Gemological Curating, Education and Research
Consulting Gemological Curator
Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department, Cornell University Staff Page.
Visit the Timothy N. Heasley Mineralogy Museum main page here and updates here.
Contributing Editor and Author, G&G Micro-World
A quarterly column featured in Gems & Gemology, the peer-reviewed scientific journal of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA); now available in both free digital and paid subscription-based hardcopy formats (Introduction).
Accredited Senior Gemologist; Voting Member of the Accredited Gemologists Association (AGA).
Member of The Society of Mineral Museum Professionals whose mission is:
Speaking Engagements (for more information, see Current Presentation Offerings):
to foster recognition of mineral science collections as essential scientific, educational and cultural resources
to promote support for growth, maintenance and use of collections
to advance museum practice through cooperation in the development, review and dissemination of information
Speaker 2017 Annual Banquet, New York Mineralogical Club (co-founded by George F. Kunz in 1886) - New York City
The Scandinavian Gem Symposium - Kisa, Sweden
The Accredited Gemologists Association (AGA) Conference- Tucson, AZ
New York Mineralogical Club (co-founded by George F. Kunz in 1886) - New York City
11th Annual Sinkankas Symposium (Ruby) - Carlsbad, CA. Review of the Symposium
40th and 43rd Annual Rochester Mineralogical Symposium - Rochester, NY
Cornell University Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Spring Graduate Seminar Series
Manhattan Chapter of the GIA Alumni - New York City
Washington GIA Alumni Chapter, American Gem Society Guild (AGS) and Women's Jewelry Association (WJA) - Seattle, WA
Washington, DC Chapter of the GIA Alumni Association (review )
Demonstrating the Sunstones on The Science Channel
Mysteries of the Missing
September 2017 Episode 5: Viking Sunstone
With excerpts from: The Fabled Viking Sunstone (E.A. Skalwold,2008) See More Here
(Photo credit: The Science Channel,
provided by episode producers at Wall to Wall)
Of her May 2015 WA State GIA/AGS/WJA presentation
"The Edward Arthur Metzger Gem Collection: a Peek Behind the Curtain"
iDazzle's Monica Stephenson writes:
"Elise Skalwold, GG, FGA, shares her passion and project since 2007.
The Edward Arthur Metzger Gem Collection
should be on every jewelry or gem enthusiast's coffee table.
I am in awe of her knowledge and depth of experience in a field where few women have reached this level."
Author and editor of scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals, as well as articles in mineralogy and gemology-related periodicals
Of the above titles, award-winning author/gemologist Richard W. Hughes writes: "...It is really great to see papers of this sort making their way into both the gemological and mineralogical literature. Wonderfully written and with high-quality illustrations, they bring esoteric subjects down to the level of us commoners in a way that is so rarely seen..."
(note: Gems & Gemology entries are printed in the subscription glossy hardcopy journal, but also may be viewed for free online - see direct links)
Selected editing projects:
Skalwold, E.A., Renfro, N. and Koivula, J.I. (2017) Kyanite: a rare blue guest in diamond. Gems & Gemology, Vol. 53, No. 2, pages 102-103 (read here).
Skalwold, E.A. and Bassett, W.A. (2017) Ametrine optical dishes: windows into the effects of crystal structure. Gems & Gemology, Vol. 53, No. 1, pages 102-103 (read here).
Renfro, N. and Skalwold, E.A.(2017) Flashes and flames in Ethiopian opal. Gems & Gemology, Vol. 53, No. 1, pages 104-105 (read here).
Bassett,W.A. and E.A.Skalwold (2007) Diamond cleavage: importance to high pressure research. High Pressure Research, Vol. 37, No.1, pages 1-13 (abstract).
Skalwold, E.A.(2016-17) [R.W. Hughes, Ruby & Sapphire: A Gemologists Guide], book review by E.A. Skalwold. InColor, Winter, 34, pages 68-73 (now available as PDF).
