The Gemological Institute of America, or better known as the prestigious GIA, has provided many students with deep-rooted passions in the gem and jewelry field a place to learn, grow, and thrive in the careers they will ultimately pursue. With campus locations established all over the world, GIA is renowned by all in the industry for their ideal and high caliber educational system. Among the graduates that have stemmed from such credible sources is Founder and Front Man of Fire & Brilliance, Michael Nguyen. We sat down with Michael for a light-hearted Q &A to take a closer look into his personal objectives before GIA, how it has shaped him as an individual during which, and the development of his progressive company to follow soon after.
Q: What was it like to attend GIA? What does it even mean?
A: Well, I recognized GIA as a go-to for people, like me, who aspire to be well-knowledgeable in the jewelry design world. This place that has credibility, integrity… all these great descriptions to the GIA title that could later add to my name as an artist in my field. It really opened doors for me.
They offer an extensive array of courses. You can go from learning how to make jewelry by hand as a bench jeweler to designing virtually on CAD (Computer Aided Design) programs. There were many routes I could have taken, but I personally chose what I still think was the best choice for me and what I planned on doing in the future. So along with studying and honing my expertise in being able to professionally grade loose gems by GIA’s guidelines, I took to designing custom work in CAD programs where my creative side really let loose.
(In 2013, Michael received the Students’ Choice Award for “GIA’s Best in Class Jewelry Design.” Through vigorous training in visual practice-based research, studying the history of gems and mastering the ability to grade them by GIA’s standards, he graduated the same year. His company, founded in April of 2010, now specializes in customization as a result.)
Q: Have you always known that this was the direction your life was headed?
A: I didn’t always know, no. My background was in Business Finance (BS) and from there, Management (MBA). I could be resourceful with numbers, but it was near the end of it all that I sort of had this epiphany, that this just wasn’t it for me. All the time I spent in the field I was good at could have been, instead, going towards something I knew I’d also enjoy. This is because I’ve always felt like a hybrid of sorts, never just right-brained or left-brained, but in between. I have no regrets about having all of that experience; I’m still able to apply what I’ve learned in my business today. However, the artist in me then never went beyond the walls of lined paper in my notebook and I needed to see where it could take me.
Q: What was your inspiration to go into this line of work specifically?
A: My father is a self-taught jeweler. In his youth, he would always walk past this jewelry store, stop in great admiration, and say “Someday, I’m going to be a jeweler.” And then one day he was. He’s always felt drawn to the limelight, it seems, and maybe he feels a sense of belonging to the same in the fire and brilliance of gems and jewelry. In his mid-30’s, after 6 months of training under a jeweler he befriended, he gained the experience to set up shop. And then some time after I realized that my passion was in line with his, he showed me the ropes.
Q: Are there any gems that you are particular to, one that really captivates you?
A: I’m a huge gem enthusiast. GIA has taught me that there are unique qualities to all kinds of gems and not to limit your appreciation for them because they’ll surprise you. My company loves on natural stones like Morganite, Sapphire, and Diamond, simulants like Moissanite and Amora Gem. It’s very likely we’ll be looking into synthetics soon. We are big fans of fashion and like seeing the beauty in all of it, but my standards remain high, as taught. I will only supply gems that I believe will maximize a piece of jewelry. For example, I find the fire and brilliance in that of Moissanite to be very beautiful. This opinion is often shared with our customers, and the plus side is that it is economically responsible.
Q: C&C is to soon release Forever One, the new Moissanite, in September! Thoughts?
We are really excited about the Forever One! Just a week ago, my team and I flew out to their headquarters for the big reveal. When I was able to evaluate it with a loupe, I couldn’t leave my seat! I can say with confidence that the new Moissanite is, in fact, colorless. There is a definite improvement in their R&D. We can’t wait to share the love with others; it’s going to look amazing on jewelry.
Q: Can you tell us more about what your experience was like at C&C as a GIA Grad?
A: Of course. On the flight to North Carolina, I was curious to see Moissanite, long-beloved by F&B, as colorless. Being able to see it in person for the first time was a real treat and we are incredibly grateful for the experience. I always want to provide only the best of the best at my company, to answer customer inquiries and cater to their preferences in jewelry with certified, knowledgeable information. The Forever One is completely genuine in its sparkly, powerful demeanor and as a GIA Grad, I’m proud to be able to say that and mean it. I think C&C has really outdone themselves and we look forward to more projects with them.