The seed of an idea planted in the late 1980s has finally come into bloom. Smack in the middle of acres of flower fields, with a view to the Pacific Ocean in front and of the mountains behind, the Gemological Institute of America is digging its roots into Carlsbad, Cal., a seaside community north of San Diego.
For the first time in its history, all of GIA’s headquarters will be housed un-der one roof, a fact that some staffers refer to jokingly as “reunification.” The new residence for these unified forces is a 230,000-sq.-ft. magnum opus to gemology – a building roughly twice the size of GIA’s previous combined buildings in Santa Monica, Cal., built at a cost of $39.4 million.
GIA President Bill Boyajian is the dynamic force behind the move from Santa Monica. Boyajian is understandably sensitive to criticism from some in the industry that the building is a shrine to him. “This is not a monument to Bill Boyajian,” he says. “This is the vision of the industry. Carlsbad will simply help people see the vision more clearly.”
This project will satisfy many needs, he says. “A decade ago, we had to ask ourselves how we could continue to grow,” he says. “It was evident we needed to look for an area that would allow unimpeded growth. What came out of that fundamental question was ‘Carlsbad.’”
Effect on the industry
The relocation places GIA on a springboard to the future. Boyajian holds tenaciously to the notion that GIA’s mission is “to serve the public trust and professionalize the trade.” He and others at GIA are convinced the move to Carlsbad is a way of “raising all of the boats.” There will be some immediate and long-lasting impacts.
For students, these include:
Smaller class sizes but more students on campus.
The development of new, advanced gemological training and a host of new gem and jewelry classes.
Increased security, safety and environmental health.
An environment more conducive to studying.
A state-of-the-art, cataloged, database-searchable gemological library.
Close proximity and increased interaction with the Gem Instruments, library and laboratory departments.
Beach within walking distance.
More affordable housing.
For laboratory customers:
More diamond graders to meet growing demand.
Increased efficiency through digital communication, digital facet diagram plotting and storing, and digital clarity characteristics plotting, all printed on GIA Diamond Grading and Colored Diamond Grading Reports.
Increased efficiency in the take-in and shipping process.
Growing inventory of sophisticated instruments and equipment in the laboratory and research departments.
For GIA Gem Instrument and GIA Bookstore customers:
Instruments and books can be purchased together – the bookstore is now part of the Gem Instruments division.
Closer interaction and synergy among teachers, students, academicians and Gem Instruments personnel. This should help GIA to develop practical instrumentation for everyday use.
Increased use of computerized or sophisticated technology to develop products that make the day-to-day job of jewelers and gemologists easier and more accurate.
New personnel with extensive backgrounds in the jewelry industry are better suited to understand the needs of the average jeweler.
Headaches and challenges
Boyajian concedes the move itself was fraught with challenges. “You cannot simply move a staff of 300 employees without causing major disruptions. A move of 100 miles like this one uproots families and causes headaches,” he says.
GIA lost 25%-30% of its employees because of the move. Many who didn’t want to move negotiated arrangements to work for GIA at a distance. Others simply left GIA. In most cases, those positions have been filled.
Many observers expressed concern about how GIA would pay for the new campus. But the sale of the Santa Monica campus occurred fortuitously, and together with cash from savings, GIA put $15 million toward the cost of the new facility. The silver lining is that the transactions took place at a time when real estate costs in Carlsbad were at an all-time low.
The remaining $24.4 million was financed through a bond issue for non-profit organizations – GIA had to keep a certain portion of funds in liquid assets. Because GIA holds an option to buy 12 more acres of adjacent land, liquid funds are essential for that eventuality.
Major donations from such big industry names as Mouawad, Mikimoto, Cartier International, Jewelers Mutual and many others also are ensuring the dream will become a reality. In fact, the Mouawad donation ($6.8 million) – made by Fred, Alain and Pascal Mouawad to honor their father, Robert – means the facility is being named The Robert Mouawad Campus of the Gemological Institute of America. (See related story on page 98.)
Great place to live at work
Boyajian and a host of other key leaders at the institute say their new “digs” certainly will help to meet the challenges that lie ahead. From course development, teaching facilities, instructor training, gem instruments, research, library, diamond grading lab and gem identification through less gemological pursuits such as state-of-the-art storage and handling of course material, Carlsbad has made the job easier. Staffers say it’s a much more exciting job also. This is important, if only for the simple reason that happy, stimulated employees tend to be more productive. Recalls Boyajian, “One person from our lab came up to me recently and said ‘Two years ago I wanted to punch you in the nose when you announced our move to Carlsbad. Now I would like to hug you.’” While the new facilities are sure to be perceived as a working monument to gemology, GIA seemingly has placed great emphasis on the comfort, security and general well-being of its employees. Not only has their work space doubled, GIA encouraged employees to design their own work spaces to maximize efficiency. Other details were not overlooked either. For instance, Gary Hill, director of facilities, included such niceties as moveable walls (to ensure flexibility for growth) and European-style air conditioning systems to prevent “sick building syndrome.”
