Romancing The Stone As Alya Society Visits Gemmology Institute

On the 31st of March thanks to its director Nehad Sharaf, the members and friends of the Alya Society enjoyed another fantastic event.  This time it took place at the Spanish gemmology institute in Madrid, thanks to Alya member and highly successful gemmologist and jewellery designer, Lisi Fracchia, who organised the visit with our guide, the prestigious gemmologist and the IGE’s president Mr Benjamin Clavo.  Thanks to Benjamin we enjoyed a wonderful 2-hour tour of the facilities.

We started at the institute where he introduced us to the incredible world of Gems and minerals.  We first visited the classroom of the Gemmology institute, where the students of these renowned courses study the different gems.  A private centre, the institute was founded 55 years ago in 1967, to study and teach gemmology in Spain.

The institute currently has more than 400 associated jewellery and gemmology professionals and firms not just in Spain but in other countries too.  It has 3 main activities. The gemmology courses, with a selection of different courses to choose from, offering a mix of both online and face-to-face classes.

One of the most popular being the study and identification of gems.  Many people come from Latin America for the courses, for example from Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, countries rich in gems.  They also offer courses in diamonds, identification of the type of diamond and whether it is synthetic or not, for example.  There are also courses to study other coloured stones such as Emeralds.

Other very popular courses are the Jewellery design course, assisted by computer programmes, a course about the history of Jewellery or the valuation of gems.  All of these involve presential hours due to the need to work directly with the gems and learn how to identify them.

The institute offers the identification and valuation of Jewels to the public.  To see how they work Benjamin next led us to the laboratories where this work takes place, we were able to peep through a small window of the obviously armoured diamond laboratory!

The classification of diamonds uses amongst other techniques, the colour using the human eye, in a dark room, it is based on a scale of colour, using an alphabet scale from D to K, D being the highest quality diamond.

The institute also offers free online conferences which can be found on their website,

You can enjoy a huge range of different conferences from Faberge eggs to Tiffany for example and even with the first lady of Argentina participating in one of them!

They even offer trips to many parts of Spain where people can enjoy visits to archaeological sites and museums. You can also become a member of the institute for a modest annual fee.

We left the diamond gemmologists to their work and headed down to the Felix Cañada art museum which offers a permanent art collection of more than five hundred and forty pieces of art although there are about one thousand other works, all donated by the mining engineer Doctor Felix Cañada Guerrero, formerly a teacher at the institute and a passionate art collector. A hugely varied collection by artists, sculptors, ceramists, and silversmiths etc… from the 11th century to present day.

Perhaps the most interesting piece being a painting by Juan de Arellano titled Florero or flower vase in English.

Next Benjamin led us across the road to the Madrid school of mining engineers, built in 1893, it is a unique and beautiful building by the architect Ricardo Velazquez Bosco with ceramics created by Daniel Zuloaga decorating it´s façade. Above the windows there are griffins, believed in Greek mythology to protect the earth’s treasures.

We had the pleasure of visiting the Don Felipe de Borbón y Grecia museum of Madrid school of mines, with its impressive collection of minerals, fossils and gems. It also boasts a fascinating selection of archaeological findings from different periods with everything from bear’s skulls to miner’s lamps, but the spectacular mineral collection is what really impressed!

We ended the tour with a visit to the grand assembly hall, built in 1925, it is used for graduation ceremonies amongst other events.


Abi Lindsay Clark



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