Gemology is a field of study in the jewellery industry that refers to the features and properties of gemstones in identifying the genuine and separating it from the synthetics and imitations. Pearls, coral etc. are also included under Gemology. Though it started out as a branch of mineralogy it has since become a science of its own. A person who works in the field of gemology is referred to as a gemologist; jewelers and goldsmiths may also be gemologists.
Gem identification is the core of gemology. It is difficult to identify some gems solely by their appearance. However, it is their physical properties that help in classifying them. Despite the demarcation in shapes, the distinguishing factor are the crystal structures of the gems at the atomic level.
Gems can be identified through the usage of microscopes, computerised tools, and other grading devices. Mineralogical techniques are also used to enable in the identification of gemstones. Scratch tests, is also used as a method to determine hardness of an unknown gem. Reaction to acid test and heat test are other two methods to yield important evidence to the identity of gems. Though these methods are not suitable for cut gems.
There are some non-destructive tests to detect gemstones. There are instruments that measure the physical properties and optical properties of gems without causing damage to them. Hence even people without scientific training and expensive laboratory gear can use these methods of gem identification.
Gemology is fast growing into an important area of specialization especially with developments in the field. It is vital to possess the knowledge of the physical characteristics of gems to create apt settings, answer queries and identify gems or even for the purpose of appraisal. The students from 1 year Diploma in Fine Jewellery Design are taught Gemology as part of their curriculum.
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