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Capturing Brilliance: Reflections on the 2024 Scottish Gemmological Association Conference

Updated: May 19

Having had the privilege of being the official photographer for the Scottish Gemmological Association (SGA) Conference for six years, the 2024 event, recently concluded, was yet another remarkable chapter in this fascinating journey. The annual conference, held at the Cumbernauld Westerwood Spa and Golf Resort in Glasgow, gathered gemmologists, jewellers, and enthusiasts from across the globe, each year offering unique insights and updates on the world of gemmology.

This year, like every other, the conference kicked off with a warm welcome from Andrew Fellows, the Chairman of the SGA, setting a friendly tone for the newcomers and a familiar warmth for returning delegates. As a photographer who has grown alongside this event, capturing the essence of these initial moments has become a treasured ritual.

Andrew Fellows, Chairman of the Scottish Gemmological Association Conference

The 2024 conference program was robust, featuring a line up of eminent speakers who delved into a wide range of topics:

Dr. Claudio C. Milisenda, director of the DSEF German Gem Lab, has an illustrious career in gemmology, contributing to numerous scholarly articles and serving as an instructor for DGemG Gemmology Diploma Courses. His talk explored his ground breaking research in gemstone provenance, combining geology and geochemistry to enhance gemstone certification and traceability.

Fei Liu Celebrated jewellery designer, blends East and West in his creations, earning him international recognition and numerous design awards. In his talk, he discussed the innovative techniques and inspirations behind his award-winning pieces, highlighting his journey from an art-loving youth to a renowned designer.

Dr Sona Tajiryan a historian at GIA, focuses on the global trade of gems by Armenian merchants in the early modern period. Her presentation delved into her extensive research on the pearl trade and her recent field studies, providing insights into historical gem trading networks and their implications today.

Dr. Dominic Mok With over four decades in gemmology, founder of AGIL, shared his extensive knowledge in gemstone testing, particularly in Jadeite Jade. His session covered the evolution of gem testing techniques and how these advancements have shaped the industry.

Rui Galopim de Carvalho, a gem education consultant, has dedicated 30 years to studying gem materials and their history. His talk offered an engaging overview of gemmological terms and significant historical gems, enriched by his experiences as an educator and communicator.

David Fisher, Principal Scientist at De Beers, has led pivotal research in diamond treatments and synthetics. His presentation outlined the technological advances in diamond verification, discussing the impact of these developments on consumer trust and industry standards.

Dr. Dora Thornton, curator and scholar, shared her expertise on Renaissance art and its collectors. Her talk focussed on her curatorial work at the British Museum and her research on the intersection of art history and gemmology, particularly within Renaissance contexts.

Sarah Caldwell Steele, Expert gemmologist discussed the classification and significance of black gemstones in archaeology and gemmology. Her talk emphasized the need for a refined approach to jet and related materials, based on her innovative research in gem-quality hydrocarbons.

Charles Carmona, gemologist and appraiser, covered his extensive experience in gemstone importation and appraisal. His talk explored his unique handbook on gemstone weight estimation and shared insights from establishing gemmology schools globally.

Mark Dennis, Tribunal Judge and Officer of Arms, reflected on his legal career and his role in heraldic traditions in Scotland. His presentation focussed on his unique experiences and the intersection of law, tradition, and cultural heritage.

Pat Daly Senior gemmology instructor at Gem-A, discussed the evolution of gemmological education and valuation. Reflecting on his decades of experience, his talk emphasized the importance of continual learning and adaptation in the ever-changing gemstone industry.

Dr. Claudio C. Milisenda, SGA conference

David Fisher, Principal Scientist at De Beers

Sarah Caldwell-Steele, Jet expert

SGA 2024 Dominic Mok

Rui Galopim de Carvalho, a gem education consultantRui Galopim de Carvalho, a gem education consultant

Speakers and Sponsors, SGA 2024

For me personally, the coffee breaks and evening social events provided opportunities to capture more relaxed interactions among the delegates. Having come to know many of the attendees over the years, these moments were about photographing friends and the informal yet profound exchanges that happen over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

SGA drinks reception 2024

SGA Team 2024

The Gala Dinner and Scottish Ceilidh, always a high point of the conference, was a photographer's delight. The dinner also featured a surprise cake-cutting ceremony recognizing the 60th wedding anniversary of Alan and Charlotte Hodgkinson.

60th Wedding Anniversary surprise cake

SGA 2024 Gala Dinner fun

SGA Scottish Cèilidh 2024

SGA Scottish Cèilidh dancing 2024

SGA Scottish Cèilidh fun 2024

Throughout the conference, my objective was to not only document the event but to capture the essence of the community that the SGA has nurtured over the years. Each photograph tells a story of dedication, friendship, and a shared love for gems that ties this unique group together.


Workshops and Practical Sessions

Aside from the main talks, the conference also offered workshops and practical sessions which allowed delegates to get hands-on experience with cutting-edge gemmological equipment. Photographing these workshops, where the concentration and careful handling of gems were palpable, always provides dynamic shots that show the practical side of gemmology.

Learning about Whitby Jet, SGA 2024

Networking and Friendships

As someone who has come to know many of the delegates personally and made numerous friends over the years, the networking sessions were as enjoyable to photograph as they were to participate in. These moments of laughter, handshakes, and shared stories are always a highlight and remind me of the vibrant community that the SGA nurtures.

SGA 2024 gathering of friends and gemmologists

Monday's Field Trip

We ventured into the heart of Perthshire for a field trip to collect Smoky Quartz. As we journeyed from The Westerwood, the route unfolded through breath-taking Scottish landscapes, enhancing our anticipation. Fortunate with perfect weather—dry and comfortably warm—we couldn't have asked for a more ideal day. Our excursion was not only a delightful immersion in nature but also a successful quest for the prized Smoky Quartz.

2024 SGA field trip smokey quartz


Conclusion: A Gem of an Event

As the conference wrapped up, I reflected on the myriad of moments captured, from the intellectual vigor of the presentations to the warm camaraderie of the gemmological community. Each photograph not only preserves a moment in time but also tells the story of ongoing education, innovation, and connection within this unique field.

Looking forward to next year, the anticipation builds again to see what new developments and familiar faces the 2025 Scottish Gemmological Association Conference will bring. Until then, the images from this year will serve as a vivid reminder of the brilliance and depth of the gemmological world.


For more images from the conference and insights into gemmology, stay tuned to my blog. Until next year, let's keep celebrating the world of gems and the people who make it shine.


Kim Rix, Gemmologist and Photographer

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