Cart 0

A Gem Dealer’s Journal: Let’s talk about appraisal practice, gem market, and archaeogemology with Dr. Çiğdem Lüle.

A Gem dealers journal appraisal appraiser Asia Lounges asialounges Cigdem Cigdem Lule education gemological laboratory gemology GIA guide interview Simon Dussart Simon Sai Dussart

Hey Loungers,

While most of those among you that know me know that I have always displayed a certain skepticism towards the appraisal world, it was, I must be honest, mostly born from a place of misunderstanding at best and complete lack of knowledge on the topic at worst. I was, somehow, looking at Rappaport and believed, perhaps foolishly, that appraisers and other pricing publications aspired to do the very same, I was wrong it seems.

Having decided not to part ways with my legendary curiosity, I decided to go against my feelings and investigate a bit more about this merry bunch of gemologist appraisers. At the occasion of the Tucson show 2023, I had the good fortune of meeting with Dr. Çiğdem Lüle whom was kind enough to take upon herself to show me the errors of my ways and enlighten me as to what appraisal was all about and, to my surprise, my interest was picked!

As per usual, I took my sweet time researching the good Doctor and discovered that she was not only an appraiser/valuer in the USA currently, but also a bona fide academic of the University of Ankara where she founded the Ankara University Gem Lab as well as being a research assistant for its geological engineering department in her earlier career in Turkey.

Some of you may also know her for her articles in the GemGuide and other publications, others might have studied under her guidance at the GIA London where she was an instructor or for her works as an archaeogemologist. What is that big word might you ask? Or how does that link to her work as an appraiser valuer today? These are the kind of questions that we will try to answer with her in this interview!

And with this, Cigdem, the floor is yours,


Cigdem in her office in Chicago

Here is Cigdem in her Chicago office, Photo Credit: Cigdem Lule


AsiaLounges: Hi Cigdem, thank you very much for being with us in the Lounges today. Given the size of your resumé, I figured it may be better to let you to introduce yourself and your company rather than having me doing it as you’d likely be better at it than I would. So, without any further add-ons, who are you Dr. Cigdem Lule?

Dr. Cigdem Lule: In essence, I am a mineralogist-gemologist with an endless curiosity. I love learning about minerals and gems, then sharing it. My education allowed me to look into gemstones from a scientific angle. The more I learned about gems, the more I realized that gemology existed for jewelry trade which is another world. Since I’m not good at trading, nor I wanted to, I put my technical knowledge into teaching and serving the gem and jewelry buyers via appraisals.


AsiaLounges: How did you start your prolific career? What decided you to walk on the gem path?

Dr. Cigdem Lule: My career is hardly prolific but quite fun. It is a long story, if anyone cares to read on. Getting into earth sciences wasn’t my first choice, but I did due to somewhat inflexible education system in Turkey at the time. In the coming years, I would take note of what I liked the most for my future career and explore that aspect. I discovered that understanding mineralogy was natural to me and geochemistry was a joy, but gemology was completely unheard of in academic circles, so I decided to pursue gemology in a way that had not been studied before in Turkey.

During my master’s studies in 1996 to 1998, I applied for a British Council scholarship to study at Gem-A in London.  Although it feels so far, 1998 was a busy year when I successfully completed my MSc thesis on “Diaspore from Turkey,” passing my diamond and gemology diploma exams and therefore earning both the FGA and DGA. The very same year, I was granted a position and started my PhD studies. With the help of my supervisor Dr Sonmez Sayılı, I set up a gem testing laboratory in the Geoengineering Department in Ankara University in 1999.

In the middle of my PhD studies in 2001, I moved to London. The next two years I worked in jewelry trade in Hatton Garden which proved to be one of the best experiences of my professional life. That was my first true exposure to the industry, and it allowed me to witness the very soul of gemology. After all, gemology relies on the gem trade to survive. In return, it provides knowledge so everybody in the industry can benefit. Those two years were a reality check that, in my opinion, every gemologist should experience. However, I missed being in the classroom and studying.

When the opportunity of teaching came along, I was ready to take another step. I joined GIA’s London campus in 2004 and worked there as a gemology instructor for six years. In 2010, I moved to the United States to explore other gemological interests. I joined the Gemworld International team in 2011 to develop and teach gem-pricing workshops. My dream of creating my own teaching environment where I delivered hands-on experience to the participants was finally realized thanks to Gemworld International, the publisher of the GemGuide. I did not only have implemented the pricing classes there but also worked in market research and writing. I have travelled many countries, given lectures, and worked on two color communication systems. My passion for gemology is the reason for what I do.

