Perry's is proud to have eight GIA Graduate Gemologists on staff, along with seven other employees currently enrolled in GIA classes.
GIA, or the Gemological Institute of America, is THE training authority in the American jewelry industry. To earn a Graduate Gemologist degree from the GIA, you must complete and pass five course studies and three lab classes, and then pass a comprehensive final exam. While you do earn a certificate of completion after each class or lab, you must complete and pass all eight (earning eight separate certificates) to earn the degree of Graduate Gemologist.
A prospective GG can earn this degree in two ways. He or she may enroll in a 6 month course at either of the GIA's US campuses in New York, NY or Carlsbad, CA, or complete the courses at his or her own pace through a distance education program. Distance students must still travel to a GIA campus to complete the required Lab courses.
On-campus tuition costs approximately $22,670, while distance education tuition costs approximately $5,935. These numbers do NOT include books or travel and living expenses.
Earning a Graduate Gemologist Degree from the GIA requires a very serious investment of both time and money. Only those who are truly serious about their jewelry careers go for a Graduate Gemologist Degree. Perry's is extremely proud to employ so many with such a deep commitment to the jewelry industry.
Our GIA Accredited Staff:
- Gene Balius
- Janet Bazzone, GG
- Tamrah Bordini, Gemologist
- Virginia Carley
- Brian Filer, GG
- Farjia Fulton, Graduate Diamonds
- Kathleen Gold, GG
- Marian B. Holt, GG
- Heather Johnson
- Julie Lopett, Graduate Diamonds
- Jennifer MacLeod, GG
- Holly Nester, GG
- Lea Koonce Ogundiran, GG
- Thomas Organ, GG
- Hadley Perry Pacheco, Graduate Diamonds
- Sherry Shifley
Janet's story: I became interested in gemology after my husband gave me several pieces of jewelry with colored stones. In an effort to cut costs, I decided to learn to cut gems.
I came to Charlotte, NC and took a three week course in gem cutting. When I came within hours of buying a bus ticket home and trading my car for a 75 carat Aquamarine, I realized that I should learn more about the gems I had learned to cut. I drove home and signed up for the GIA Graduate Gemologist course of study. I bought faceting equipment, gemological equipment and went to work as a manager of a small jewelry store.
I was motivated to finish the course quickly, as I was promised a substantial raise upon completion. In order to get the work done, I got up at 3:30 AM to study before getting the kids ready for school, and then off to work myself. I drove to Harrisburg, PA for my diamond lab, and I took the other labs and courses in Columbus, Ohio.
I became interested in coins when I met Perry’s senior numismatist, Steve Statland. Steve opened up a historical world for me through coins. Through coins, I was able to find something tangible that links us to our history. I collect ancient Sicilian coins and pre-Colonial U.S. coins.
Presently, I am working through the American Numismatic Association’s School of Numismatics Diploma Program.
Tamrah's story: I first fell in love with the jewelry industry while working part time at a jewelry store my first year in college. I was studying fine arts in school and a designer in the store gave me research materials and helped me write a paper on jewelry as an art form. The following year I began a 2 year apprenticeship in jewelry design and fabrication. Then life happened. I transferred to another university, got married, traveled, etc., until a couple years later I found myself back in FL in need of a job and hopefully a new career.
I took a job with a family friend who dealt in art and estate jewelry. He really became a mentor to me and gave me an appreciation for the vintage and antique pieces of jewelry. He taught me how to evaluate pieces for authenticity and market value. When he saw how much I loved this part of the business he encouraged and helped me begin the GIA course work. I took all the classes correspondence through the mail and later online when it was offered. (At the time they were sending diamonds back and forth through the mail. I was so nervous I would lose one.) I was fortunate to be working in a jewelry store while taking the courses and would quiz myself with the diamonds in our inventory.
I had finished the diamonds courses and had just started the colored gemstones when my husband and I decided to move to Charlotte, NC. I completed the final 20 stone exam after about 2 years here. After 8 years at Perry’s I am still excited about the business, learning, and seeing new (old) things every day.
