Instructor:  Barbara Smigel, PhD, GG.  (GIA)

Email: For all contacts, students are expected to use the built-in email function of WebCT.

Phone:  In an emergency messages can be left for me with the Physical Science Department at CSN:  (702) 651-7475, or email me your phone number, through WebCt, and the best time to reach you, and I'll call you as soon as possible.

Required Texts:

1) The Smithsonian Handbook of Gemstones, Cally Hall & John Taylor, Dorling Kindersley, 2002

2) Simon and Schuster's Guide to Gems and Precious Stones, Kennie Lyman, Editor, Simon and Schuster, 1986

Course Description: An introduction to the nature, formation, description, fashioning, and uses of gemstones, including a survey of the major groups of natural gemstones, simulants and synthetics.

Credit Hours: Geology 115 is a 3 credit, non-laboratory, science course.

Outcomes: Upon completion of this course the student will be able to:

·      Define a gem, and use appropriate terminology in descriptions and naming of gem materials.

·      Correctly use the weights and measures appropriate for various types of gemstones, and be aware of the basic types of equipment used to obtain such measurements.

·      Discriminate the major physical properties of gemstones, recognize how they derive from the chemistry and crystallography of the gem, and be familiar with the tools and techniques for measuring them.

·      Discriminate the major optical properties of gemstones, recognize how they derive from the chemistry and crystallography of the gem, and be familiar with the tools and techniques for measuring them.

·      Be familiar with the instruments used in magnifying gemstones, and the significance of the external and internal characteristics revealed under magnification.

·      Discriminate the major types of, and causes of, optical phenomena in gemstones.

·      Recognize the color, clarity and cut grading criteria and terminology used for colored stones and diamonds.

·      Discuss the relevant tools and techniques involved in various gem fashioning processes, and be able to distinguish the major categories of fashioned gems.

·      Survey traditional and modern types of gemstone enhancement processes, appreciate the degree to which they affect gem value, and how they might be detected.

·      Be aware of historical and modern types of synthetic and simulant gemstones, as well as the uses and identification criteria for such materials.

·      Understand the utility and application of various types of testing equipment and procedures in the identification of unknown gem materials.

·      Be able to discuss the most important processes that lead to gemstone formation, the main types of gemstone deposits, and some of the methods of mining gems.


If you've taken online courses before, much of what follows will be familiar to you, however, parts of it are unique to this class. If you are completely new to online instruction, the WebCT homepage at the CSN website has links and contact numbers for additional information and assistance, and I'm only an email away. This term we will be using WebCT 6, a new version of the distance education interface, and I'll be learning to use it along with you. Any glitches or problems should be brought to the attention of the CSN Distance Education office. The log-in page for CSN WebCT 6 has a built in "browser check" function that you should run prior to attempting to use the course website. You may need to update your browser and/or it's Java capabilities. 24 hour a day help and troubleshooting for all WebCT issues is available at 1- 800-630-7563.

One of the most important characteristics of a successful "distance education" student, is self-motivation and discipline. You must be a regular visitor to the course website, and be comfortable with using its various features, especially the course calendar, built in email, and computerized quiz functions, and you must plan ahead so can complete all the required activities within the available time frame.

In this course, the subject matter of gemology has been divided into ten topic areas or "lessons". Each lesson which can be accessed from the course home page consists of 1) a "web lecture" in html format 2) a reading assignment in one or both of the Hall or Lyman text books, 3) one or more assigned "web essay" readings, also in html format and, 4) a lesson-specific discussion topic posted on the "discussion" forum.

Although all the course materials are posted on the website, and you can work ahead as time permits, this is not a course where you "go at your own pace". The graded activities are structured into the framework of a traditional semester and, have time limitations** that you MUST be aware of, and work your schedule around. In general, each quiz will be available for a 5 day period. Lessons are scheduled to be concluded in 6 to 14 days, depending on their length and complexity. The dates of quiz availability are listed on the "Course Calendar" on the class website homepage. The homework due date and discussion topic posting date for each lesson is also listed there.