Today, I have my own independent appraisal practice in Northwest Chicago providing mineral, gem, and jewelry valuation; gem and mineral consultation; and tailored gemological education.


AsiaLounges: Before moving on to more details, can you tell us what exactly is the function of an appraiser? Why are they an important and integral part of the gem trade in Anglo-Saxon world? And why are they virtually unheard of in the Latin and Asian worlds?

Dr. Cigdem Lule: An appraiser is a knowledgeable, impartial, and competent person that provides identification and value opinion on a property, in my case, gems, minerals, and jewelry. To be specific, such designation also requires to be independent, meaning not being influenced by another source or the value of the item. Although there is no legal enforcement, an appraiser should be qualified. All reputable appraisal organizations accept members based on their credentials and require continuing education. Hence, such a professional is a reliable source for value opinions that an individual, i.e. consumer, and an organization, i.e. an insurance company for protecting property. Appraisals are required in the western world for so many reasons other than insurance. For example, in a legal case of dispute or loss, claimants prove their property’s worth via appraisers, not by their own words.

Appraisal concept exists in Latin and Asian worlds too, but not so common. Since jewelry is an old age trade done by a handshake, value discussions are between buyer and seller. I know for a fact that there are gem and jewelry appraisal organizations that operate in China. The international appraisal associations that I belong to, have members from Middle East and Latin worlds too. As new or less heard of as they can be, they exist because it is a necessity for the consumer. Also, one needs to understand that any opinion of value is technically an appraisal.


Although there is no legal enforcement, an appraiser should be qualified

"Although there is no legal enforcement, an appraiser should be qualified" - Photo Credit: Cigdem Lule


AsiaLounges: Within the trade, many traders complain about their inability to hold gem labs responsible for the opinion they provide through their gem reports. Is the same applicable to appraisers or, much like traders, are you responsible legally for your council / the service you provide? And, if so, how can you avoid being attacked left and right on your calls?

Dr. Cigdem Lule: Any opinion provided by a professional is open to criticism. However, an opinion is an opinion. The comparison of gem labs to appraisal work is somewhat limited. First of all, gem labs provide identification and that is not an opinion. It is a fact. On the other hand, a gem lab providing diamond grade or country of origin is an opinion and it is arguable. Therefore such opinion based reports are more reliable when they are provided by reputable labs. Same applies to appraisal work but with one major difference. Lab reports do not express value, appraisal reports do! Appraisers should be able to provide their methodology of valuation in a clear manner. It is not a guess work, hence the credentials and certification. It is very important to understand that a reliable appraisal work is charged by the hour of work, not a percentage of the item’s value. For example, if a commonly sold solitaire diamond ring takes about an hour to appraise, it doesn’t matter if the stone is 1ct or 3ct. However, if the stone is 6ct, it would take more of the appraiser’s research time so the fee might be for two hours. It doesn’t matter if the 6ct solitaire is valued at half million dollar mark, the appraisal fee is still for two hours. If this is not the practice one’s experiencing, the “appraiser’s” ethics must be questioned.

AsiaLounges: Do you expect the appraisal business to expand in Europe and Asia as well and, if yes, how would it help the end buyer be more protected? How would it differ from a traditional gem report?

Dr. Cigdem Lule: I do hope so! It is a very consumer friendly practice. Do you know how many clients I had with their family heirloom jewelry that had never been valued? Once they have realized what they have, they make more informed decisions on their property. So valuation practice shouldn’t be considered only for new items. I sometimes compare it to buying a second-hand car. If the buyer doesn’t know anything about cars, they would shop around and do their research. Same applies to jewelry and gems. How is it different than your gem lab report? First of all, the lab report will give you the identity, grade (in case of diamonds) or country of origin opinion. There is no value/price information. Also, if it is a piece of jewelry with several stones by a designer, would it be on the gem lab report? I don’t think so. An appraisal report by nature is all about value based on the identity of the gems and jewelry with all their merits.


AsiaLounges: Can you tell us more about archaeogemology? What is it? What does it entail and how is it linked to our beloved trade?

Dr. Cigdem Lule: Ah! It is my incurable passion. In a definition that I published archaeogemology is a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the identity and origin of gem artifacts of the ancient world. My approach is to combine non-destructive testing abilities of gemology and modern mineralogical research analyses to establish a form of “ancient country of origin” on archaeological gem findings. In an ideal world, this would have been a wonderful academic subject to study; yet it remains inconsequential, perhaps due to lack of both funding and financial reward. Nonetheless, I take every opportunity for archaeogemological research – all self-funded – and I spread the word and invite other researchers to study it as well.