Brian's story: My career in the jewelry business began in 1980. At that time, I worked for a chain store and was promoted to manager and eventually district manager. To further my career as a Graduate Gemologist, I signed up for the Diamonds and Diamond Grading courses in 1988.
At that time, you could enroll in the GIA course via correspondence and GIA had a “doorstep program” wherein they would travel to cities throughout the US for students to complete their lab requirements. I completed my Diamonds and Diamond Grading course work and then completed my Diamond Grading Lab in Philadelphia, PA.
For a while, I worked as Jewelry Sales Representative traveling the country. I relocated a number of times, life got in the way and I put it off taking courses for a while.
After completing all of my required course work, I still needed my Colored Stone Grading and Gem Identification labs to gain my Graduate Gemologist degree. In 2000, I began working for Perry’s and completed by GIA requirements the following year. I received my Graduate Gemologist diploma in May 2001. 2015 marks 15 years employment for me, here at Perry’s.
Kathleen's story: My first exposure to GIA was in 1983 while working for my home town jeweler. The owner was the only GIA Gemologist in town and encouraged me to begin my Diamond Grading classes to enhance my diamond selling skills and assist him with Insurance Appraisals. I started taking my classes through distance education via the mail.
Ever since, I've worked for companies with and without GIA influence. Over the years, I started and stopped my studies, but have competed regular Gemological studies, Counter Sketching, Pearl Identification Lab, and Fracture Filling of Gemstones courses.
While traveling to both Raleigh, NC and New York City to complete my lab work, I completed a 40 hour course for Watch Valuations and Fundamentals through the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors in Pennsylvania. There, I had the opportunity to evaluate pocket watches from the 1700s and early 1800s.
In April 2013, I passed my 20 Stone Exam and received my Graduate Gemologist Certificate.
Marian's story: I started my "career" in the jewelry business in 1972 by joining a family-owned jewelry store (Schiffman's) in Greensboro, NC at the beginning of my first year in college. I stayed with the company for the next 6 years before taking a teaching position and moving away from the industry. In 2009, I decided to pursue a lifelong dream of obtaining my Graduate Gemologist diploma and at the same time was offered the chance to join the team of professionals at Perry's at SouthPark. I am presently in my final course of the GIA Distance Education program, Gem Identification.
Note: Marian passed the 20 Stone Exam and received her Graduate Gemologist Certificate in August 2013. Congratulations, Marian!
Holly's story: I use to love second hand shopping and soon learned there were bargains to be found at the local antique shows and flea markets. It was there, that I purchased my first important piece of jewelry that I still wear often. With the help of my family's jeweler, I got my first experience in the jewelry industry when I was 21, selling jewelry at a local store in South Miami, Florida.
Lea's story: I grew up in the Mid-West, but always had a keen interest in history, antiques, jewelry and auctions. I was not quite sure what to do with this passion for stones and auctions. While I was in college, I became friends with a jeweler, who was studying to be a psychologist. He suggested that I follow my heart and go to GIA. I took his advice and enrolled in the GIA residency program in New York City. The program took six months full time to complete. It was thrilling to do the residency program in New York, because 47th street (The Diamond District) was literally out our back door as well as all the auction houses’ jewelry viewings on weekends. As if that were not enough, you have access to some of the greatest museums and jewelry stores in the world. GIA has since moved to a different location within the city of New York.
Tom's story: My journey into the jewelry industry started out working in a 3rd generation family jewelry store. They instilled upon me the importance of having a Gemological degree and what it would do to help my career. I had a true passion to become a Master Jeweler and started working toward that goal in 1998. For four years I used all of my vacation time to attend lab classes in Chicago, Ann Arbor, and Atlanta and spent a thousand plus hours reading lessons, taking quizzes and grading box after box of gemstones until every stone was correctly graded and identified in order to complete all course work. All I can say is it was a hard journey but totally worth it in what it has done to help me be the best jeweler/master goldsmith that I can be.