Skalwold, E.A.(2017) Vibrant pinkish-red spinel, burma [in: V. Y. Yavorskyy, Gemstones Terra Connoisseur], Yavorskyy Co,Ltd. Hong Kong (more info).
Skalwold, E.A. (2016) Synthetic quartz: a designer inclusion specimen. Gems & Gemology, Vol. 52, No. 4, pages 425-426 (read here).
Skalwold, E.A.(2016) Much ado about trapiche pezzottaite. InColor, Summer Issue,32, page 33. Please note: as well as adding to our knowledge regarding trapiches, this contribution serves as an erratum to the earlier Spring 2016 InColor feature cover article on the subject by another author which inadvertently contained an incorrect image credit and some typos regarding the pezzottaite crystal (now available as PDF).
Skalwold, E.A.(2016) Evolution of the inclusion illusion. InColor, Summer Issue, 32, pages 22-23 (now available as PDF).
Skalwold, E.A. (2016) Garnet inclusion illusion. Gems & Gemology, Vol. 52, No. 2, pages 201-202 (read here).
Skalwold, E.A. (2016) Pond life (orbicular chalcedony). Gems & Gemology, Vol. 52, No. 2, page 201 (read here).
Gems & Gemology, Vol. 52, No. 2, page 201
Skalwold, E.A. and Bassett, W.A. (2016) A halo in a Sri Lankan taaffeite. Gems & Gemology, Vol. 52, No. 1, pages 80-81 (read here).
Renfro, N., Koivula, J.I. and Skalwold, E.A.(2016) A fantastic display of phase changes in a sapphire’s
fluid inclusion. Gems & Gemology, Vol. 52, No. 1, pages 78-79 (read here and watch video).
Skalwold, E.A.(2016) In Memoriam: Arthur Tracey Grant Jr. (1925–2015). Rocks & Minerals, Vol.91, No.2, 189-190 (Editor’s note: This tribute is condensed from a longer article, “Written in Stone: Remembering Master Facetor Art Grant,” that appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of InColor, see below).
Skalwold, E.A.(2016) Written in stone: remembering master faceter Art Grant. InColor Magazine, Winter Issue, 24, pages 24-29 (Now available as PDF). Erratum added to the PDF: The source for the mine origin was the Smithsonian catalog which stated St. Joe #2 mine. (http://collections.nmnh.si.edu/search/ms/?irn=1000044 accessed 11/13/15).
Correction by Dr. George Robinson and Dr. Steve Chamberlain 05/01/16: “We believe all the large faceted calcites from the Balmat Mining District came from the huge crystals of Iceland spar found in the #3 mine. Very few calcite crystals of any kind were found in the #2 mine.”
Skalwold, E.A. (2016) [Review of the book Ruby & Sapphire: A Collector’s Guide, by Richard W. Hughes with photographs by Wimon Manorotkul and E. Billie Hughes]. Rocks & Minerals, Vol.91, No.1, pages 88-89.
"…Just as the musician Taj Mahal describes himself as an ethnomusicologist, a self-proclaimed student of music in its cultural context, Hughes may be thought of as an ethnogemologist…Given its relatively small print run, don’t miss out on the chance to own this literary treasure from an author who opens his heart to the world, yet has nothing to fear having done so..." Read my entire review of the book in the 2016 Jan/Feb Special Tucson issue of Rocks & Minerals magazine - with apologies to my dear friends Richard, Wimon and Billie for the really unfortunate typo: (read entire review).
Skalwold, E.A. and W.A. Bassett. (2016) Blue minerals: exploring cause & effect. Rocks & Minerals, Vol.91, No.1, pages 61-75 (Special Issue).
Abstract: From its vast expanses of cerulean waters to its azure heavens above, our world is dominated by blue, so it is no wonder that the color blue is favored by many across cultures and throughout the ages. The allure of minerals owes much to the perception of color inherent to a particular species or variety. Arguably, whether a person is a seasoned collector or small child, color is what first attracts attention, and quite often its cause is the earliest question posed. Scientific investigations into its nature and articulation of its nuances of hue and quality are the subjects of volumes of literature in both the mineralogical and gemological sciences. Although the present overview narrowly focuses on a selection of blue minerals and aims to do so with some exploratory tools and twists, its concepts also provide insights into the cause of other colors seen elsewhere in the mineral kingdom, as well as in gemstones fashioned from denizens of that realm.
