all afternoon.
Continuing on after lunch Stuart Robertson gave us an informed talk on the colour stone market – An Update on the Rapidly Changing Coloured Stones Market. Stuart is an award-winning gemmologist and appraiser currently is vice president of Gemworld International Inc. We heard that brand reputation is no longer enough and that traceability and honest product knowledge are key. Leading on to the various colour trends such as ruby, blue sapphires and emerald continue to perform well above expectations with garnet, morganite, spinel and tourmaline becoming more popular as they offer affordability. I was surprised to learn that pearls only account for 2% of retail jewellery store sales. A concluding poignant point was on ‘fairtrade’ – who decides how fairtrade is certified? The poor workers who mine the stones or collect the pearls supposedly can’t even afford the piece of paper to state fairly sourced. An area that needs to be addressed.
A lively penultimate presentation by Sylvia Gumpesberger on LED light sources and their uses in gemmological applications had us wearing zany holographic diffraction grating glasses to view various absorptions in the spectrum. We learnt of the advantages and disadvantages of LED and ways of filtering a light source. Learning about the magnetic properties of the garnets with the negative RI readings most informative and helpful with my studies. Again an area with great potential to learn more about.
To round off the day we were treated to a swashbuckling story of Loot, Death and Diplomacy by British historian, Jack Ogden. An intriguing account of sleuthing and tracking down some of the world’s famous diamonds such as the Nassak, the Hornby and the Pigot. How they were stolen, bought by lottery, auctioned, used as a bribe and even a diplomatic gift.
Smartly dressed and ready for dinner and dancing many socialised into the early hours! A great evening had by all and an impressive amount raised in the raffle.
After another hearty breakfast a new concept of identifying colour was presented to us by Chris Smith. A way of standardising colour in the gem trade, similar to that of Pantone for textile and paper. Colour Codex has been launched to describe colour with a numeric reference. A tool for valuers, jewellers, trade organisations and laboratories. It seemed to be easy to use with a series of 13 sheets and different overlays to show tone allowing you to find the exact colour with a number as opposed to interpreting it as a descriptive shade.
Combining two of my favourite interests flowers and jewellery Clare Blatherwick, an independent jewellery consultant, took us on a wonderful journey of flowerography in jewellery, entitled The Nature of Jewels. She began the talk with an early depiction of a wreath of myrtle dating to 300 BC symbolising love beauty and refinement which the orchid represents too seen depicted in an amazingly technical piece by Phillipe Wolfers. Listing some of my favourites are the convolvulus, extinguished hope, the fushia, good taste and the honeysuckle, love and devotion seen in jewels by Suzanne Belperron, Marguerita Burger and Verdura. Flowers bring such joy to us all but little did I know that so many have such hidden meanings.
After coffee the winners of the annual gem-set competition were announced. The only stipulation being that the piece must be wearable. Out of 52 entrants the winner was Madeline Kline for a stylish and individual necklace.
The afternoon was spent doing various workshops. I chose LED and Earth Magnets with Sylvia Gumpesberger which involved experiments with magnets and then with Alex Grizenko on Lab Grown Diamonds where we tested fluorescence under LWUV and SWUV, seeing a stronger fluorescence under SWUV for the lab grown diamonds.
To round off my first SGA conference we all dined at a super Italian restaurant in Bridge of Allan on the Sunday evening feeling very much a part of social gathering. I have met some lovely people and have been inspired and educated in a field I am newly embarking in and all I can say is thank you so much to everyone who has made this conference such welcoming experience. I’m already looking forward to next year’s!