Jewelry, precious stones and gems are graded for their characteristics in order to certify their value. Gemologists are professionals who research, analyze and certify different stones using a variety of tools such as software, sizing instruments and microscopes. In May 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics categorized gemologists with jewelers, precious stone and metal workers, and reported average salaries based on 23,410 individuals employed in these occupations.
Although there are no standard qualifications for gemologists, many learn the skills of the trade through vocational schools or receive on-the-job training. Employment opportunities may increase for those who obtain a graduate gemologist degree, which typically applies to certain types of gems such as diamonds. Other credentials such as the Independent Certified Gemologist Appraiser administered by the American Gem Society may also increase employment opportunities.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported approximately 54 percent of gem professionals are self-employed. Gemologists earned a median salary of $34,060 per year, or an average hourly wage of $16.38. The 25th percentile earned $25,050 per year, and the 75th percentile earned $45,240 per year.
The highest levels of employment were reported in jewelry, luggage and leather-goods stores, paying mean annual wages of $38,910. The manufacturing industry paid annual mean wages of $34,900. The highest salaries were reported in the wholesale electronic markets, agents and brokers, paying annual mean wages of $60,530.
The states with the highest concentration of workers included New Mexico, Rhode Island, New York and Louisiana. The highest salaries were paid in Connecticut, where gemological-related professionals earned an annual mean wage of $53,120. The highest-paying metropolitan area was Bakersfield, California, where annual mean wages averaged $80,990, followed by the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut metropolitan area, where annual mean wages averaged $56,850.