Israeli software program powers international gem color system

GemeWizard’s Menachem Sevdermish: In reality, we had created a program which defined the colors of gemstones.Your navigator to the world of diamonds and gems – that’s the motto of Israel-based gem software company GemeWizard. And thanks to the vision of …

GemeWizard’s Menachem Sevdermish: In reality, we had created a program which defined the colors of gemstones.Your navigator to the world of diamonds and gems – that’s the motto of Israel-based gem software company GemeWizard. And thanks to the vision of its founder Menachem Sevdermish, gemologists, dealers and students are able to do their navigation online as never before.

“We provide the DNA of the gem,” Sevdermish told ISRAEL21c from the company’s Ramat Gan headquarters.

Since each gem is unique in color, it is virtually impossible to describe how it looks in words, he explained. And the problem with digital photographs is that they don’t accurately portray the color precisely enough for gem dealers.

“A major problem facing the gem dealer, grader and jeweler, is how to communicate and grade the color properties of gems. Printed catalogs can be effective, but they never quite communicate the precise gem colors, and not all printing materials are uniform. Sending the actual images of gems through the net is, as we all know, time consuming. And, even if such a transfer were to be faster in the future, we would still be left with the problem of describing the colors and the gems and grading them. We have tried to create a program, which will be the jewelers’, diamond dealers’ and gem dealers’ best friend.”

GemeWizard’s, GemSquare software solves the ambiguity by providing a color grading communications system that describes and records a jewel’s exact color. In a simple, efficient and accurate manner, it enables users to describe the color of a gemstone in such a way that a supplier or client who cannot see the stone, knows what color is being referred to. The program was developed in collaboration with the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the world’s foremost authority in gemology, diamond grading, jewelry education, and gemology research.

With GemeWizard, you see comparison gem images on a standard 15-inch LCD computer monitor. Every hue is recreated in six color tones, with each of those appearing in six levels of saturation. Each is retrievable in 15 polished gemstone shapes, giving the jeweler/gemologist 16,740 images of gems from which to choose. It can be used for buying, selling, matching, appraising, and even in a limited capacity for identification.

Since its introduction in 2003, GemeWizard is being widely implemented in the industry, by bodies like the GIA, which has adopted it for educational purposes, to leading appraisers and independent gemologists throughout the world, and to some major gem companies.

For Sevdermish, the development of the gem ID software was borne out of personal necessity. After studying gemology in the early 1970s, he returned to Israel and opened the first gemological institute in the country.

“It was me, myself and a microscope,” he recalls with a laugh. “I was given small offices at the precision stone exchange, and started teaching small classes.”

However, to supplement his income, Sevdermish also began working as an independent gems dealer.

“It was in the gem dealing that I discovered the problem. There came a point where I needed a language to discuss the colors of the gems. I tried many different kinds of visual aids. I filled test tubes with water, and added different colors, but the colors change over time due to sunlight. I also tried colored plastic, but it was impossible to get the accurate color,” he said.

Around 13 years ago Sevdermish began experimenting with computerized methods of representing color images. One of the early problems was insufficient memory. But over the ensuing years, advances in computer technology solved that, and a breakthrough in measuring color more accurately occurred in 2002. To record a gem’s color, Sevdermish scans it in a white box using special lighting. Computer software then splits the image into thousands of spots, like pixels, and measures the hue, darkness, and color intensity of each. This numerical description of the gem at each spot forms a unique color map.

“We were very pleased with the results – in reality, we had created a program which defined the colors of gemstones,” he said.

GemeWizard was first introduced to the trade by Sevdermish in January 2003 at the International Colored Gemstone Association Congress in Jaipur, India. “I was giving my lecture, and I can say with honesty, that it startled this audience filled with gem dealers and professionals,” he recalled.

One member of the audience impressed by Sevdermish’s presentation was William E. Boyajian, GIA’s president.

“Bill came up to me and asked me questions like ‘Who are you? Where did you come from?’ After we spoke, he asked me to come into a conference room with other GIA officials for a 15 minute talk, and instead, it lasted four hours,” Sevdermish said.

“I was intrigued with Menachem’s presentation from the outset and felt that the software could be a technologically sound method of color communication for the industry,” said Boyajian.

Sevdermish, in turn, wanted it tested by GIA, because, in his words, “We knew the trade and public would not accept it unless GIA approved it.”

Collaboration between GIA’s technical team and Sevdermish’s development team began in March 2003. During more than a year of testing and refinement, the two teams were able to fine-tune the colors of GemeWizard to represent those in GIA’s color description system and to establish standardized lighting and grading procedures that were essential to ensure consistent results.

GIA began to use the software to assist students in its Colored Stones courses starting in January 2005, and according to Boyajian, it helps the students to “better understand color in gems and enable them to easily navigate through GIA ‘color space’, the color description reference system used in our Colored Stones diploma program.”

The program worked so well, according to Sevdermish, that in February 2006, the GIA officially adopted the GemeWizard as a worldwide system for teaching gemologists about colored stones.

“For me it was like reaching the peak of Mount Everest,” he said. “When I met Bill, he said, ‘you know, we’ve spend so much time and money to try to come up with something like this, and it’s coming out of a tiny country like Israel? I don’t believe it.’”

GemeWizard is also being used by professionals within the industry. Online sellers can scan a gem and email its map to a buyer, who can use the database of 150,000 fingerprinted gem images to show the closest match on screen or compare the fingerprint with the details of a lost or stolen jewel.

“The system is creating a futuristic language for describing gemstones. In this language, vivid red will mean the same thing in India and in the US, and they’ll be able to see exactly what it looks like. It’s certainly better than saying ‘that stone with the slightly purplish pink look’,” said Sevdermish.

The proud GemeWizard head is philosophical when summing up the past decade and a half of experimentation before arriving at the current success of the software program.

“I think sometime you have to be the right person at the right time with the right knowledge. The combination of being a gemologist but also a dealer and knowing what the problem was, might have been the key. You could be the biggest genius in the world, but if you’re not inside the problem, you won’t come up with this kind of solution.”