JOEL E. AREM, Ph.D, F.G.A
Dr. Joel E. Arem has been involved with minerals and gemstones for 60 years. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, he first became interested in minerals in grade school. A long-standing commitment to a scientific career matured through High School and led to a major, first in chemistry, and then in geology, at Brooklyn College. Arem graduated Magna Cum Laude, elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi, and with Honors in Geology, and also the highest graduating average in the history of the BC Geology Dept. During this time period he was a part-time instructor and Director of the Geology program at the famous Brooklyn Children's Museum. He also became interested in the art of gemstone cutting, started collecting faceted gemstones and became active in gem cutting (lapidary). In the early 1960s Arem served as Secretary of the New York Lapidary and Gem Society, and started to become acquainted with museums and curators around the country. Academic success resulted in admission to the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in the Fall of 1964. Graduate work included a wide diversity of courses. A series of circumstances and changing interests led Arem to take many more courses than are required in a normal PhD program. A Masters degree (Geology) was awarded to him in 1967, and a PhD (Mineralogy) in 1970. During his six years at Harvard Arem was the recipient of a Harvard University Scholarship and a National Science Foundation Fellowship. He was a Teaching Fellow in the Geology Department, giving instruction in such diverse fields as crystallography, mineralogy and economic geology. Arem also served as a Research Assistant in the Department, and worked part time for one of the professors doing gemstone identification for local jewelers.
The research Arem conducted at Harvard resulted in numerous publications in major scientific journals. These, plus his reputation in the mineral collecting world, led to his selection to fill the newly-created position of staff Crystallographer at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. During this three-year term appointment Arem founded and curated the National Synthetics Collection, the world's first systematic collection of man-made crystalline materials. He also wrote and produced a major display of these materials that was exhibited in the lobby of the National Museum of Natural History during the summer of 1973, a display that received national press coverage.
While at the Smithsonian, Arem lectured extensively and also taught mineralogy for the Smithsonian Docent Program. He became a consultant to the Eastman Kodak Company, in the field of mineral photography, and developed unique photographic techniques for minerals and gemstones. Some of his photos were published by Kodak in the 9th "Here's How" book of photographic methods. Arem also acted as a consultant to National Geographic Society and provided photographs and teaching materials for their use. He was also the primary photo source for the fledgling publication, "The Mineralogical Record".
In 1971 Arem was contacted by the well-known mineralogist and collector Arthur Montgomery and asked if he would help to create a new mineral conservancy organization to be called "Friends of Mineralogy". The three founders, Montgomery, Arem and Carl Francis (later to become curator at the Harvard Museum) then invited a well-known mineralogist, Richard Bideaux, to join the group. The regional structure of FM was drawn up by Arem and Bideaux in John White, Jr.'s home in Bowie, Maryland. Arem served as an officer and Director of FM for several of its formative years, created its first Logo, and arranged field trips that allowed for the recovery of many unique and important mineral specimens. Friends of Mineralogy is still very active and has become a major voice in mineral conservation efforts.
From 1971-73 Arem also served as Secretary of the Mineral Museums Advisory Council, the first international organization of mineral museum curators.
In 1972 Arem was given the opportunity to write a book on minerals, part of a large series of all-color books on natural history subjects called “Knowledge Through Color”. These books were published by Bantam Books and featured color photos, and were specifically designed to replace the well-known series of “Golden Guides” (with color illustrations) that had long been a staple learning base for young readers. Arem created the paperback ROCKS AND MINERALS and shared the responsibility for all the color photos with famous photographer Lee Boltin. Then in 1973 Arem produced a book at the request of the Smithsonian Institution Press, to appear in conjunction with his major exhibit of synthetics in the National Museum of Natural History. This book, MAN-MADE CRYSTALS, was the first color-illustrated popular book ever published dealing with the subject of synthetic crystals and associated technologies. The book remained in print until 1988.
