SCHOLARLY TREASURE: THE ROLE OF GEMS IN A UNIVERSITY SETTING
Gemology, the science of gem materials, investigates the properties which make gems desirable and uses (usually) non-destructive technique in their identification and characterization. At its heart a forensic science, gemology encompasses a range of skills depending on the setting, from a simple triplet loupe used in the field, to the advanced instrumentation used in gemological laboratories (examples: micro-tomography, Raman, FTIR, EDXRF and UV-Vis spectroscopy). An exciting area of expertise found at both ends of that range is the study of inclusions; understanding these microscopic clues can tell us much about the gems themselves, including their identity, origin and possible treatment, making polished gems veritable windows into geologic processes.
Gems are ideally suited for use as teaching models, for attracting scholarship through research activities, and for educating the public through community outreach. Museum displays, academic programs and non-credit course offerings related to gems may inspire career paths and academic pursuits not previously considered, while also providing enrichment to the overall academic experience.