What It Means To Be A Graduate Gemologist

What It Means To Be A Graduate Gemologist


Perry's is proud to have eight GIA Graduate Gemologists on staff, along with seven other employees currently enrolled in GIA classes.


What does this mean?

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.

Our GIA Accredited Staff


    • Diamond Essentials
    • Diamonds & Diamond Grading
    • Colored Stone Essentials
    • Colored Stones
    • Gem Identification

Lab Classes:

    • Diamond Grading Lab
    • Colored Stone Grading Lab
    • Gem Identification Lab


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 


Gene Balius, Sales and Client Services

  • Diamonds and Diamond Grading, GIA
  • Colored Stones, GIA
  • Traveling Gem ID course, GIA
  • Tag Heuer Level 1 Certification
  • IWC Timepieces Certification
  • Years in Jewelry Industry - 35



Janet Bazzone, GG, Buyer, Appraiser

  • Graduate Gemologist, GIA
  • Graduate Pearls, GIA
  • Gem Cutting Course
  • World of Gems Conference, 2012
  • Attended Antique Jewelry and Art Conference ("Jewelry Camp"), 2012
  • Gemworld International “Pearl Treatment & Pricing,” 2013
  • Visited Cape Town Diamond Museum, Cape Town, South Africa, 2013
  • Toured Afrogem Jewelry Manufacturing Facility, Cape Town, South Africa, 2013
  • Gemworld International "Emerald Treatments and Pricing", 2014
  • Gemworld Internationa "Corundum Treatments and Pricing", 2012
  • The Antique Jewelry and Art Conference  -“Jewelry Camp Atlanta” April 20, 2015
  • Enrolled in American Numismatic Association's School of Numismatics Diploma Program
  • American Numismatic Association Member (ANA)
  • Ancient Coin Collectors Guild
  • Charlotte Coin Club
  • U.S. Faceters Guild
  • GIA Alumni Association
  • Years in Jewelry Industry - 13

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 Bordini, Gemologist, Buyer, Appraiser

  • Gemologist, GIA
  • 2 Year Design and Fabrication Apprenticeship
  • Attended Jewelry Camp 2012
  • The Antique Jewelry and Art Conference  -“Jewelry Camp Atlanta” April 20, 2015
  • GIA Alumni Association
  • Specialization in mid-19th to mid-20th century jewelry
  • Years in Jewelry Industry - 17

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.



Virginia Carley, Sales and Client Services

  • Diamond Essentials, GIA



Brian Filer, GG, Store Manager, Buyer, Appraiser

  • Graduate Gemologist, GIA
  • Fundamentals of Watches for Valuation, National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC)
  • National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors Member (NAWCC)
  • GIA Alumni Association
  • Years in Jewelry Industry – 35

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. 



 Farjia Fulton, Graduate Diamonds, Administration

  • Graduate Diamonds, GIA
  • Currently enrolled in Colored Stones Essentials, GIA



Kathleen Gold, GG, Buyer, Appraiser

  • Graduate Gemologist, GIA
  • Counter Sketching, GIA
  • Pearl Identification Lab, GIA
  • Fracture Filling of Gemstones, GIA
  • Fundamentals of Watches for Valuation, NAWCC
  • National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors Member (NAWCC)
  • GIA Alumni Association
  • Years in Jewelry Industry – 32

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 B. Holt, GG, Administration

  • Diamond Grading Lab, GIA
  • Colored Stone Grading Lab, GIA
  • Gem Identification Lab, GIA
  • GIA Courses Completed: Diamond Essentials; Diamonds & Diamond Grading; Colored Stone Essentials; Colored Stones
  • GIA Alumni Association
  • Years in Jewelry Industry – 12

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!



Heather Johnson, Sales and Client Services

  • Colored Stones Essentials, GIA
  • Diamond Essentials, GIA



Julie Lopett, Graduate Diamonds, Special Events & Auction Coordinator

  • Graduate Diamonds, GIA



Jennifer MacLeod, GG, Buyer, Appraiser

  • Graduate Gemologist, GIA
  • Pearls Graduate, GIA
  • Currently enrolled in Continuing Education courses with GIA
  • National Association of Jewelry Appraisers Member
  • American Society of Jewelry Historians Member
  • Society of Jewellery Historians (UK), member
  • Association for the Study of Jewelry and Related Arts Member
  • Degree in Geology from University of South Alabama
  • Jewelry Repair, Stewart’s International School for Jewelers
  • Diamond Setting, Stewart’s International School for Jewelers
  • World of Gems Conference October 2012, Chicago, IL
  • Gemworld International, "Corundum Treatments and Pricing", 2012
  • Gemworld International, "Pearl Treatments and Pricing", 2013
  • Gemworld International, "Emerald Treatments and Pricing", 2014
  • The Antique Jewelry and Art Conference  -“Jewelry Camp Atlanta” April 20, 2015
  • Attended Jewelry Camp, 2012
  • Currently enrolled in the FGA program with GEM-A (Gemmological Association of Great Britain)
  • GIA Alumni Association
  • Years in Jewelry Industry – 20