1) You have adequate time on a regular basis to complete the course assigments.

2) You understand that this is a bonafide science class with the scope of presentation, and level of rigor which that entails.

3) You do not require an instructor physically present in order to be motivated to study and learn.

Late Work/Make-Up Policy

The due dates are firm -- you must plan and schedule your time so that even if some unforeseen situation in your employment, or daily life, crops up, you still can meet the schedule. A sure-fire recipe for disaster is to begin a 30 minute quiz at the last time available. It is your responsibility to turn in all work and complete all activities on time. Do not ask for time extensions or alternate assignments as there are none.

In calculating the course grades, the lowest of the 10 quiz scores, and the lowest of the 10 homework scores will be dropped. So if circumstances beyond your control prevent you from doing your best on one lesson, your grade will not be negatively affected.

Using the "Texts"

The two books listed on the first page of this syllabus as the required texts, will not be used as traditional textbooks in this course. (Your set of 10 web lectures and the associated web essays, are your real textbook!) The readings in the Hall and Lyman books are generally short, but beyond these assigned readings, the books will provide you with background and reference material. You may find it helpful to use the glossaries provided by these authors when you encounter terminology new to you in your web lectures or web essays. Additionally, your understanding and appreciation of each gem species used as an example in this class, will be heightened by looking up that gemstone in both texts, viewing any photos, and reading the descriptive material.

Visting the Course Web Site

The Geology 115 DE course website contains links to the web lectures, web essays and other required materials for course use.  You will take your on-line quizzes from the website and submit your homework assignments to me through the site's built in email function.  You will be able to view your currently posted grades, take practice quizzes, and send questions or comments to me by email from the site, as well as posting to and reading comments from others on both general interest, and lesson-specific discussion boards.

Logging in for the First Time

Below is the procedure you'll need to follow to access course materials on the website at your first visit.  (The site will not be activated until immediately after the semester begins).

Go to the CSN WebCampus homepage:  You will need to fill in your ID# and your password (pin number). 

If your "C" number on your registration slip is C000423456, then your ID number is the last eight digits:  00423456.  Your pin number is the month and year of your birth in this form:  MM/YY.  If you were born in April, 1975, it would be 04/75.  Once successfully logged in, you will see:  "My Web CT".  Click on Geology 115 DE. 

How to Use the "Course Calendar"

When you visit the course homepage, on the tool bar at the left, you'll see a listing marked "Course Calendar", this is where you will access due dates and important time related information -- be sure to check it regularly and better yet print out the information to have on hand when you are not on line. If you see a colored asterisk next to Calendar or any other of the tools, it means that something new has been posted or an important date has arrived. Click on the word "calendar" and you'll see a calendar of the current month. General notes are listed in the daily blocks: for example, on January 22nd, you'll see "Class begins". In order to read the specific detail for that day, click on the day number, in this case "22", and the full text will be visible. You'll see instructions for that day. Don't hesitate to email me if you don't understand something on the calendar, or think you see an inconsistency. You are expected to meet all the deadlines displayed there. "I forgot to check the calendar", is not an excuse for late work or a missed quiz, so check in regularly!

Class Schedule:**

The full schedule of activities and lessons for this class is posted on the class website on the Calendar. As an example, though: the course website and its materials become available for registered student use as of Tuesday, January 22nd. The first quiz (on Lesson 1) will be available from 5:00 AM January 24th until 8:00 PM on January 28th, after which time it will be closed. Likewise, the Lesson 1 homework assignment and any discussion posting must be received by that time on Janurary 28th in order to be graded.  If you don't "get around to" checking in for your first visit until January 29th, then you've lost any opportunity to earn points on Lesson 1, AND Lesson 2 work will be due very soon (February 3rd).

** I reserve the right to modify the posted class schedule due to unforeseen factors. Any necessary modifications would be listed on the calendar, and you will be notified of any impending changes by WebCT email.


