A Gem Of A Job

Occupation: Gemologist
Job description: Grade and identify diamonds and colored stones for retail, wholesale or jewelry manufacturers.
Salary range: $20,000-$35,000 plus sales commissions for entry-level retail positions. Earning potential depends on skills and experience. For more seasoned professionals, income is unlimited.
Training: Diploma from Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is highly recommended. GIA students can attend a six-month on-campus program at a cost of $10,500 or complete a home-study course for roughly $3,000. Most gemologists usually enter the field as a retail sales representative.

James Masters is one of a handful of professionally trained African American gemologists in the U.S. The 48-year-old began his career nearly 20 years ago as an assistant buyer in the jewelry division of Sanger Harris, a department store in Dallas. His first encounter with jewelry was “love at first sight,” and he decided to obtain his gemologist diploma to better serve his customers.

In 1980, after completing only one course, Masters joined Zale’s Jewelers, one of the largest jewelry store chains in the country, as a salesperson. Currently, he is a salesperson with Gordon’s Jewelers in Arlington, Texas. It took Masters two years to obtain his gemologist diploma under GIA’s homestudy option, and he says, “Before I took the course, I sold $200 pieces; now I can sell pieces worth $2,000 or even $20,000.”

Masters advises anyone wanting to follow in his footsteps to start small. “Obtain a summer job or internship at one of the department stores to get exposure to the jewelry industry,” he says. “That will give you a chance to feel the merchandise and see if you like the business.”

For more information about this career, contact GIA, 53445 Armada Dr., Carlsbad, CA 92008; www.gia.edu. or call 800-421-7250.

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