How Technology Revolutionized the Jewelry Industry

Technological innovations over the past century have changed almost every product you sell. How these changes came about, and their impact on jewelers, is the subject of this, our third article in a special series looking back over the 20th century. Continuing his father’s interests, Robert Shipley Jr. (opposite page) helped develop and design identification equipment for the gem trade. Here, in a photo from the late 1930s, he is seen using one of the first refractometers. At his right is one of his first dark-field illuminated microscopes. In 1900, the typical jewelry store had no binocular microscopes or devices for grading diamonds. Synthetic gemstones and gem treatments were unheard of, and watch technology meant mechanical movements, which provided bread-and-butter repair work. It was a simple era, technologically speaking, but that was about to change. The synthetic ruby–th

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