QUIZZES:  There will be a date-limited, timed, on-line quiz associated with each of the ten lessons. The quizzes will be available only within the limited time frame as listed on the course calendar on the website.  The quizzes will test material from the web lectures only (not from the text assignments or required web essay readings). Instructions and procedures for taking these tests will be found on the course website.   With the exception of the first quiz, each can be taken only once. (I'm using the first quiz, as a training tool so students may (if desired) take this quiz twice, with the highest of the two grades being recorded. The quizzes will range from 15 questions to 30 questions, depending on the length and content of each lesson. The total time allowed will vary depending on the number of questions, but overall you will have about a minute and a half per question. The quizzes are worth 30 points each. Quiz answers will NOT be revealed until the submission period for that quiz is over. At that time, you may the check the website to view the quiz and see feedback on the correct answer. Within 24 hours after taking the quiz you can check your grade folder to learn your score. The homework grades will be posted, generally within 24 hours of receipt, and discussion grades will be listed at the end of the semester.

Taking Online Quizzes

(One and a half minutes has been allotted for each multiple choice question. Although you will have your source materials available as you take the quiz, it is highly unrealistic to think that you will simply be able to look up the answers in the time available. Overall, you'll need to be as prepared as you would be when taking an exam in a regular classroom. Take care not to spend too much time on any single question, if time permits after completing the other questions, then go back. Do not leave any questions blank, even if you have to quess (presumably it will be an "educated" guess).

HOMEWORK: An assignment will be included with each of the ten lessons. The homework assignments will consist of 10 questions taken from the assigned text readings, the assigned web essay readings, and/or any other assigned activities. Each will be due by a specific date listed on the course calendar on the website, and in a specific format as described in the assignment. Instructions and procedures for submitting these will be found under the homework section of the course website.  Homework assignments are worth 20 points each. A link to the homework "key" will be posted on the "Course Related Discussion" forum within 48 hours after the conclusion of each lesson.

EXTRA CREDIT/MAKE UP WORK: There is none -- no exceptions. Don't ask, end of story.  

DISCUSSIONS:  Students are encouraged to post at least one comment, or response to another's comment, on the website lesson-specific discussion board for each of the 10 lessons.  Your discussion score will be assessed at the end of the term based on the consistency, quality and relevance of your postings. The maximum number of discussion points is 50 for the term. The comments must be thoughtful and relevant to the topic. So, a post of simply "I agree", a post with a weblink that does not function, or a lengthy digression off the topic, would not count for much. Posting many times at the beginning of the semester and little later, or vice versa, regardless of quality will not earn top marks. At the end of term, those students whose work has been thoughtful and consistent will receive the best discussion grades.

In discussions, no "flaming" will be tolerated--> students engaging in this practice will automatically receive a zero as their mark for that lesson's discussion grade.

The lesson specific discussion topics will be open for posting only during that lesson's time period. You may use the "General Gem Topics" forum on the discussion board to post questions, comments, or responses to comments, on other topics whenever you wish, and you'll want to visit the "Course Related Discussion" forum for the homework key and any other "course mechanics" issues.


If you have a comment you want to share with me and your classmates, use the Discussion function--this would be the equivalent of raising your hand, and making a comment in class. Any answer that I might make in response will be open for all students to read. But if you want to address a comment or question to me, personally, and you want the reply to go to you, personally, then send it to me via WebCT email, which would be similar to a visit to my office in a traditional course.

FINAL EXAM:  A comprehensive, date-limited, timed, on-line, multiple choice, final examination will be given over all the web lectures.  The dates for the final exam will be found on the course calendar on the website.  The final is worth 100 points. You will be able to view your grade on the final and in the course overall through the grade link on the homepage toolbar, however, the answers to the final exam will not be posted for viewing at the end of the submission period.


Nine highest of 10 quizzes = 270 points, Nine highest of ten homework assignments = 180 points, total points earned from lesson-specific discussion postings = 50 points and the Final exam = 100 for a total of:  600 possible points. 


