The Gemological Institute of America, or GIA, is a non-profit institute dedicated to research and education in the field of gemology. GIA is also well known for its gem identification and grading services, and developed the famous "four Cs" (Cut, Clarity, Color and Carat weight) methodology of grading diamonds. Although GIA is best known for its activities in relation to diamonds, the institute is also involved with colored gemstones and pearls. The educational arm of GIA confers the Graduate Gemologist diploma upon its graduates; the institute also offers other diploma programs. GIA was founded in 1931 by Robert Shipley in Los Angeles, California. Today, the institute is headquartered in Carlsbad, California, north of San Diego.
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Gemological laboratories such as GIA are actively engaged in research to advance the science of gemology. Historically, research has focused on developing methods and technologies to accurately identify and characterize gems. This research has produced significant advances in the ability to differentiate gems and identify simulants (particularly diamond simulants). GIA was also responsible for the first modern diamond grading reports, where it introduced grading methodologies for diamond color and diamond clarity. Today, these scales and methods are the standard within the gem trade for characterization of diamonds.
Current research at gemological laboratories concerns the development of improved detection techniques for treated and synthetic diamonds, as well as for treated sapphires, rubies, and pearls.
GIA offers several diplomas through vocational-type programs at its main campus in Carlsbad, as well as a satellite campus in New York and eleven international locations around the world. The most prestigious of these diplomas is the Graduate Gemologist diploma (designated by the initials "G.G." after a person's name). Graduates of the program must have completed eight courses, including courses on diamond and colored stone identification and grading. The Graduate Gemologist diploma can be obtained through a six-month full time course of study at one of GIA's campuses, or through a combination of distance education courses and extension classes. Additionally, GIA offers two comprehensive on-campus programs in Jewelry Manufacturing Arts: the Applied Jewelry Arts Program (AJA) and the Jewelry Manufacturing Arts Program (JMA). Each program is 26 weeks long and includes classes such as Jewelry Design, Computer Aided Design, Wax Carving, Casting, Mold Making, Hand Fabrication and Gemstone Setting.
GIA also exists to educate the gem and jewelry industry and the general public through its publications and outreach efforts. Most notable of these efforts is the quarterly publication of the magazine Gems & Gemology, a respected journal in the field. The journal includes full-length feature articles, as well as reports on GIA research, abstracts of relevant articles from other journals, book reviews, and industry news from around the world.
Through its arm the GIA Laboratory, GIA provides diamond grading services to describe the characteristics of loose diamonds. GIA issues two types of reports, the more complete being the Diamond Grading Report (a briefer and less expensive version is called a Diamond Dossier). The Diamond Grading Report identifies the key characteristics of a diamond which can be used to both identify the diamond and determine its value. The reports contain a number of measurements, including of carat weight as well as a diagram of where and what types of inclusions are located in the diamond. This type of report is now offered by competitors to GIA, although GIA's reports are widely considered to be the strictest, and therefore most reputable available. Diamond grading reports are now demanded by most consumers purchasing diamonds over a certain size, typically for over 0.5 carat (100 mg), and almost always for over 1.0 carat (200 mg), and are considered an important tool in guaranteeing that a diamond is accurately represented to a potential buyer.