Interest in gems leads US institute to expand

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 May, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 May, 1998, 12:00am

A leading American institute involved in the study of precious stones has doubled the size of its Hong Kong premises to accommodate more students and professionals.

The president of the Gemological Institute of America in Hong Kong, Lorenzo Yih Yu-chuan, said the expansion reflected increasing demand for quality gemological education.

Since the SAR continued to be an important trading centre for the international jewellery industry and retail market, the institute would provide courses not only for industrialists and professionals, but the public who were interested in jewellery, Mr Yih said.

The Hong Kong branch started in 1994 and is the fifth campus of the United States- based institute to open in the region after the establishment of similar set-ups in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.

'Hong Kong is an unique place because of its proximity and close links with mainland China and Southeast Asia,' Mr Yih said.

'The demand around these areas is huge and the campus in Hong Kong is a suitable place to provide world-class education.' Assistant president Elsa Yue Po-yee said: 'What amazed us is that the courses also attract the public in general, amateurs and collectors. We now have more than 300 students, which constitutes an increase of about 30 per cent since the institute was established in the SAR.

'What is interesting is that a large number of our students are men. The reason gems attract men is they look at them from a scientific point of view. It's a challenge for them to tell the difference between genuine and fake stones and to grade them.' The institute offers courses in diamond grading, gem identification, coloured stone grading and design classes. However, Ms Yue said classes on diamond grading were more popular.

'There is a conception that a diamond is more treasured than other gems. In fact, there are lots of things to learn about identifying and grading a gem, so we encourage students to join classes in more than one subject,' she said.

'Women, of course, come as diamond lovers. They prefer to have the knowledge themselves rather than trust the so-called 'professionals'. ' More than $1 million will be invested in the campus. There are two classrooms which have a total of 40 seats. Each seat has a grading microscope to facilitate learning.

The institute was established 65 years ago in the US and gained international recognition for designing a diamond grading system - the '4Cs', based on colour, clarity, cut and carat weight.