Arem left the Smithsonian at the end of his three-year term in order to pursue business interests and gain experience in other fields. He had already begun to plan a career involving the marketing of minerals and gemstones. However, he became temporarily sidetracked by the challenge of a unique assignment. For a brief 7-month period (1973-74) Arem was employed at the Atomic Energy Commission. The combination of a good physics background and recognized writing skills made Arem ideal as a technical writer for the Rasmussen Report, the largest and most comprehensive study of nuclear reactor safety undertaken to that time. When funding for the writing staff was withdrawn in 1974 Arem made a full commitment to gemstone marketing. In March he started his first corporation, Multifacet, Inc. and began traveling across the country lecturing, meeting clients and displaying fine gemstones. The gem collection he started in 1962 now became part of an initial sales portfolio. Contacts made in the New York Lapidary and Gem Society, and later at Harvard and the Smithsonian, now became useful in a business context. By 1974 Arem was already well known in the lapidary and gem field. His existing publications were augmented by articles in such prestigious publications as the Saturday Review of Science, Science Digest and the Smithsonian Magazine.
The 1972 Bantam book, ROCKS AND MINERALS, was doing extremely well. Arem felt a companion volume, on gemstones, would have a much wider audience. His proposal to Bantam was accepted, and another book in the "Knowledge Through Color" series, GEMS AND JEWELRY, was published in 1975. This landmark book was the first all-color, popular introduction to the world of gemstones ever published. It was an immediate "best seller" with more than 200,000 copies created in its first 3 printings. And with well over a million copies in print in 4 languages it has become the all-time best selling popular introduction to gemstones in the world.
Despite his gemstone marketing commitments Arem remained scientifically active. In the period 1975-77 he became a consultant to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Encyclopedia Britannica Educational Corporation and the Jeweler's Circular-Keystone magazine.
Arem had noted that although the literature on gemstones dates back thousands of years no-one had ever produced a comprehensive, fully-color illustrated summary of all known gemstone species and color varieties, with relevant data on physical properties, record stone sizes and name origins. This became Arem's fourth and most ambitious book project. From 1974-76 Arem researched the entire literature on gemstones and made three trips across the U.S. with portable studio equipment to capture on film examples of extremely rare gemstones in private collections. This project fully utilized all of Arem's academic training, knowledge of gemstone properties and localities, examples in museums and private collections and a general ability to sort massive amounts of raw data into a readable format. But the book also required extremely accurate color reproduction. Arem therefore perfected several new and revolutionary gem photography methods. The Encyclopedia ultimately required more than 300 new photos, some of them extremely challenging.
In 1977, after Arem’s full-time three-year effort, Van Nostrand-Reinhold published the COLOR ENCYCLOPEDIA OF GEMSTONES. This highly acclaimed book quickly became a cornerstone work in the gemstone field. In 1987, after a second massive (2-year) full time commitment, Arem published the second edition of the ENCYCLOPEDIA. The new book had far better color reproduction than the first and more than 200 completely new photos. In addition, the text was 100 pages larger and included chapters on synthetic gemstones and thermal measurements. The second edition also contains the first comprehensive tabulation in the gemological literature of precise, machine-generated measurements of the color of nearly all gemstone species and varieties. The COLOR ENCYCLOPEDIA OF GEMSTONES is still generally regarded as the most authoritative and comprehensive book of gemstone data in existence, and is widely used as a reference text within the jewelry trade. It is also one of the most frequently quoted books in the gemstone literature.
Arem decided in 1976 that if he required formal credentials in the field of gemology the Gemmological Association of Great Britain would provide the most prestigious accreditation. The procedure required 3 full days of examinations. The first was the Preliminary exam, passing of which is a prerequisite for the 2-day Diploma examination. These examinations are given every year in June, and simultaneously administered in as many as 40 countries. Those who successfully complete the Diploma exam are granted the title of Fellow of the Gemmological Association (FGA). Of more than 400 people (worldwide) taking the Diploma exam in 1976 only 116 passed; of these, 4 received a grade of "A" and passed "with distinction". Arem's paper was one of these. Moreover, if a Diploma examination paper is also of sufficiently high caliber the examiners may, at their discretion, award a prize created by the widow of Bond Street jeweler B.J. Tully in 1922. This prize is not awarded if the examiners feel no paper of sufficient worth was turned in. Arem, in 1976, became the first American ever to win the Tully Medal, the "Nobel Prize" of gemology. To this date he remains one of only two Americans so honored, and one of only about 50 that have ever been awarded the Medal.