Hill points proudly to the installation of diffused lighting throughout the building to mimic daylight in darker areas and to minimize “hot spots” on computer screens. Not that natural light is in any short supply; an abundance of windows bathes the interior in natural light much of the time, a fact that Hill says should save on utilities. “Our feeling is that everyone has a right to a view,” he says. As such, many of the windows showcase spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, while others offer a vista along the coast to a mountain range to the south.
Inside and out, it’s hard to avoid noticing the flowers. Seasonal ranunculus or poinsettias blow gently in the breeze, turning the campus into a sort of gemological island surrounded by a riot of blooms. The flora is part of the remaining Ecke flower farm, from which GIA acquired the land.
“’Carlsbad, a great place to live at work,’ has become a sort of motto,” says Boyajian. The adage seems to be holding true. Along with Boyajian, key personnel at GIA share the enthusiasm. “What’s not to like?” quipped a Gem Identification staffer.
What is abundantly clear is that GIA staffers share Boyajian’s vision, an apparent commonality and perspective of the job ahead. Here is what some of the key players have to say:
DONA DIRLAM Director of the Liddicoat Library & Information Center
Often people don’t realize the positive role the library plays in educating retailers, manufacturers and consumers. We answer dozens of calls each day from people seeking information. It is not uncommon, for instance, to walk a consumer through the steps that will lead them to buy fine jewelry and have a positive experience doing so. That tradition of assisting the trade will continue at Carlsbad.
For now, my main objective and vision is to get the library in its place. This is a goal we have been working toward ever since we acquired the Sinkankas library in 1988. We are already cataloging the rare book collection and have finished an on-line public access catalog for the circulating book collection. This catalog is searchable by title, author, subject matter and key words. All of the information that does not fall under copyright regulations will be available. What’s more, we will also have much more access to information via the Internet.
All of this would not have been possible without the dedicated staff of gemology and jewelry reference librarians and the technical service librarians.
Where we are now is at the heart of the institute – all other departments radiate from us. In this way, we are linked to and support GIA Gem Instruments, GIA GTL, GIA Research. GIA Automated Retail Management Systems, course development, Gems and Gemology magazine, the Alumni Fund Development and the administration.
The space – which is 21/2 times our space at the Santa Monica campus – allows us to continue another aspect of our mission: developing the archive of the jewelry industry.
SALLY EHMKE Director of West Coast Pperations GIA Gem Trade Laboratory
Since October 1994, our primary goals have been to expand our capacity and improve our customer service. Our experienced team worked full-time on the project, along with industry experts in management, computer technology and organizational change. After two years of researching, designing and building this system we call Horizon, we took our big-gest step technologically and implemen-ted our state-of-the-art operations and management network.
One of the most dramatic advances of the Horizon system is our ability to capture, plot and store shape and facet diagrams as well as clarity characteristic symbols. This system provides superior information capabilities, allowing us to have expanded and improved communications with our clients.
The new Horizon system has already significantly increased the volume of items GIA GTL is capable of servicing, due to digital communications and the capability to expand services. Such things as take-in and shipping will greatly speed up too, and there will be a computer record.
In concert with the technological reengineering came expansion of GIA GTL facilities in California and New York City.
BROOK ELLIS Vice President, Education
Our main objective is having a practical approach to gemology and education and focusing on what the trade needs. We’ve targeted the approach to our courses and teaching toward a more real-world context. It isn’t that we’re watering down the courses, rather we’re focusing the courses on what the real world needs. For example, we have talked about having a “Sales Associate” course that would emphasize knowledge that only mass marketers might need to improve their business.
We also have talked about having really advanced “super gemologist” or jewelry programs, but these programs are only in the development stages.
On the teaching side, we feel it is important to keep teachers interested in their jobs. We also want people who have already had at least three years in the trade and with university degrees. One of the complaints we get is that some graduating gemologists think they know it all. What’s true is they may not have enough information about how gemology applies in the real world. So we are thinking about apprenticeship programs as well. And we must never forget many of these plans go for our overseas branches also. GIA has an educational presence in seven countries, and there are plans to develop ties with an additional number of international markets starting in 1998.
