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Loupe it or lose it: Why training matters, even for the most veteran appraiser

By Mark T. Cartwright

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Most of us enter into every experience with expectations and presuppositions. Sometimes they serve us well; sometimes they can get in our way as we try to do our jobs.

Unfortunately, diamond grading is one of those experiences in which we may be hindered by our assumptions. It may be that some of those presumptions are made on an almost subconscious level. Other times, we’re aware of our biases, but our egos lead us to believe we can rise above them. The most insidious thoughts are those that involve pleasing, or at least, not disappointing our client.

Perhaps the second most harmful thought forms are those that blind us to our shortcomings and limitations. I believe one of the most significant impediments to excellence in our profession is the belief that continuing education is not a necessary and vital part of our professional ethics. My goal for this column isn’t to try to teach anyone about diamond grading, but to whet your appetite to continue to learn and hone your skills through regular training.

I was very fortunate to have been among fewer than two dozen people to attend the initial offering of a two-day course sponsored by the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) created in conjunction with the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). It was entitled ‘Advanced Diamond Grading,’ and because all the attendees were highly trained and experienced gemmologist/appraisers, the topics and training were indeed advanced.

The course’s instructor opened with a brief statement of purpose that has been haunting me since it was uttered: “If you hope to replicate our (GIA’s) laboratory results, it’s important you learn to replicate our methodology as closely as possible.” It seems obvious, right? If we were speaking of a science experiment, it would be a no-brainer. However, how many of us can actually claim we are in fact grading diamonds for colour, clarity, or cut in exactly the same way any of the major laboratories do?

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If we were being totally honest, how many of us can claim to even know exactly how the major labs grade? Since it’s doubtful we’re in step with their methodologies, should we be surprised when we find ourselves in disagreement with their results? If you’re like me, you’ve said, or at least heard someone say, “Wow, the lab really missed that call,” or “Are you serious? How did they come up with that grade?!” Of course, the underlying premise in that kind of statement is, “I’m right, the lab is wrong.” However, is that true or just our egos talking?

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