In this course we begin by introducing the nature of minerals: their composition and structure, physical properties that we use to distinguish them from one another, origins and locations we can find them. The emphasis is on gem minerals. Subsequently, we will proceed through the minerals on the basis of composition and structure. We will address topics of particular interest in gemology, including gem cuts, history and lore of gems, what causes gem colors, and the conventional and unconventional uses of gems.

Of the 6000 or so known minerals, only a handful are used as gems because of their beauty and optimal characteristics.

There are reading and homework assignments related to the lectures.


The weekly laboratory sessions in JHN 127 present opportunities to examine, characterize, and gain insight into representative gem and mineral specimens. You will learn to identify and recognize many important gem groups. The labs are full, with no extra seats available. Please try to make it to your own session. If you miss one due to unforseen circumstances, please make arrangments ahead of time with me or Beth Mahrt in advance. Laboratories will include exercises, online quizzes, and hopefully a field trip.

Term Project: A term project, which can take the form of a visual presentation or term paper will be due in the 8th week of the quarter. A project proposal worth 15% of the project grade will be due in the third week. The project ground rules will be available the first week of class.


There will be a lecture mid-term exam and lecture final exam as well as a lab quizzes. The laboratory exercises and quizzes will comprise 40% of your grade while the lecture exam will comprise another 40% of your grade. The term project will be the remaining 20%.

Field Trip:

Will be a self guided tour to examine the Burke Museum mineral collection.