540 - 600 pts.            90 - 100 % A

522 - 539 pts.            87 - 89 % B+

480 - 521 pts.             80 - 86 % B

462 - 479 pts.             77 - 79 % C+

420 - 461 pts.             70 - 76 % C

402 - 419 pts.             67 - 69 % D+

360 - 401 pts.             60 - 66 % D

       < 360 pts.                < 60 %   F


Students wishing to derive additional benefit from course content are encouraged (not required) to purchase or obtain the following supplies: these are completely optional and not required for course success.

Sources for the first three items include local jewelry supply companies such as:  A-1 Jewelry Supply, 2570 S. Decatur Blvd.  731-2663, as well as internet vendors like Tripps Company (, and the International Gem Society (, or 

*Be sure that you don't get a "jewelry" cleaning cloth which usually has an embedded abrasive for removing the tarnish layer from metal, and may scratch soft gems. (Although special gem cleaning cloths are available commercially, a very good one can be made from an old, clean, 100% cotton, T-shirt.)

** Most likely you have gems or gemstone jewelry that you can examine. Inexpensive sources for loose gemstones include internet auction sites like ebay and yahoo. Pawn shops and thrift stores are also great sources for inexpensive gemstone jewelry, especially simulants and synthetics. (Friends and relatives will probably be delighted to have you examine their pieces with your new-found expertise!)

 Students with Disabilities

All students with a documented disability are entitled to appropriate educational support services at all CSN campuses.  To arrange services, contact the Disability Resource Center,  (651-5089 at West Charleston).   I will be happy to cooperate with any accommodations that are required in order to provide you with an equal opportunity to study gemology through distance education.                                                                                                                                             

 Technology Requirements

The web lectures, essays and homeworks are available to you, through the course website as html pages to which you can link and browse on-line, or can print out as text, or depending on your computer platform, operating system and/or software, as pdfs.  In order to access them, your browser must have the proper version of Java enabled, and be compatible with WebCT.  There is a compatibility test you can link to on the WebCT page on the college website.  (Most versions of FireFox, Netscape, Internet Explorer and Safari are compatible.)

If you do not have a computer readily available, or if your internet connection is slow or unreliable, you should use those provided in the CSN student computer facilities.   The speed of your internet connection will affect the time it takes you to access course materials, including the timed tests.  The computer labs on each of the three CSN campuses have broadband computers and WebCT compatible browsers.  You can also print black and white copies of the course materials there at no charge!



Gemological Institute of America (GIA): at  In addition to information about fees, format and content of its world famous courses and programs, there is free information on diamond and gemstone news and research. There are links to GIA stores where a huge variety of books, videos/DVDS, and instruments can be purchased.

The International Gem Society: at  gives free, basic information about gemology, lapidary and jewelry making as well as providing a price comparison survey, a general reference section and a unique, "Gemology for Kids" section. For a small subscription fee, members have access to additional services such as a certification program.

The American Gem Trade Association (AGTA): at is primarily an industry organization with wholesale and retail colored gemstone companies as members, but has a good open access "Gem Information" section on its site. This organization has been a leader in developing, standardizing and promoting the use of gem enhancement labels for consumer protection.

Your Gemologist:  at  operated by Robert James, FGA, GG.  At this site you can visit an open access gem reference library which covers a huge variety of topics.  For a yearly fee you can enroll in an on-line gemology course.  Inexpensive DVDs on gem topics are offered as well.

The Mineralogy Database:  is an excellent general reference site with data and pictures for hundreds of common to obscure mineral and gem species. 


Gemology Tools: Gemology Tools is Windows software that contains the most complete gemology reference aids available. There are two versions of this program one of which is intended for the gemologist or professional appraiser, and another for the gemology student or anyone who loves gemstones. Included are the Gemstone Database which gives you access to over 1,700 gemstone species, varieties, trade names and misnomers, and provides over 35 facts, properties and characteristics for each. Nearly 1000 gemstone photographs are included. The Gemstone Database also features the Inclusion Gallery which provides you with numerous visual examples of gemstone and diamond inclusions and surface features. There is a quizzing module in the latest version (7.0) called "Gemology Review" which presents nearly 1000 questions for self-testing on various aspects of colored stones and diamonds. Cost for individual purchase of the newest student version is $34.95 postpaid. Go to for a detailed description and to order via PayPal in either disk or download format.