Although it is purely academic, I do believe that any gemologists should be aware of such a discipline to understand that not much changed since the beginning. Gems were traded as early as the stone age; it is in our DNA! Archaeogemology teaches us that value, treatments, simulants, even synthetic production (think alchemy) of gems are not modern inventions.


AsiaLounges: What are, in your opinion, its limitations? Is it posed, in your opinion, to take over origin determination as it is mostly practiced by gem labs today? Or is it something that you would rather see being used together with more conventional / commercial detection methods of origin determination? Why?

Dr. Cigdem Lule: I am a strong believer that a gem should be judged for its own beauty and properties other than where it comes from. Country of origin is such an overrated concept that eventually it will damage the trade. Every gemstone mine has its extra fine grade through commercial grade gems. In fact, most rough stones extracted from the ground aren’t even be gem quality! First of all, as a mineralogist, I know that the Earth is capable of producing almost identical minerals within entirely different geographical settings. Basically, geology is not defined by geography. It is the other way around. Also, origin determination methodology by many labs has been misunderstood. It started with good intentions but then fell into non-scientific hands. I find it sad. What I really want to see is cancelling the whole country of origin concept and judging gems by their own merits. Having said that, the technology allows us to make such calls, therefore it should be used within other disciplines such as mineral collecting or more importantly archaeogemology.


Cigdem giving a speech

Here is Dr. Lule in the midst of a presentation at the SGA - Photo Credit: Cigdem Lule


AsiaLounges: Can you tell us more about your company Kybele LLC and AIJV, your latest venture? What are you doing there exactly and how are you putting your various realms of expertise to your clients’ service? How can Loungers around the globe contact you should the need arise?

Dr. Cigdem Lule: I wear many hats, but all support each other. My first baby Kybele LLC ( originally was set up for research and teaching. I have done that as a contractor for other companies, i.e. Gemworld for their pricing workshops or articles, for years. Once I decided to go completely independent, appraisal work on minerals was a natural choice. I had helped many colleagues of mine on their appraisal projects for identification and authentication but when I decided to do it myself, I studied appraisal profession. I now have credentials and necessary certification for my appraisal practice. Basically, Kybele LLC still does the research, tailored education, and now appraisals. Last year, I was offered by a good friend and a highly respected independent valuer, Adrian Smith, to take over one of his international appraisal/valuer organizations. It has a very specific mission of supporting and expanding truly independent appraisal practice. Association of Independent Jewellery Valuers (AIJV) ( is now an US entity with a goal of not only expanding its original membership base but also introducing a gem and jewelry valuation specific publication. While members are appraisers, I will do everything in my power to educate the public on independent appraisal practice so everybody benefits from it.

Your audience is welcome to contact me through one these websites or directly at

AsiaLounges: Is there anything else you’d like to discuss that we have not yet discussed?

Dr. Cigdem Lule: I think I took a lot of time of your audience already. I can talk about each of these questions for hours but let’s leave it here. I’d be more than happy to answer anything they ask if they contact me directly.


AsiaLounges: We are slowly but surely reaching the end of this interview and, as it is customary in our columns, I’d like to ask you to recommend three books that you think that anyone willing to follow in your footsteps should read as well as an advice for newcomers in the field.

Dr. Cigdem Lule: Three books would be far too limited. I’m a book worm and a strong believer of good education. If anybody is an absolute beginner, I would recommend them to do a basic gemology class taught by an established organization. The first book one should read is Peter Read’s Gemmology. Anybody who wants to explore how gems were interpreted in Ancient Rome by Pliny the Elder, should try to get hold of Pliny’s 37th volume of History of the World translated by Dr. Sydney H. Ball and his gemological commentary in his book in 1950 called Roman Book of Precious Stones and finally, at the expense of being pretentious, I would recommend the book I contributed on ancient gems called Ancient Gems in Late Antiquity by the British Museum.


AsiaLounges: Thank you very much Cigdem for being with us today, I am convinced that our readers, the Loungers, have enjoyed this interview as much as we did enjoy writing these lines.

As for us, we will meet you again soon in the Lounges with more exciting content! If you have enjoyed this interview please let us know by liking, commenting and sharing our work with your family and friends on your favourite social media platform. It helps us a lot and takes but a second!

Should you have any questions or topic that you’d like us to research for a future interviews and articles, feel free to let us know by contacting us at, it is always a pleasure to dig further into the world of gems and gemmology!

For all the rest, feel free to take a look at our gem and jewellery collection as well as to contact us should you be interested in getting one of our famed bespoke pieces of AsiaLounges Jewellery.

See you again in the Lounges.

Older Post Newer Post