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GIA Symposium 2011

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(CARLSBAD, Calif.) - Beginning with a keynote session on global finance and commerce by Steve Forbes and finishing with industry leaders engaging in a stirring debate on fair trade and sustainability, GIA (Gemological Institute of America) marked its 80th anniversary with its Fifth International Gemological Symposium at the Carlsbad world headquarters on May 29-30.

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Donna Baker, Steve Forbes and Susan Jacques meet just before Symposium kicks off. Photo by Eric Welch/GIA.
The two-day event, “Advancing the Science and Business of Gems,” attracted 700-plus attendees from more than 35 countries.

“It is an honor to unite our international constituents at the Carlsbad campus for the first time in Symposium’s history,” said Donna Baker, GIA president and CEO. “This is where the industry defines itself, where it is now and how it will be shaped in the future.”

GIA Symposium 2011 featured two parallel tracks, Research and Business, focusing on topics such as diamond and gemstone origin, pearl identification, treatments and synthetics, new technology and instrumentation, jewelry design, digital marketing, the luxury market, estate jewelry, sustainability and fair trade.

Forbes’s opening address focused on global economic trends, specifically how the volatility of the U.S. dollar disrupts the world economy. “Today’s markets are distorted because of monetary policy, thus no one knows the price of anything,” he said. “The international supply chain is very complex and we need a stable currency to make it function properly. The instability of the dollar makes international commerce more difficult. Linking the dollar to gold could help stabilize the dollar.”

In a business session, Scott Galloway, clinical associate professor at NYU Stern School of Business and founder of online gift products retailer Red Envelope, urged the trade to attack today’s new upscale generation with innovative thinking and to embrace the Internet and social media as key marketing platforms. “GenY is spending and they love luxury. If they see you don’t have a social media presence, they’ll disregard you,” said Galloway.

Attendees also heard from Ken Royal, senior client service manager of Gallup, who said that jewelers need to earn the trust of a younger generation; Stuart Robertson, research director of Gemworld International, Inc., shared the coming trends in gemstone demand; and Gary Schuler, senior vice president and director of Sotheby’s, discussed the extraordinary prices being garnered by top gems at auction.

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Scott Galloway, clinical associate professor at the NYU Stern School of Business, encouraged attendees to embrace social media marketing. Photo by Valerie Power/GIA.
In the Research sessions, presentations described diamond color origin and assessing natural versus treated stones. Other speakers profiled important colored stone localities and mining techniques. Geographic origin determination, pearl identification, quality grading of opal, and new applications of luminescence and other analytical techniques in the laboratory were among the many additional enlightening presentations.

The Poster Session provided an interactive forum where scientific, technical and business information was communicated. Attendees were able to find out the latest research and developments through 64 poster displays and direct discussion with poster presenters.

The close of the program turned to sustainability and fair trade with Dr. Brian Nattrass of Sustainability Partners, who noted how business has become the leading force in the world today and, with that role, is responsible for addressing such issues as climate change and improving conditions of the impoverished.

Following that address, Dr. Nattrass and industry leaders finished the Symposium program by engaging in a thought-provoking debate over how to put these values into practice. While differing points of view were exchanged, everyone on the panel agreed that transparency and honesty at every link of the supply chain should be the industry’s goal and ultimate responsibility.

“The issues that get raised in mainstream media can affect all of our businesses,” said panel moderator Susan Jacques, president and CEO of Borsheims Fine Jewelry and Gifts and chairman of the GIA Board of Governors. “If the industry isn’t vigilant in protecting consumers, they will buy other things over jewelry.”

Baker closed Symposium saying, “Change happens, but the industry’s values must remain the same and GIA will help preserve them.”

The first Symposium was held in 1982 in honor of GIA’s 50th anniversary the preceding year, with subsequent Symposia held in 1991, 1999 and 2006. Summaries of all Symposium 2011 presentations will be published in the Summer issue of Gems & Gemology, available in early August.

For more information please visit GIA at www.gia.edu.

 
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