Gems and Gemology: A quarterly scientific journal with in depth, technical articles on diamond and colored stone gemology as well as mining and industry developments.  There is an especially interesting section in each issue on unusual items submitted to the Gem Trade Laboratory for identification. Published by Gemological Institute of America (GIA), 5345 Armada Drive, Carlsbad, CA. 92008 (Current and recent back issues of this journal are available in the library (building C) on the West Charleston campus.)

Colored Stone: A monthly magazine aimed at serving the colored stone trade with a highly international focus. Articles on mining, marketing, pricing, enhancement and design trends are featured. Detailed show guides for major trade shows are to be found in this magazine.Published by: Primedia, Inc. 200 Madison Ave. 8th Floor, New York, New York

Lapidary Journal: A monthly glossy magazine aimed at practical information for the jewelry designer, metalsmith, bead enthusiast and lapidary. Published by: Primedia, Inc. 200 Madison Ave. 8th Floor, New York, New York

Rock & Gem: a monthly magazine aimed at practical information for the rockhound, amateur goldminer, lapidary, facetor and jewelry maker. Published by: Miller Magazines, Inc. 290 Maple Court, Suite 232, Ventura, CA 93003 Website:

BOOKS: (*particularly recommended) Some of these titles, as well as other interesting books on gemology, are available at the West Charleston campus library, building C.

*Arem, Joel. Color Encyclopedia of Gemstones. 2nd  Ed. 1987. (out of print) ISBN: 0-412-98911-5, Chapman and Hall, New York. 316 pages. (this volume can sometimes be found on internet auction sites or through speciality used book sellers)

Bonewitz, Ronald. Rock and Gem (Smithsonian Project) Dorling Kindersley, 2005. 360 pages. ISBN: 0-7566-0962-3

*Campbell-Pedersen, Maggie. Gems and Ornamental Materials of Organic Origin. Butterworth -Heinemann, 268 pages. 2004 ISBN: 0-7506-5852-5

 Gem Reference Guide. Santa Monica, CA: Gemological Institute of America, 1993. ISBN: 0-87311-029-3. 270 pages.

*Matlins, Antoinette & A. C. Bonnano. Gem Identification Made Easy. 3rd Ed. Gemstone Press, Woodstock, VT.  2003.  ISBN:  0-943763-34-7.  330 pages.

 The GIA Diamond Dictionary . 3rd Ed. Santa Monica, CA: Gemological Institute of America, 1993. ISBN: 0-87311-026-9. 275 pages.

*Mirsky, Joseph. Consumer Guide to Diamonds, 3rd Ed.  2003. ISBN: 0-9702020-1-8 108 pages. Purchase this inexpensive book at:

Gubelin, Eduard J. and John I. Koivula. Photoatlas of Inclusions in Gemstones . 3rd Ed. rev. Zurich: ABC Editions, 1997. ISBN: 3-8550-4095-8. 532 pages.

Hurlbut, Cornelius S. and Robert C. Kammerling. Gemology . 2nd  Ed. New York: John Wiley, 1991. ISBN: 0-471-52667-3. 336 pages.

Liddicoat, Richard T. Handbook of Gem Identification . 12th  Ed., rev. Santa Monica, CA: Gemological Institute of America, 1989. ISBN: 0-8731-1021-8. 450 pages.

Nassau, Kurt. Gems Made by Man. Radnor, PA: Chilton, 1980. ISBN: 0-8019-6773-2. 364 pages.

*Nassau, Kurt. Gemstone Enhancement: History, Science and State of the Art. 2nd  Ed. London: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1994. ISBN: 0-7506-1797-7. 252 pages.

Schumann, Walter. Gemstones of the World . Rev. and expanded Ed. New York: Sterling, 1997. ISBN: 0-8069-9461-4. 272 pages.

Webster, Robert. Gems: Their Sources, Description and Identification. 5th  Ed. Rev. by Peter G. Read. London: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1994. ISBN: 0-7506-1674-1. 1026 pages.