Gemological Institute of America, Jewel of Carlsbad

February 11, 2020

GIA Carlsbad is located at 5345 Armada Drive Carlsbad, CA 92008.

Worldwide, the Carlsbad-based Gemological Institute of America, or GIA, is recognized by the jewelry industry as arguably the highest authority when setting standards on the grading and analysis of diamonds and colored gemstones. 

Visit GIA

Besides its acclaimed gemstone grading and education programs, the institute is also a cool place to visit (and even sits next door to that other famous attraction, Legoland).

The GIA museum’s currently hosts 16 exhibits including Bahia. This magnificent 426-pound rutilated quartz crystal sculpture is playfully referred to as ‘the world’s largest pendant’ and is one of the highlights of GIA’s collection, weighing nearly one million carats.

Zoltan David Jewelry Collection: Zoltan David’s skills as a master jewelry designer, master goldsmith, and master stone setter are at such an extraordinarily high level that it has to be seen to be believed. All his pieces are hand fabricated which means among other things, that there are no casting techniques employed. Visiting the museum will be worth your trip for this display alone. This is a rare chance to view fourteen of Zoltan David’s one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces in the GIA collection. 

Eyes of Brazil is a highlight of GIA’s newest exhibit, Riches in the Rocks, which features 16 large slices of agate geode all cut from a single 6-foot long boulder.

The Arrival of GIA

Originally established in Los Angeles, California in 1931, GIA later moved to nearby Santa Monica, eventually outgrew that location, and finally moved into its spectacular $39.4 million, 230,000-square-foot Carlsbad headquarters in 1997. 

Why Carlsbad?

When asked why GIA chose to move to Carlsbad, Stephen Morisseau, GIA Director of Corporate Communications said, “We came to Carlsbad because of its great reputation, the availability of sufficient space and the enthusiasm and great support from the Carlsbad city government – especially then-mayor Bud Lewis – and the business community. The great views from our campus overlooking the Carlsbad Flower Fields and the Pacific Ocean certainly helped, too.”

Grading diamonds in the GIA Carlsbad diamond grading lab.

GIA Gemstone Labs

GIA not only serves the gem and jewelry industry, but its services are open and available to individuals, too. Says Morisseau, “People from all over the world send their diamonds to GIA for grading and analysis – and you don’t have to be a jeweler or industry professional to do so.”  If you’re lucky enough to live in a city where GIA has a laboratory, as does Carlsbad, you can make an appointment to bring in your gemstone directly to GIA.

The importance and influence of GIA cannot be understated. When it comes to the grading and analysis of a gemstone’s quality and authenticity, industry experts would agree that a GIA Diamond Grading Report is the final word and is universally accepted.

A GIA report doesn’t give an appraised dollar value to a gemstone. Nonetheless, whether you want to sell or to purchase a gemstone, if it’s accompanied by a GIA Report, in many cases (not a claim made by GIA) it can significantly increase that gemstone’s value, sellability, and desirability. 

While renowned for its diamond grading expertise, GIA also receives a vast array of colored gemstones for identification.

GIA students in the CAD/CAM jewelry design classroom.


GIA was originally founded by Robert M. Shipley to provide students with an opportunity to learn about gemology within the United States. In fact, in 1937, GIA patented the first known gemological microscope that allowed jewelers the ability to examine the interior of gems. Since then, the institute has elevated the accreditation of genealogical education and even issued the first graduate diploma in Gemology.  GIA also authored the first diamond grading reports, which have since become a benchmark for the diamond industry.

Morisseau explains that GIA’s educational curriculum is “a wide variety of diploma and certificate programs in gemology and jewelry manufacturing arts. The gemology programs teach the skills to grade and identify gemstones. Jewelry manufacturing arts programs teach how best to design exquisite pieces, whether it is by hand or by using advanced computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) programs and the skills needed to become a bench jeweler – including setting gemstones, assembling, and repairing jewelry.”

The institute plans to award $2 million in scholarships this year. Applications for 2020 scholarships are available at and are due by March 31, 2020. GIA will accept applications for 2021 scholarships beginning in August 2020.

To learn more about GIA education visit:

The cutting-edge GIA Jewelry Design & Technology Program includes Zbrush (pictured), which allows jewelry designers to digitally sculpt their latest creation and create stone settings using GIA-developed digital brushes.

If the idea of becoming a gemologist, jewelry designer, or a bench jeweler (one who makes and/or repairs jewelry) intrigues you, call,  go online or visit the GIA to learn about classes and enrollment or you can attend the annual GIA Jewelry Career Fair and Open House. The next open house is October 16, 2020. 

The Institute said this event will have, “Something for everyone – lively panel discussions, career coaching, and recruiting for people new to the industry and professionals looking for a career change; classroom demonstrations for aspiring gemologists, jewelers, and jewelry designers; and unique museum exhibits for anyone captivated by the beauty of gems.”

Liddicoatite – a calcium-rich lithium tourmaline – was named in honor of Richard T. Liddicoat (March 2, 1917 – July 23, 2002), the second president of GIA who is often referred to as the “Father of Modern Gemology.”

Global Impact

Over its 88 years of offering classes, more than 365,000 professionals worldwide have received their education at GIA.

Local Impact

GIA is an important Carlsbad employer, employing over 850 people, as well as being an internationally recognized educator, typically serving about 200 students on campus at any given time. “The great location and Carlsbad’s reputation and quality of life make it easier for students to make the decision to study with us,” said Morisseau. “Whether they are studying for their Graduate Gemologist diploma – recognized as the industry’s highest professional credential – or learning design and jewelry manufacturing, GIA in Carlsbad is a premier destination.”


GIA is an active member of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce and is proud Morisseau says to have, “Great support from the community, and we give back. Our GemKids program integrates well with the local school’s Earth Sciences curriculum.”

Each year, GIA partners with different non-profit organizations. “Last year,” said Morisseau, “we supported the Community Resource Center (CRC) of San Diego North County through a donation drive. GIA also sponsors the Carlsbad Tip Top Leprechaun Dash & Bash – last year marked the ninth year in a row and the second year in a row where we were the largest corporate team to participate in the walk/run.”

The institute offers guided and self-guided tours by appointment only. To schedule a tour, visit or call 760-603-4116. GIA Carlsbad is located at 5345 Armada Drive Carlsbad, CA 92008.

GIA Executive Vice President and Chief Laboratory and Research Officer Tom Moses and President and CEO Susan Jacques.