Diamonds are a kid’s best friend

2012-04-12 09:10

Njabulo Maphanga (11) is a self-confessed fan of diamonds.

But the youngster had never touched a gemstone before he attended the Junior Gemologist Programme held at Wits yesterday.

“I enjoyed seeing the gemstones because I’m a huge fan of diamonds. I draw them sometimes. I like that they are shiny and have many colours,” said the pupil from P.S. Tsosane Primary School in Johannesburg.

The programme, which was hosted internationally for the first time, was organised by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and introduced the 10- to 15-year-old pupils from P.S. Tsosane to the basics of gemology, the study of natural and synthetic gemstones.

“We aim to expose young people to the field of gemology,” said GIA president and CEO, Donna Baker.

“They may choose careers in gemology or they may purchase gemstones, so it’s important to understand gems,” she said.

The youngsters were informed about the science of gemology, which incorporates the fields of geology and mineralogy, during an hour-long lecture by the GIA product manager Andy Lucas, before getting an opportunity to handle real gems including quartz, fluorite, corundum and calcite.

Not having known about gemology previously, the programme has inspired Maphanga to want to venture into the field. “I now want to be a gemologist. I wanted to be a graphic designer before because I’m good at design. This is my first time learning about diamonds.”

A classmate, 13-year-old Tracy Nkosi, was also considering a career in the field after the programme.

“I enjoyed my day. I learned so much about gemology and geology. I’m interested in geology because it’s the subject I understood most,” she said. Nkosi had previously wanted to be an artist.

Also in attendance was Banyana Moloisane, the chief diamond inspector at the South African Diamonds and Precious Metals Regulator.

“This was an opportunity for the young kids. They need to be exposed – most think it’s only certain people, especially white people, who can be exposed (to such fields),” she said.

Training in the field can be costly, with some programmes costing as much as R70 000.

Baker, however, says the field is not elitist.

“People from all walks of life wear ... and celebrate important moments in their lives through jewellery.

Gemology is a science and the science is not elitist. Our curriculum is expensive, but there are funds available to study,” she said, referring to the grants offered by the institute.

Baker says she hopes demand for the programme, which is hosted free of charge by the non-profit, grows.

“We would love to have as many primary schools interested in this programme participate. It’s a great programme that’s part of the curriculum.”

Citing a reason for joining the industry, Moloisane said: “The most exciting thing about this industry is that you see different things every day. It’s always a challenge.”

The GIA also offers programmes in the US and Botswana.

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