In 1975 some local Washington DC gemologists had organized a study group for graduates of the British gemology course, under the guidance of well-known DC gemologist Anthony Bonanno. Arem suggested that the group expand its horizons to include international membership and also admit GIA graduates. This new entity, created by Arem and named by him as the ‘Accredited Gemologists Association’, was the first organization of professionally accredited gemologists in the world. Arem served as President of the AGA during its first three years. He also produced and edited the AGA Newsletter. During his term membership rose nearly 500%, and Arem's office became internationally recognized as a clearinghouse for gemological information. Although his excellent teaching had inspired the students who formed the initial study group, Bonanno strongly opposed its transformation into the AGA, and during its first 3 years he refused to come to a single meeting. Eventually, however, he saw the potential value of the organization, and agreed to become its second President. The AGA is still extremely active and well known today, and is a significant force in assuring that gem and jewelry appraisals are done by professional people with adequate skills.
In 1979 Arem organized and ran the first International Conference on Gemstone Investments in Washington, D.C. He later became an organizer of and adviser to subsequent conferences in Los Angeles and New York. From 1978 to 1980 Arem Co-Founded and served on the editorial board of the PreciousStones Newsletter. He wrote numerous articles for the PSN dealing with a wide range of gemological subjects. In 1982 Arem was invited to be the Keynote Speaker at the First International Colored Gemstone Conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka. During this time period he was also active as Chairman of Turamali, Inc., a leading gemstone marketing firm. In 1985 Arem designed a massive pendant consisting of baroque pearls, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds. He submitted the piece to the American Gem Trade Association Spectrum Award competition for jewelry design. In 1985 it won second place in the ‘top-value’ category, firmly establishing Arem as a jewelry designer of international caliber.
A long-planned fifth book, a childrens' book on minerals and rocks (DISCOVERING ROCKS AND MINERALS) was published in 1991. Also in 1991 came a much improved reprint of the 1973 work ROCKS AND MINERALS, which had gone out of print in 1989. In 1992 Arem published a fully-revised, expanded, and updated second edition of GEMS AND JEWELRY. The new books all received excellent reviews. The market for colored gemstones "came of age" in the 1980s, and there is little doubt that Arem's paperback, first appearing on the scene in 1975, had significantly enhanced the education of students and consumers about the world of colored gemstones, and provided thousands of people with their first non-technical view of this fascinating subject. This educational impact continued unabated. In 1999 Amazon.com, the world’s largest bookseller, recognized “Gems and Jewelry: 2nd ed.” with a Certificate of Acknowledgment as the year’s ‘best-selling title in its subject category’.
In the year 2000, in recognition of his many contributions, Arem was inducted into the Education Division of the Rockhound and Lapidary Hall of Fame. From 2008 until 2010 (when it ceased publication) Dr. Arem was Science Editor of Colored Stone Magazine, the only publication in the world devoted exclusively to providing current market and educational information about colored gemstones. Arem also wrote extensively for this magazine.
In 2012 Arem created a new marketing company called “Sapphires of Montana”, designed to sell gemstones from a mining property in which he had partial ownership since 1989. This company re-popularized Montana sapphires, which had first been sold by Tiffany & Co. as early as 1900, and which are the only “precious” gemstones commercially produced in the U.S.
From 2000 onward Dr. Arem has devoted himself to the challenge of creating and funding a humanitarian Foundation. He is also actively involved with 2 animal rescue groups and other philanthropic activities. Meanwhile, he is working on a completely re-written and updated 3rd edition of Gems and Jewelry.
Dr. Joel E. Arem has a combination of experience and education that is unique in the gemstone field. He has been involved with gems and minerals for more than 60 years. He holds two advanced degrees from the most prestigious of the world's universities, as well as global recognition of the highest academic achievement in gemology. He has delivered hundreds of lectures on gems, minerals, crystals, synthetics and mining localities to professional scientists, consumers and students. He has extensive experience as a collector, curator and teacher, and his long list of publications includes both the all-time most-popular best-selling introduction and the world's most relied-upon reference book on gemstones, as well as dozens of technical and popular journal articles.
Dr. Arem is an internationally recognized and award-winning jewelry designer, lecturer and trader who has traveled to more than 37 countries on 5 continents. As a lapidary since 1962, he has a hands-on familiarity with gemstone rough and the intricacies of cutting both cabochons and faceted gems. As a gemstone dealer, he handled many of the world’s largest and rarest collector gems, developed and trademarked a series of unique gemstone cuts, and has overseen the production of tens of thousands of carats of cut gemstones.
This unique perspective of a trained scientist, teacher, lapidary, trader, museum curator, collector, designer and author has provided Arem a widely-held reputation as one of the world's foremost gemstone authorities and educators.
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