JCK’s 150th: GIA President and CEO Susan M. Jacques Looks Back on Gemology’s Big Moments

JCK magazine is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year! To commemorate that milestone, we’re talking to 150 veteran jewelry professionals in 2019 for a feature series meant to distill the voices of some of the industry’s most enduring and successful professionals.

We can’t print every interview in its entirety in the magazine—so we’ve been posting full interviews here on JCKonline every Thursday.

This week we have an interview with Susan M. Jacques, president and CEO of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), who dishes on some of the big changes and developments in gemstones and jewelry that have occurred during her almost 40 years in the industry.

JCK: How long have you been in the jewelry industry, and how has it changed since you began?

Susan M. Jacques: I’ve been in the jewelry industry for four decades, beginning as a junior typist at Scottish Jewellers in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, before earning my graduate gemologist diploma in residence at GIA in Santa Monica!

The industry has changed significantly over the past 40 years, but the fundamentals remain the same: trust, love, passion, and emotion. Ultimately, we all help consumers to celebrate the most significant milestones in their lives and to have confidence in the products that they purchase for these very special moments.

It’s a fascinating and ever-changing industry fueled by the passion of its participants, with a bright future ahead! Some of the most apparent changes incorporate the use of technology, which has become a huge part of all sectors in the global gem and jewelry supply chain.

Transparency is replacing the opacity of the jewelry business; blockchain may bring the necessary traceability for treasured purchases by consumers. Laboratory-grown diamonds are now a commercially viable product for consumers.

New scientific instrumentation assists with the identification of treatments and synthesis of gems. Branding of jewelry and gemstones has become a strong and sustainable trend, and diamond grading reports enable the global trading of diamonds online, both B2B and B2C, in all sizes and qualities.

Exciting new deposits of known gem materials have been discovered all over the world. New and exciting gems have also been discovered and brought to market, such as tanzanite, tsavorite, Paraíba tourmaline, and liddicoatite tourmaline, to name a few.

There are great opportunities with new emerging middle classes around the world wanting to own gems and jewelry. Sustainability and limiting environmental impact is important to consumers and producers. All of these changes help ensure that all participants in the supply chain participate, benefit, and succeed in a win-win ecosystem.

What’s been your experience with JCK magazine?

I’ve been a fan of JCK magazine for decades. Long before it was available online, I would read it monthly when it arrived at Borsheims [in the early 1980s]. As a new sales associate, I was eager to learn everything I could about the trade, and JCK was one of the best ways to do that.

It always contained a wealth of information, especially for retailers. It highlighted industry trends, focused on upcoming designers and successful retailers, educated us about what was happening in the gem and jewelry trade, helped with training our staff on pertinent issues, and kept us all informed and educated about the changes occurring in the industry.

Over the years, the magazine has remained relevant through the stories and articles that it offers, corresponding to the times. And now with online and mobile accessibility, it’s readily available to all. As Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the great engine of personal development.”

Top: Susan M. Jacques (photo courtesy of GIA)

Catch up on JCK’s 150th interviews:

Marie Helene Morrow, president of Reinhold Jewelers
Jenny Luker, U.S. president of Platinum Guild International
Beth Gerstein, co-CEO of Brilliant Earth
Russell Shor, GIA senior industry analyst
Walter McTeigue, cofounder of McTeigue & McClelland
Caryl Capeci, president of Hearts On Fire
Eddie LeVian, CEO of Le Vian
Peggy Jo Donahue, freelance writer and former JCK editor-in-chief
Rebecca Moskal, jewelry marketing veteran

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JCK Magazine Editor