Gemmological Pioneer

Eduard Josef Gübelin was a curious and highly intelligent child. In grammar school he consistently brought home high marks, showing a great interest in poetry, litera- ture and languages as well as in art and the natural sciences. At an early age he also developed an intense interest in stones and minerals, returning from family outings with pockets full of specimens. Even as a boy, he desired to know as much as possible about them.

A thirst for knowledge

This was no easy task. In those days gemmology was more tradecraft than standardised science, and there were only a few places where it could be learned. He studied mineralogy in Zurich and Vienna, and went to the United States, where he became only the second European to be certified by the renowned Gemological Institute of America. Yet in his heart he knew there was much more to be discovered, so he began his own research. Here too there were diffculties to be surmounted.

Because he was often dissatisfied with the scientific equipment available to him, he invented a number of new instruments on his own. Because, to truly understand the stones, he felt it was important to visit those places where they were mined, he became a world traveller. Collecting specimens from all four corners of the earth, he built one of the most complete and important gemstone reference collections ever seen.

Unlocking the mysteries inside the stone

More than anything else, he never stopped – or tired of – peering inside the stones. In doing so, he paid attention to things no one else had before. Most importantly, he recognised the importance of the inclusions: the crystals, particles, bubbles, and other shapes and colours that can be seen inside coloured gems.

Before him, these were considered blemishes. But he showed that the inclusions, if properly understood, could reveal where a stone came from and, crucially, if it had been treated by human hand. It was a revolution in the field, and established him as one of the world’s leading gemmologists.

Scientist and poet

Yet knowledge alone was never enough. He had grown up among artisans, and was as attuned to the beauty in his work as to the science. You can see this in the splendid photographs he made of the interiors of coloured gems, using micro- photographic techniques he pioneered, and culminating in some of the most dra- matic, most beautiful images of inclusions ever taken. You can also feel it in his vast writings, both for professionals and the general public. His was no dry academic prose, but the work of a true poet of nature, a man intensely passionate about his field and about sharing its marvels with others.

The 20th century’s most influential gemmologist

By the time of his death Eduard Josef Gübelin was recognised as perhaps the most important and influential gemmologist of the 20th century. He not only helped establish gemmology as a science, and gave the industry one of its most important weapons against imitations and counterfeits. He also united science and art in ways that few have done before or since, inspiring many others to follow his lead.

His mesmerizing gemstone inclusion pictures and eloquent descriptions are the basis of Gübelin’s deep inspiration and creativity, and shape its strategy. He is Gübelin’s guiding spirit, embodying the unique combination of beauty and knowledge that defines Gübelin to this day.

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