GARY HILL Director of Facilities
This project was only a dream back in October 1986 when I was offered the job to research possible sites and then be involved in the planning process. I never thought we would have come this far. I think things are far, far better than we imagined! Remember, we used to be in an industrial park rather than a first-class facility like this one.
My main challenge as director of facilities was to get GIA to hold still long enough to get the building built. Now that all is in place, we will be able to change a lot more easily than we did in Santa Monica. All along the construction process, we kept one thing in mind: what is the user going to feel or need if we do this or that? Much still remains to be done. We have 18 acres of land now and an option for 12 more acres that we’ll need if we go ahead with plans for an auditorium and dining facility.
RICHARD T. LIDDICOAT GIA Chairman
In a way, Carlsbad epitomizes the acceptance of GIA as an industry asset. No other industry that I know of has a place like GIA. If I look back in time, I see an enormous change from when we were a tiny organization with a few people, to one with a number of overseas branches and hundreds of employees. So Carlsbad will never be the only place from which we operate. We have to look at ourselves in a more global manner. We need to in order to keep pace with different demands and changing demographics.
GIA has gone through a lot, like in the 1980s when there was a collapse of the large diamond industry, and we had to drop back so much. But we have come back, stronger than ever. Even though the industry has gone through its share of paroxysms, the demand for knowledge has continued to exist and grow. Carlsbad is at the peak of this renaissance.
JIM LITTMAN Director of development
We can only see the new campus as increasing our role in the industry and offering unique participation in fund development. It is hard not to be excited because success breeds success.
This campus will give us access to new people, places and levels of interest. Just as an example, our move has opened new opportunities of support from individuals in the local area. We have formed a new group called the Gem & Jewelry Society of San Diego that works on a plan to “adopt” out-of-town students. Basically, our message to the jewelry community all around the United States is that we are going to better them or their bottom line with all the services and education we provide. As it is, only a few jewelers don’t have contact with GIA. Now we will open our doors to even more.
VINCE MANSON Director of Strategic Planning
Within each department there is the realization of the new plateau we stepped up to. In the past, we squeezed together as space allowed; here the campus is designed to facilitate human interaction, safety and comfort. When I think of the building, I look first at the core of the whole facility: the library. We want to keep adding to it and disseminating information more effectively. In fact, all of the components of the building have a lot more to offer scholars, scientists and retailers. I see it as a living, breathing, gemstone environment. My favorite spot in the building, and there are many contenders, is close to the entrance where a fabulous sculpture called “Bahia” by Glenn Lehrer and Lawrence Stoller hangs five feet below the ceiling. At that angle, the sun hits it and casts a 200-foot spectrum that is just incredible. The front door anchors the building in a way in which you can imagine the various ways in which gemstones form. From there you see the ocean and can visualize the hydrous marine environment or the mountains that underscore the metamorphic formations. And the magnetic, volcanic environment is collected in all of this.
JIM SHIGLEY Director of Research
There are many challenges as we enter the 21st century. Our main objective has always been to understand what the industry is concerned with. For example, we are looking at mass-screening techniques to determine criteria for gemstone identification. Another challenge, and one we will certainly face, is the understanding of visual relationships – that is, how an instrument measures or “sees” a gemstone and how that compares with the way a person sees it. One example is the effect of cut on a gemstone. To answer that question, we’re developing software for graphics modeling to qualify the factors that affect diamond appearance and analyze them systematically.
Color grading is another important subject. How do we establish terminology and a grading system that has a basic science foundation and yet is practical? Beyond that, it will be important in the next century to be able to defend the concept of an untreated natural gemstone.
We feel our new space and the addition to our staff of two new research scientists with backgrounds in material science and inorganic chemistry will help us in all of these quests.
Finally, we have been able to add to our instrumentation and design our space in a way that better houses the equipment and increases our efficiency.
HARRY STUBBERT Vice president of sales GIA Gem Instruments
GIA has brought all its products together so we now have the Bookstore under the Gem Instruments umbrella. This is a continuation of our evolution as a company dedicated to service.
We have certainly expanded and worked to keep up with new technology, and at Carlsbad, we have restated our foundation of value in building a well-engineered product. I think of our cornerstone product, the microscope, which has evolved into a new all-voltage model so it can travel or be sold overseas.
Our challenge is to come up with simple and effective ways to help our customers. One of the great benefits that Carlsbad offers is in being so close to the buyers and users of gemological equipment to have constant feedback and synergy from them. We interact with educators, customers and gemstone experts on what customer needs really are. This will keep us and our expansion in research and development at an accelerated pace.