Holly Nester, GG, Buyer

  • Graduate Gemologist, GIA
  • "Detecting Fracture Filled Diamonds," "Advanced Fine Jewelry Sales," "Beyond the 4Cs," Diamond Promotional Service, DeBeers
  • "Focus on Pearls," "Advanced Gemology," "Diamond Cut Grading," "Detecting Synthetic Diamonds," GIA
  • Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice course (USPAP)
  • Farnsworth-Munsell 100 Hue color vision test 2/2/96
  • University of Maryland University College, Professional Development Antique Period Jewelry
  • Previously worked for Aaron Faber and Fred Leighton
  • GIA Alumni Association
  • Years in the Jewelry Business - 32

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. 

Although my formal studies were in a different field, my passion for bargain-hunting and jewelry shopping never diminished. When my father, who manufactured industrial diamond tools, passed away, he had left a collection of gem quality diamonds that he had “invested” in.
In 1983, I opted to seek out a formal education with the Gemological Institute of America, first concentrating solely on diamonds, in order to handle my family’s newly discovered “investments.”  I learned enough to start selling the gems to friends, associates, and acquaintances.
Life and studies took me far away from the world of jewelry until 1989 when I moved back home and dove back into my gemological studies. After flying all over the country taking courses and exams with the GIA, I learned to trust my gut instinct and go with my first impressions; a lesson I am still trying to keep in mind every day.
In 1991, I went on to open my own antique and jewelry store in Coconut Grove, Florida, called Heather's Neste and completed my Graduate Gemologist degree in 1994. I  set out to master the art of jewelry appraising taking courses with the NAJA, ASA and ISA, 3 out of the 5 major appraisal organizations.  Finally, turning my company in Heather's Neste Antiques and Appraisals which operated until I moved to NC in 2008.



Lea Koonce Ogundiran, GG, Buyer, Appraiser

  • Graduate Gemologist, GIA
  • Attended a special workshop on High Temperature/High Pressure Diamonds given by DeBeers in Maiden Head, England
  • Attended Jewelry Camp
  • American Society of Jewelry Historians, member
  • Society of Jewellery Historians (UK), member
  • Previously worked for Tiffany & Co. and Harry Winston
  • Jewelry Specialist and Assistant Vice President for Christie's Auction House
  • Licensed Auctioneer, State of North Carolina
  • Featured on Antiques Road Show, PBS
  • The Antique Jewelry and Art Conference  -“Jewelry Camp Atlanta” April 20, 2015 
  • Attended 2013 Gold Conference hosted by Initiatives in Art and Culture
  • GIA Alumni Association
  • Years in Jewelry Industry – 17

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.



Thomas Organ, GG, Custom Design and Repair

  • Graduate Gemologist, GIA
  • Graduate Pearls, GIA
  • Accredited Jewelry Professional, GIA
  • Stewarts International School for Jewelers 1999
  • GRS Training Center for Hand Engraving and Stone Setting 2012
  • MJSA Custom Jeweler Member
  • 2014 "Buyers' Choice" Award Winner, CASE Awards, Jewelers of America
  • GIA Alumni Association
  • Years in Jewelry Industry – 16

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.


 Hadley Perry Pacheco, Graduate Diamonds, Vice President and General Counsel

  • Diamonds Graduate, GIA
  • Enrolled in Colored Stones course
  • National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors Member (NAWCC)
  • Women’s Jewelry Association Member
  • Antique Jewelry and Art Conference ("Jewelry Camp") attendee, 2011, 2012
  • GIA Alumni Association
  • Years In Jewelry Industry – 5
Sherry Shifley, Administration
  • Graduate Diamonds, GIA
  • Certified Senior Sales Professional, Jewelers of America
  • Jeweler's Bench Comprehensive, 2014
  • 2014 "Buyers' Choice" Award Winner, CASE Awards, Jewelers of America
  • Kate Wolf Wax Carving Workshop
  • GIA Alumni Association
  • Years In Jewelry Industry - 7