The Best Online Gemology Schools and Courses
Whether you love gemstones and simply want to learn more about them, or you are considering a career in gemology, you may be wondering if it is possible to become a gemologist by studying online.
While you might think this is an area of study where you would need hands-on experience, there actually are a lot of opportunities for budding gemologists looking for distance learning opportunities.
The Best Online Gemology Schools
There are a number of organizations which offer online gemology courses:
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA)
This nonprofit institute has been around since 1931, and is considered the world’s top authority on gemstones. If you have researched much about gemstones, GIA is a name you have probably seen time and again. This is the most recognized organization in the United States when it comes to gemstone appraisal and research. This makes a GG (Graduate Gemologist) credential from the GIA the most sought after in US gemology.
While the GIA is probably the top choice if you can afford it, it is also the most expensive option out there. You can expect to pay more than $14,000 to earn your GG credential, even from home. Another potential issue is the fact that you are required to purchase a lot of expensive equipment in order to complete the coursework. As you might guess, this equipment is sold by the GIA, through their for-profit subsidiary Gem Instruments. Still, if you can afford it, a GG accreditation from GIA will open up a lot of doors in your professional future.
Interested in studying through GIA but not in becoming a GG? GIA offers a number of shorter courses in specific areas like Colored Stone Essentials and Diamond Essentials. These courses are significantly less expensive. There are other credentials you can earn as well, including Graduate Diamonds (GD), Graduate Colored Stones (GCS), Graduate Pearls (GP), and Accredited Jewelry Professional (AJP). Learn about all of GIA’s programs for distance learning here.
The International School of Gemology (ISG)
This is a newer school which offers a less expensive education in the field of gemology. Once again, you can attend online, and you can become a Registered Gemologist (RG) for a lot less. In fact, as of the time of this writing, you can sign up for the program for just $1,595.00 in tuition. You can become a Registered Gemologist Appraiser (RGA) for $1,995. There is equipment that you need to purchase, but for this you can tack on around $600. You can learn more on the ISG FAQ page.
ISG may not be as prestigious as the GIA, but RG and RGA credentials are swiftly becoming a widely recognized alternative to GIA GG. ISG also offers some unique coursework which other online gemology schools lack at this point, including a course on Created and Treated Gemstones.
GemologyClasses.com is actually a website owned and operated by the International School of Gemology above. The school set this website up to make it easy to sign up for some of their core classes a la carte, without signing up for the full coursework to earn an RG or RGA credential. This is an excellent choice if you are on a budget and only want to take individual classes, or if you want to gradually work toward an RG or RGA credential on your own schedule. All coursework taken through GemologyClasses.com will count toward the RG and RGA programs, so you can complete them at your own pace. Visit the site here.
This is yet another site operated by the International School of Gemology. This is not a website for adult online education or taking classes toward accreditations. It is a website that provides educational resources from the ISG for children. It is a completely free course.
International Gem Society (IGS)
IGS is an easy abbreviation to confuse with ISG above, but the IGS certification is very different from the programs offered by the ISG. IGS offers an online certification for just $350. Naturally this is nowhere near as comprehensive as the courses offered by ISG or GIA, but it may offer you a good start if you are on a tight budget and just looking for a foot in the door to a new career. The IGS certification would also be an excellent choice if you are a hobbyist and you just want to add to your knowledge without paying a hefty bill. Read more about the IGS certification program here.
Gemmological Association of Great Britain (Gem-A)
While the GIA is the top gemology institute in America, the Gemmological Association of Great Britain (Gem-A) is arguably the top gemology institute in the world. The association offers two different branches of study: gemology and diamonds. If you go through the gemology coursework, you can apply for election to the Fellowship of The Gemmological Association (FGA). If you complete the diamonds coursework, you can apply for election to the Diamond Members of The Gemmological Association (DGA). These are both very prestigious, and FGA is the oldest gemological designation in the world.
On the upside, the cost for going this route is less than you would pay to the GIA. On the downside, you need to buy all your own gemstones to study. If you are in the US, you have the option of using US- or UK-based tutors. There are a lot of complaints that the US tutors are slow, so it is better to opt for the UK tutors. Also note that in order to keep your FGA or DGA designation after you finish your coursework, you will have to remain a paying member of the association. This is an added ongoing expense. Here is the webpage for Gem-A’s educational programs.
Canadian Institute of Gemmology
The Canadian Institute of Gemmology is renowned not only for their programs of study, but also for the development of advanced lab research. Note that while this is a professional organization, the courses they offer are termed as “Gem Appreciation Courses.” You will not earn a professional accreditation if you choose their courses, but you will learn a lot of excellent in-depth knowledge. This makes this a good choice for a hobbyist, or for a professional student looking to augment their studies.
Diamond Council of America (DCA)
If you are aiming for a career in jewelry retail, the coursework offered by the Diamond Council of America is an excellent choice. There are four different courses available:
- The Diamond Course
- Colored Gemstone Course
- Advanced Jewelry Sales
- Beginning Jewelry Sales
The Diamond and Colored Gemstone Courses walk you through the steps that gemstones take to get from the mines into the hands of consumers. Both have a strong focus on retail presentation and customer service. The sales courses focus specifically on this aspect, but it is covered in great detail in the diamond and colored gemstone courses as well. Upon course completion, students earn DCA certifications.
Now you know most of the important online gemology schools and should have at least a basic idea what types of coursework they offer. While you are at it, you may also want to check into courses offered by the Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences, the Canadian Gemmological Association, the American Gem Society, and the Ecole de Gemmologie de Montreal.
So here is a quick summary:
- GIA: The GIA GG is the most expensive course here, but it is also considered the top designation in the US. The GIA does offer a number of less expensive individual classes you may take as well.
- Gem-A: The Gem-A FGA is the oldest and arguably most prestigious designation for gemologists. Gem-A is based in the UK, but offers programs to students worldwide. You must be an ongoing paid member to keep your FGA designation once you earn it.
- ISG: The ISG is not quite as esteemed as the GIA or Gem-A, but it is a rising star among online gemology schools. The ISG also operates GemologyClasses.com and GemologistApprentice.com. ISG classes are far less expensive than GIA classes, and the children’s courses are free. You can also take ISG courses piecemeal and they will count toward RG or RGA credentials.
- IGS: This organization offers a budget-friendly certification for hobbyists.
- DCA: If you are planning on getting in on the retail end of the gemology business, a DCA certification will help you to accurately present gemstones to customers and close your sales.
When selecting an online gemology course, always start by asking yourself your goal. Are you doing this as a hobbyist or as an aspiring professional? Do you want to study, appraise, or sell gemstones? Are you interested in diamonds, colored gemstones, or pearls? How much time and money do you have to invest in your education? Make sure that when you select a course, you are looking not only at the cost of tuition, but also the cost of materials and equipment. If you need to, you can always start small and just take a course here or there. If you are serious about becoming a professional gemologist though, you will eventually want to pursue a credential like GIA GG or ISG RG.