Quality control

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 March, 2008, 12:00am

Gemmological institutes are helping to raise the standard of jewellery professionals in the mainland

The demand for industry-focused gemmological training on the mainland has increased because jewellery consumers want an assurance of quality for their purchases and companies want to improve the quality of their staff amid stiff competition.

In China, the majority of diamond jewellery designs sold at retail shops are accompanied by certificates issued by industry-recognised gemmological laboratories staffed by professionally trained gemmologists.

The buoyant market has driven the demand for certificates which consumers consider a guarantee of the quality of their diamonds. Diamonds and gold account for the bulk of jewellery sales in China.

The number of gem labs in China is growing steadily. 'A medium-sized city like Guangzhou [with a population of 12 million] already has around 20 gem labs,' said Dominic Mok, principal of the Asian Gemmological Institute and Laboratory (AGIL) in Hong Kong.

The National Gemstone Testing Centre headquartered in Beijing, China University of Geosciences Gemmological Institute in Wuhan, and universities in Shanghai and Guilin offer gemmology programmes, he said.

These institutes organise courses based on the syllabuses of international gemmological institutes, including the Gemmological Association of Great Britain and the Gemmological Institute of America.

Students who pass exams at the end of the programmes become gemmologists with industry-recognised professional qualifications.

'Certificates issued by these gemmologists inspire confidence among the consumers,' he said.

There are about 500 qualified gemmologists working for gem labs on the mainland. In addition to gem labs, an increasing number of established jewellery manufacturers and retailers employ gemmologists to certify their jewellery products in-house.

'Demand for these individuals with professional qualifications has outstripped supply,' Mr Mok said. 'Many manufacturers employ them as merchandisers. I have heard that retailers are scrambling to hire gemmologists as shop managers, as consumers want to get more gemmological information about what they purchase.'

International gemmological institutes are helping to raise the standard of jewellery professionals in China. The International Gemmological Institute has been training gemmologists in collaboration with the Shanghai Vocational Training Directive Centre since 2000, said Marc Brauner, chief executive officer of IGI Hong Kong.

'Many IGI graduates hold management-level positions in jewellery companies, gem labs and gemmological training schools in China,' Mr Brauner said.

Apart from its strong demand for diamonds, China is a large market for jadeite jewellery. To upgrade their knowledge of the gemstone, some mainland professionals attend classes of jadeite identification and testing at AGIL's Hong Kong office.

Mr Mok said. 'They are attracted by Hong Kong's status as the regional trading centre of jadeite.'