Of "Blue Minerals: Exploring Cause & Effect," author/gemologist Richard W. Hughes comments: “…But the real praise is for your article on blue minerals. Not only was it beautifully written, but the illustrations were incredible. If only all gemology articles could be as interesting and accessible as this. This article is in my all time top list. And after Billie reads it, I know she’ll feel likewise, as one of your subheads is her favorite Dylan song… Your writing and photography are simply wonderful…” Photo: Faceted Sodalite on Rough, E.A. Skalwold, 2015 (abstract).
Skalwold, E.A. and W.A. Bassett. (2015) Double Trouble: Navigating Birefringence. Chantilly, VA: Mineralogical Society of America. 20 pages. ISBN 978-0-939950-02-7 (now available from the MSA as premium quality hardcopy booklets here or as PDFs here).).
Abstract: Optical mineralogy has many fascinating though often complex concepts which underlie common effects observed in minerals and lapidary specimens fashioned from them. Doubling of images such as seen through a calcite rhomb is perhaps one of the most readily observed of these properties and could well have been one put to use centuries ago in a very practical way. The intriguing theory of the Viking’s use of a coveted stone to find their way in arctic waters has its roots in the ancient Viking Sagas, optical mineralogy, and in practical application by modern navigators. The proposed minerals thought to be the Viking “sunstone” are excellent models for understanding the optical phenomena of birefringence and pleochroism; the very properties which make them useful for navigation are also those which make them valuable to mineral and gem enthusiasts today (see Skalwold 2008). There are several candidates for the stone. Among them are “Iceland Spar” calcite of which a coveted optical-quality variety was found abundantly in eastern Iceland, and the blue variety of the mineral cordierite, found in Norway and popularly known as “Viking’s Compass” and as the gem “iolite.” While the latter’s extraordinary pleochroism is explored in the authors’ article “Blue Minerals: Exploring Cause & Effect” (Skalwold and Bassett 2016), the more likely candidate, Iceland spar, is the classic model for demonstrating the phenomenon of birefringence and doubling in optically anisotropic minerals. However, whether one’s adventures with minerals are land-bound or at sea, before venturing far there is some trouble with doubling to untangle first.
Skalwold, E.A. and W.A. Bassett. (2015) Quartz: a Bull’s Eye on Optical Activity. Chantilly, VA: Mineralogical Society of America. 16 pages. ISBN 978-0-939950-00-3 (now available from the MSA as premium quality hardcopy booklets here or as PDFs here).).
Abstract: It might be overstating a bit to say that if one could understand all there is to know about quartz, then everything else in the universe would make sense. Without doubt, this mineral has profoundly impacted many sciences and technologies which we rely upon today. At the very least, quartz provides one with a host of mental gymnastics and a seemingly endless variety of puzzles to ponder. Not least among its fascinating properties is that of optical activity, its manifestation of which results in the special optical figure affectionately known as the “bull’s eye.” In the authors’ article on causation of blue color in minerals, mention is made of the quartz monochromator, an obscure instrument which makes use of optical activity in a very elegant way (Skalwold and Bassett 2016). In hopes of giving readers insights and appreciation for this ingenious device and for quartz itself, the following is an exploration into the nature of the chromatic phenomenon which plays out within this proverbial black box.
Skalwold, E.A. and Renfro, N. (2015) Stars are out in Paraíba tourmaline. Gems & Gemology, Vol. 51, No. 4, pages 444-445 (read here).
Skalwold, E.A.(2015) Letter: trapiche nomenclature. Gems & Gemology, Vol. 51, No. 4, page 463 (read letter here).
("Cherry Blossom Stones")
Read a discussion of these versus trapiche nomenclature.
Photo: Elise A. Skalwold, 2015
Read a first report here.
