What It Means to be a Graduate Gemologist

Perry's is proud to have ten GIA Graduate Gemologists on staff, along with several 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.


    • 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, equipment costs, 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:

  • Mike Hanes
  • Gene Balius
  • Anas Abedrabouh
  • Tamrah Bordini
  • Farjia Fulton
  • Marian Holt
  • Julie Lopett
  • Jennifer MacLeod
  • Lea Koonce Ogunduran
  • Hadley Perry Pacheco
  • Paige Shearin
  • Carolyne Thompson
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


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.


Farjia Fulton, GG, Administration

  • Graduate Gemologist, GIA

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.

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


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

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.

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

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