scottish Gemmological association
Our 2017 Conference was held in Stirling from Friday 28th April to Monday 1st May, 2017, at the Stirling court hotel.
We brought together a very varied and interesting programme with excellent speakers and workshop presenters, and we had a thoroughly enjoyable time!
We'd like to thank all our speakers, workshop leaders and delegates for their contributions. We'd also like to thank those members who gave of their time freely to help us set up the Conference and aid and assist us throughout. The success of the conference is a testament to their hard work.
Our thanks also to Kim Rix and Adrian Smith who, between them, acted as our Photographers! A selection of photos can be seen by clicking here -
Scottish Gemmological Association Conference report 2017, by Holly Mowle
After many happy years spent in Peebles, what is likely to be one of the highlights of my year began at a new venue for the SGA’s annual conference, the Stirling Court Hotel. I am hugely grateful to Cigdem Lule and Stuart Robertson for providing me this opportunity and having discovered that I was the lucky recipient of the 2017 Conference studentship I could barely contain my excitement when it finally came to the weekend of said event.
The charismatic David Callaghan set the bar high for the next two days with a heartfelt celebration of his friend, the legendary jeweller Andrew Grima. With many mouth watering examples of Grima’s unique jewels the audience also allowed a more personal insight into the life of the man who will be remembered as one of the innovators of jewellery design. Callaghan’s talk gave us times to reflect, moments to awe at Grima’s work but also a well received dash of humour to kick-start the weekend.
After a hearty breakfast on Saturday, key-note speaker Kenneth Scarratt dove into the world of pearls with a focus on the Pinctada Radiata of Bahrain and the Pinctada Maxima found in Australian waters. Following a journey through the vast history of such pearls and their usage, the reverence, legend and dangers associated with these beautiful organic gems, Scarratt shared first hand experience from his laboratory staff of a pearling expedition off the coast of Australia. Throughout this talk the speaker’s vast knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject became clear, continuing as Scarratt described his laboratory experiments in producing cultured pearls with atypical nucleus beads which ranged from small shells to other pearls but also included a faceted sapphire.
Following a short break, John Harris shared his expertise on Photospectroscopy and we enjoyed a variety of interesting spectrums whilst benefiting from his insight into correcting common issues. Harris focussed on use of the diffraction grating spectroscope but also went on to explain how various attachments such as filters can be used in conjunction with the apparatus to improve the spectrums produced. This as followed by discussion on software available for usage with the spectroscope as well as specific examination of a beautiful spectrum produced by a Rhodochrosite specimen owned by fellow speaker Alan Hodgkinson.
David Fisher of De Beers opened his talk in the world of science fiction before moving into the realms of fact to explore the cutting edge developments made in detection of synthetic diamonds today. With emphasis on the importance of disclosure and a brief history of synthetic diamond production, Dr Fisher discussed the difficulties in detecting synthetic stones produced by HPHT and CVD methods before looking at new instruments developed by the Technologies Research Centre at De Beers. These instruments exploit a number of different properties possessed by these synthetics, such as luminescence and boast a ninety-eight percent detection rate which is of particular use in sorting melee stones.
Following another brief pause for refreshments, Honorary SGA President and author of the acclaimed “Gem Testing Techniques” Alan Hodgkinson gave us his insight into the world of a stone which over the years has worn many names – Hyacinth, Jargoon, Jacinth – but known to most of us as Zircon. Hodgkinson’s passion for this subject was clear as his talk moved through the history of this material, its treatment and identifying features of both it’s High and Metamict forms. Hodgkinson shared his expertise as he discussed the properties of both gem forms, with many of the facts and testing results previously uncovered (at least by my own gemmological education) certainly giving me an appetite for his “green stones” workshop on Sunday.
One of my kind sponsors, Stuart Robertson sparked much discussion with his talk on the gem market and the changes seen within it over recent years. As both a gemmologist and market expert Robertson spoke of what to expect for growth in the coloured stone market based on current information and trends. Despite growth of other markets outstripping that of the jewellery and gem trade, valuers and vendors face new and evolving problems in the way they portray their products to a market with ever changing values. Robertson emphasised the importance of disclosure but also that with an increasing number of stones being “certified” it is important to balance the relationship of paper and product with some laboratory reports being of little value in relation to the stones they illustrate.