Photo: Elise A. Skalwold, 2014
Skalwold, E.A. and Koivula, J.I. (2015) Pezzottaite debuts as the newest trapiche gem mineral. Gems & Gemology, Vol. 51, No. 3, pages 326-328 (read here).
Skalwold, E.A. (2015) The Micro-World of Gems & Gemology: a delicious blend of science and art. Palagems Reflective Index: Gemformation Newsletter, Pala International, Vol. 2015, No. 2 (archived here).
Skalwold, E.A. and Koivula, J.I. (2015) Apatite “piñata”. Gems & Gemology, Vol. 51, No. 2, pages 191-92 (read here).
Skalwold, E.A., Renfro. N. and Koivula, J.I. (2015) Introduction to the Micro-World of Gems. Gems & Gemology, Vol. 51, No. 2, pages 190 (read here).
Skalwold, E.A., Bassett, W.A., Jacobsen, S.D. and Koivula, J.I. (2014) The riddle of the blue crystal: a diamond's enigmatic inclusion is an intriguing messenger from one of earth's last frontiers. Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA) Paper No. 127-11 . Vancouver, British Columbia, 19–22 October 2014 (see conference proceedings and abstract here).
Skalwold, E.A. and Bassett, W.A. (2014) In Memoriam: Allen M. Bassett (1925-2014).Rocks & Minerals,Vol. 89, No. 5, pages 478-479 (more here).
Jacobsen, S.D., Bassett, W.A., Skalwold, E.A. and Koivula, J.I. (2012) Message in a bottle: secrets from the deep Earth in a diamond inclusion. 2012 Packard Fellows Meeting, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Monterey, CA, 5-8 September, 2012 (funding provided by the Fellowship for Science and Engineering by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation).
Skalwold, E.A. (2014) Dr. Allen M. Bassett and the ruby mines of Nepal, a historical overview. 11th Annual Sinkankas Symposium: Ruby (Revised Edition), edited by L. Thorsen. Pala International, Inc., Fallbrook, CA. pages 42-47.
(Author’s Note: this overview has been excerpted from the author’s pre-publication manuscript).
This February 2014 publication is a special limited edition which supplements the Proceedings of the April 6, 2013 11th Annual Sinkankas Symposium, Ruby (see below). Details: 8.25" x 10.75"; soft cover, perfect binding, 127 pages, includes expanded text and new reference material, 205 color photographs, maps and illustrations. An April 2014 print-on-demand version is now available here.
Koivula, J.I. and Skalwold, E.A. (2014) The microworld of diamonds: images from earth's mantle. Rocks & Minerals,Vol. 89, No. 1, pages 46-53 (abstract). Awarded the 2014 Best Article of the Year (for Rocks & Minerals Magazine).
2014 Best Article of the Year
(for Rocks & Minerals magazine)
Friends of Mineralogy 2015 Tucson Awards
L-R: John I. Koivula, Elise A. Skalwold, Alex Schauss
Presentation at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show Banquet 02/14/15
(photo: Michael J. Bainbridge)
Skalwold, E.A. (2013) Gemology bears triumphant tidings. A review of the historic 125th Anniversary Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA) archived: here.
Skalwold, E.A. and Bassett, W.A. (2013) Scholarly treasure: the role of gems in a university setting 125th Anniversary Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA) Paper No. 375-3 . Denver, CO., 27-30 October 2013 (see conference proceedings and abstract here).
Skalwold, E.A. (2013) Dr. Allen M. Bassett and the ruby mines of Nepal.11th Annual Sinkankas Symposium: Ruby, edited by V. Paul. San Diego Mineral & Gem Society and the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), Carlsbad, CA. April 6, 2013. 59 pages (symposium proceedings booklet, which includes presentation abstracts and reference material). For for more information on this historic symposium, see details: here.
11th Annual Sinkankas Symposium: Ruby
Friend and Keynote Speaker Richard W. Hughes
Don't miss Richard's magnificent new book
(includes a nod to the Nepal story)
"Ruby & Sapphire: A Collector’s Guide".
