It is no secret that sparkling stones radiate their very own magic and it does not take much convincing to develop a certain enthusiasm for the subject matter.
Together with six other young colleagues from different Wempe showrooms, I enjoy the privilege to delve into this fascinating subject more deeply at the USE Training Centre in Pforzheim. What place in the world could be better suited to this training programme than the “gold city” of Pforzheim, which celebrated its 250-year anniversary under that distinction this year.
The jewellery expert training programme is a three-year training course offered by Wempe. It encompasses two one-week courses per year on a variety of topics, where we expand our knowledge of diamonds, precious gems and pearls.
So far we have taken three of these training units. Each unit was taught by a different instructor – each one a specialist in her field. Of course, the basic knowledge about coloured gemstones and diamonds consisted of a lot of theoretical lessons, but as it was interspersed with excursions, e.g. to cutter’s shops or the mineral museum in Idar-Oberstein, it was all conveyed in an interesting and lively way.
But of course the best part was when, during the last course, we had a chance to work with the stones hands-on. Armed with magnifying glasses, forceps, refractometers, spectroscopes and other equipment we scarcely knew how to pronounce, I became aware of what an – admittedly – unglamorous journey such a stone has to take before it is cut and polished to perfection and becomes a gem. In past courses we had learned about the development, mining and processing of stones. Now it was time to master the skill of identifying the individual stones. This is particularly important when two minerals look very much alike at first glance, but have vastly different values, as is the case for instance with diamonds and their many imitations.
Countless stones of every conceivable colour and shape were waiting for us to give them a “passport”. Only the numbers printed on their tiny black boxes allowed us to look them up in a small booklet to see if our examinations had yielded the correct result.
At first we were very uncertain: “What do you read in which device?”, “Do I have to leave both eyes open?”, “What value am I supposed to see there?”, “How do you read this table?”, “But that doesn’t match the value my gadget is giving me!”…“Hey, where is my stone, anyway?”
But with every completed examination, our doubts faded more and more. We had to smile when, after a few successful days, we caught ourselves throwing specialist jargon about as if we had known it for ages. Finally, on the last day, we took a test. Each of us was given one stone to identify. Since we all managed to come to the correct conclusion, we were able to conclude an exciting week with a real feeling of success.
We really look forward to our next course on the topic of pearls and proper techniques for drawing jewellery.