Edward J. Gübelin Dies at 91

Dr. Edward (Eduard) J. Gübelin, a leader in the international gemological movement since the 1930s, died March 14, two days before his birthday, in his sleep at a hospital where he was recuperating from heart surgery, in Lucerne, Switzerland, his home. He was 91.

Gübelin was an internationally renowned researcher, author, and lecturer in gemology, and his passing elicited many tributes.

The Gemological Institute of America—where he was an early student, graduate, lifelong supporter, contributor, and its first Research Member (1948)—planned a May 21 memorial service at GIA’s Carlsbad, Calif., headquarters; a new scholarship in his name; and establishment of the Edward Gübelin Research Fund.

The Gübelin Gem Lab in Lucerne, the family business started by his father that Gübelin and his brother Walter later led, praised him as the internationally recognized authority on gemstone inclusions. “He combined his knowledge of mineralogy and the jewelry business with his passion and admiration for gemstones to become one of the founders of modern gemology and the father of [gem] origin determination—for which the Gübelin Gem Lab today is most renowned,” said its obituary. “He helped advance the science of gemology countless times, with his investigation and classification of a wide spectrum of gem materials, excursions to mining locations, and innovative work on gemstone inclusions.”

The International Colored Gemstone Association, whose director Edward Boehm is Gübelin’s grandson, praised him as “one of the forefathers of modern gemology.” Pala International, the California gem company, called him “one of our brightest pioneers in gemology” and “one of the industry’s true gentlemen.” Gemologist Richard W. Hughes, of the American Gem Trade Association, assisted Gübelin in compiling a bibliography of his writings. On Pala’s Web site, Hughes called Gübelin a “Renaissance man … author, artist, filmmaker, traveler, poet,” whose zest for life “always came through in his writings.” He added that as the “father of modern gemology … we are all his children.”

Gübelin is most famous for his pioneering, innovative work in gemstone inclusions and photomicrography—taking pictures of gem- identifying inclusions through a microscope. However, he was also involved in inventing and developing several useful gemological instruments, and he helped found several gemological organizations, including ICA; the International Gemological Conference; the Swiss Gemological Association; and in 2003, the Association for Research and Identification of Precious Stones.

Gübelin authored several books and hundreds of articles and papers for gemological and scientific publications, trade magazines, and newspapers. He wrote 57 articles for GIA’s Gems & Gemology alone, starting in 1940. (Its spring 2003 issue was dedicated to Gübelin’s 60-plus years of gemological accomplishments.) Among his best-known books are Internal World of Gemstones: Documents from Space and Time (1974) and Photoatlas of Inclusions in Gemstones (1986), co-authored with gemologist John Koivula (volume 2 will be published this year). Following Gübelin’s death, Koivula called him “a truly remarkable man” whose “always polite and professional” public demeanor was balanced by “his fun-loving side and wonderful sense of humor.”

Gübelin, who held honorary memberships in almost every gemological association in the world, received numerous awards. One of the last was induction into GIA’s League of Honor in 2003, in recognition of a fund he set up for G&G to support its Most Valuable Article Award, named in his honor in 1997.

Gübelin was born in Lucerne in 1913. He studied at the Zurich and Vienna Universities, earning a Ph.D. in mineralogy in 1938. He then traveled to the United States, where he was one of the first resident students of the young GIA and worked with early leaders in the gemological movement. He earned GIA’s Certified Gemologist title in 1939.

After returning to the family business, Gübelin began his work on gemstone inclusions. He retired from the Gübelin Gem Lab in 1976 but remained closely associated with it and continued to lecture at industry conferences and events around the globe.

Gübelin and his wife have five daughters, one of whom lives in the United States, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.