Review: "...Elise Skalwold of Cornell University, a respected contributor and editor for multiple trade and scientific journals, presented for the first time at the Sinkankas Symposium Dr. Allen M. Bassett's remarkable career as a geologist and the three decades he spent in Nepal studying the geology and developing an integrated jewelry industry for this country. Inspired by the specimens in Cornell's Heasley Mineralogical Museum, Skalwold started her research on this partially mystic life story, and she will unfold it in her upcoming [article in pre-publication]." Source: InColor, Summer 2013, pages 26-27, "Ruby Takes Spotlight at 11th Annual Sinkankas Symposium" by Dr. Tao Hsu, Technical Editor of Gems & Gemology (GIA) (PDF)
Skalwold, E.A. (2012) Nano-polycrystalline diamond: circle the wagons or embrace as a gem of the future? The GemGuide, Gem Market News, Vol. 31, No. 6, pages 8-11 (more here).
Skalwold, E.A., Renfro N., Shigley J.E., and Breeding, C.M. (2012) Characterization of a synthetic nano-polycrystalline diamond gemstone. Gems & Gemology, Vol. 48, No. 3, pages 188-192 (more here ).
Skalwold E.A., Renfro N., Breeding C.M., Shigley J.E. (2012) Transparent, faceted nano-polycrystalline synthetic diamond. GIA News from Research, www.gia.edu/research-resources/newsfrom-research/NPD_Diamond.pdf, July 25 [date accessed: July 26, 2012]. (more here).
Skalwold, E.A. (2012) Nano-polycrystalline diamond sphere: a gemologist's perspective. Gems & Gemology, Vol. 48, No. 2, pages 128-131 (more here).
Bassett, W. A. and Skalwold, E.A. (2012) The Edward Arthur Metzger Gem Collection. Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca. 415 pages. Read book reviews in The GemGuide, Gem Market News here and in the Pala International Gemformation newsletter here
Note: the Collection itself is housed in the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art ( visit the museum).
Praise for "The Edward Arthur Metzger Gem Collection"|
A book by William A. Bassett and Elise A. Skalwold
This first of two volumes catalogs the entire Collection
John I. Koivula: “…a picture is worth a thousand words and you have done one of the best descriptive collection catalogues ever produced. As a picturesque catalogue it will reach and influence a wide audience - and in the worlds of gems, mineralogy, and gemology we do need to reach many more people in order to preserve the sciences that we so much enjoy…”
Antoinette Matlins: “…an important addition to the trove of sparkling books written for people who love gems and jewelry. In addition to the magnificent photos by Jeff Scovil, and the clear and useful information about the gem families that comprise the collection, there is an intimacy to the text that creates a strong connection to and understanding of the man behind the collection … This is a wonderfully accessible book through which one gains a much clearer understanding of what comprises a real ‘gem’ [along with] the passion, the excitement, patience and commitment that made Edward Arthur Metzger not only a collector, but a connoisseur...”
Richard W. Hughes: “…First of all, I have to say that this is an extraordinarily handsome volume and one that I am proud to add to my library… I am blown away by the collection, both in terms of quality and breadth. You are so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with something like this. It is a treasure and a gift…”
Dana Schorr (1952-2015): "...It is beautifully done! Congratulations on publishing! You must have put hours and hours into it [and] you did a great job with the resources you had available. I am enjoying perusing the book already. It accomplishes what you set out to do and you should be proud of it… I am proud to put it on my coffee table and let my friends enjoy it. Most times something very fine is better than nothing that is perfect!..." (Tribute to Dana)
Alan Jobbins: “…The photography is outstanding and brings the gems to life - the red diamond is almost in one’s hand and the range of colours of the diamonds is quite amazing. The overall effect is to make the presentation remarkably crisp and so accessible. In addition to the excellent photography and the exceptional range of colours in all categories, on a broad educational front it excites pleasure and arouses the desire to learn…”
John Emmett: “…DOWNRIGHT SPECTACULAR - The collection, but more importantly THE BOOK! The book is actually the more important of the two as it will document for all time such treasures and the book will be studied by more lovers of fine gems than will probably ever see the collection. What a major contribution. Please accept my praise for this fine work and also congratulate your co-author [Dr. William A. Bassett]. I cannot imagine how much work was involved in doing such a project…”
Emmanuel Fritsch: “...there is excellent documentation, which is the first level of science. In that regard, your book has a definite scientific flavor, which would have been absent had it been written by someone less scientifically inclined...”
