What is a Gem Worker?
Also known as: Precious Stone Worker, Diamond Worker, Lapidarist.
A gem worker is someone who fulfills a pivotal role in the jewelry industry. He or she evaluates the quality of precious gems and diamonds used in industrial settings or by private clients. The position also involves fabricating, finishing, and evaluating gem and diamond quality.
What does a Gem Worker do?
Duties of a gem worker include:
- Examining gem surfaces and internal structures, using polariscopes, refractometers, microscopes, and other optical instruments, to differentiate between stones, to identify rare specimens, or to detect flaws, defects, or peculiarities affecting gem values
- Examining gems during processing to ensure accuracy of angles and positions of cuts or bores, using magnifying glasses, loupes, or shadowgraphs
- Estimating wholesale and retail value of gems, following pricing guides, market fluctuations, and other relevant economic factors
- Assigning polish, symmetry, and clarity grades to stones, according to established grading systems
- Identifying and documenting stones' clarity characteristics, using plot diagrams
- Advising customers and others on the best use of gems to create attractive jewelry items
- Examining diamonds or gems to ascertain the shape, cut, and width of cut stones, or to select the cuts that will result in the biggest, best quality stones
- Immersing stones in prescribed chemical solutions to determine specific gravities and key properties of gemstones or substitutes
- Securing gems or diamonds in holders, chucks, dops, lapidary sticks, or blocks for cutting, polishing, grinding, drilling, or shaping
- Holding stones, gems, dies, or styluses against rotating plates, wheels, saws, or slitters to cut, shape, slit, grind, or polish them
- Dismantling lapping, boring, cutting, polishing, and shaping equipment and machinery to clean and lubricate it
- Selecting shaping wheels for tasks, and mix and apply abrasives, bort, or polishing compounds
- Measuring sizes of stones' bore holes and cuts to ensure adherence to specifications, using precision measuring instruments
- Sorting rough diamonds into categories based on shape, size, color, and quality
- Placing stones in clamps on polishing machines and polish facets of stones, using felt-covered or canvas-covered polishing wheels and polishing compounds such as tripoli and rouge
- Locating and marking drilling or cutting positions on stones or dies, using diamond chips and power hand tools
- Replacing, and sharpening blades, drills, and plates
- Splitting gems along pre-marked lines to remove imperfections, using blades and jewelers' hammers
- Regulating the speed of revolutions and reciprocating actions of drilling mechanisms
- Securing stones in metal mountings, using solder
- Lapping girdles on rough diamonds, using diamond girdling lathes
- Regrinding drill points, and advance drill cutting points according to specifications for channel depths and shapes
What is the workplace of a Gem Worker like?
Gem workers may manufacture and make jewelry, work in a lab fashioning specialty items, or even own their own stores. According to the Gemological Institute of America, approximately one-third of all gem workers are self-employed. These experienced gem workers have a lifetime of knowledge at their disposal, and many precious stone workers opt to open their own businesses in order to share their talents with the world.
How can I become a Gem Worker?
A high school degree as well as some vocational training is usually recommended for this career, and will likely begin with an apprenticeship or training program of some kind. Gem workers must obtain a wide variety of mechanical knowledge such as use of certain machines and tools, and understanding their repair and maintenance. The learning curve will vary based on training programs and skill level, but it usually takes a few months to a year of study.
Skills needed for on-site work include physical abilities such as close-range vision for detail work, manual dexterity, arm/hand steadiness, control and precision for machine work, attention to detail, and discriminatory ability with color and category detail.