To the world of gemmology Vincent Pardieu appears very much like a modern Indiana Jones with adventures across the globe finding precious treasures and meeting exciting people. Pardieu’s heartfelt talk was as eye opening as the new Madagascan sapphire discoveries he described with a message to the trade to re-evaluate its acquisition operations. Though Pardieu covered the academic importance of lab acquisitions of new deposits, his presentation also explored the human side of this gem quest and the trails faced by the people extracting this precious material. The explorer challenged the way in which we perceive these mining operations and certainly left me with some food for thought.
Following such an enjoyable, yet demanding day, the Gala Dinner provided ample opportunity to let our hair down, enjoy the ever popular Scottish ceilidh experience and saw the return of the much anticipated raffle where I became the happy owner of a lovely half Agate egg kindly donated by Marcus McCallum (also purveying a range of beautiful stones during the conference).
Sunday’s breakfast provided much needed fortification before it was back to the erudite Kenneth Scarratt, this time exploring the world of Rubies. Scarratt discussed one of the biggest banes to the industry – the glass filled Ruby, its evolution and how this material should be treated by the trade along with eye-opening images of just how much glass is being introduced to the low grade corundum material. This began with an explanation of the three possible origins for glasses found in rubies followed by improvements in the technique to produce more aesthetically pleasing stones from poor quality material. After this, Scarratt covered Sri Lankan low temperature heat treatment of Mozambique material with observation of the subtle improvements seen in clarity and colour of such gems. Finally, Scarratt went on to discuss a selection of forty unusual rubies and the challenges that came with identifying them.
We then had quick update on Gem-A and a word from Richard Taylor on the Gemmology Honours program at Birmingham City University before another quick break for coffee and tea.
Henrietta Lidchi’s session delved into the history, evolution and innovations in Native American Jewellery, discussing traditional styles such as the squash blossom necklace and well known combination of turquoise in silver. Her lecture covered the perception of this striking jewellery genre as art form, a way of communication and its role as wearable currency. Dr Lidchi also looked at how the craft developed through historical events and as new techniques were developed; such as the movement from traditional pumice and tufa casting to that in wax, to the introduction of colourful new materials in these jewels like jet, coral and bone. This intriguing session wrapped up by looking at the contemporary artists keeping this traditional style alive.
This was followed by an awards ceremony for gemmology students and winners of this years GemSet jewellery competition.
After lunch it was time for an afternoon of workshops; I found it thoroughly difficult to choose which workshops to attend but after some hard thinking decisions were made. My first session was a split presentation from Tom Herbst and Kath Duncan before dipping into a sea of green with Alan Hodgkinson.
Author of two highly acclaimed volumes “Amateur Gemstone Faceting” Tom Herbst spends most of his time in his day job as an astrophysicist, however one might argue that there is nothing amateurish about Herbst’s design and faceting abilities. Despite only cutting a handful of stones per year, Herbst’s beautiful gems certainly hold their own amongst those produced by professional lapidaries. His half of the workshop consisted of a walk through of his process, from sourcing rough at rock fairs to the technical requirements for cutting, polishing and gem design.
Kath Duncan boasts nearly three decades’ experience in the industry, today using her setting skills in commission work and by lecturing at Kelvin College in Glasgow educating the next generation of stone mounters. Duncan’s contribution to the workshop guided us through the practicalities of gem setting and the problems encountered along the way. Duncan used a beautiful selection of illustrations, including her own work, to aid her presentation, discussing the difficulties of working with different materials and tools.
Alan Hodgkinson’s session was a practical workshop with a mouth watering selection of green stones to examine, ranging from emerald to alexandrite, zircons and tourmalines as well as several synthetics all displaying interesting characteristics specific to the specimens. With over fifty stones to enjoy it was difficult to get through all of them, frustratingly I succumbed to spectroscope eye strain, but not before delaying my exit to a point well after the end of the session. Of all the stones there was one specimen, a colour change alexandrite, that really stood out and was specifically set up on a microscope so its stunning “traffic light” trichroism could be enjoyed at close range as the stone moved through its different axes.
For some the conference came to an end after dinner at one of Stirling’s many restaurants; however a sizeable group of us headed into the older part of the town on Monday morning for a tour of its historic streets and castle. Thankfully we were blessed with beautiful weather and after a weekend indoors it was nice to enjoy some fresh air along with stunning views and century’s old architecture.
I have done my best to keep this report as concise as possible however five hundred words really isn’t enough to describe what a wonderfully enjoyable and educational weekend this was - hopefully it will be one I will have the pleasure of experiencing again in future years.