John Nels Hatleberg: “Fantastic!”
Shen, A.H., Bassett, W.A., Skalwold, E.A., Fan, N.J., and Tao, T. (2012) Precision measurement of inter-facet angles on faceted gems using a goniometer. Gems & Gemology, Vol. 48, No. 1, pages 32-38 (more here).
Skalwold, E.A.(2010) Gemmological Association of Great Britian Conference. InColor, Fall Issue, 18, pages 72-75 (InColor Magazine)
Skalwold, E.A. and Bassett, W.A. (2010) The Edward Arthur Metzger Collection: the photographs of Jeffrey A. Scovil. InColor, Spring Issue, 13, pages 24-33. (InColor Magazine)
Note: the Collection itself is housed in the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art ( visit the museum).
Contributing writer and past associate editor for the International Colored Stone Association's (ICA) InColor Magazine: (InColor Magazine)
(edited) Mauthner, M. (2011) The History of Kunzite and the California Connection, Rocks & Minerals, Vol. 86, No. 2, pages 112-131 (more here) This is one of the best - if not THE best - articles written about this gem mineral. Illustrated with historical images and Mark's own outstanding photographs, it is a thoroughly researched, highly enjoyable, valuable reference.
(edited) Bassett,W.A. (2009) "Diamond anvil cell, 50th birthday," High Pressure Research, Vol 29, pages 163-186 (PDF).
(edited) Pardieu, V. and Hughes, R.W.(2008) Tsavorite - the untamed beauty. InColor (Fall-Winter 2008-2009), pp 12-20. For the full story with additional photos and insights, see Dick Hughes' page here.
(edited) Saminpanya, Seriwat, Sutherland, F.L. (2008) Black Opaque Gem Minerals Associated with Corundum in the Alluvial Deposits of Thailand. Australian Gemmologist, Vol. 23, No. 6, pages 242-253 (Australian Gemmologist).
Past Contributing member of the Abstract Review Boards of the Gemological Institute of America's premier scientific journal Gems & Gemology (G&G) and the Gemmological Association of Great Britain's venerable scientific periodical, The Journal of Gemmology (JoG)
Contributing writer for Pala International's online newsletter Gemformation. See more here.
Elected Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain (FGA)
Gemological Institute of America (GIA)
Diploma gemology program (aka "the FGA") completed in-residence at the Gem and Jewelry Institute of Thailand (GIT); then located at the Chulalongkorn University campus in Bangkok, Thailand.
"Pass with Merit " Consequently elected a Fellow of Gemmological Association of Great Britain (FGA).
Smith College, Northampton, MA, Graduate Level Coursework:
Elmira College, Elmira, NY, Graduate Level Coursework:
Graduate Gemologist (GG), completed in-residence at the Robert Mouawad Campus in Carlsbad, California
Winner of the James R. Lucy Scholarship, Graduate Gemology, GIA
Graduate Pearls Diploma
Interview in The Loupe, Winter 2008
Cornell University, Bachelor of Science, 1982
Psychology of Teaching and Learning
Learning Styles and Teaching Strategies
Adventure Based Education
"It's All About the People"
Richard W. Hughes and John I. Koivula
Two of the world's greatest gemologists and to whom I owe much.
It's been quite a journey since that first letter in 2004 - Thank you dear friends!
With Alan Hodgkinson, John and Kristi Koivula
2008 Canadian Gemmological Association Conference (CGA) Toronto
In Dedication: "The Working Library"
Note: most of the original website has been taken down for house-cleaning. Three sections remain:
email: elise at nordskip dot com