TWENTY VOLUMES ON – the first 50 years: A brief history of The Australian Gemmologist
By Dr Grahame Brown (Editor 1994-2008)

The Beginning

The inaugural issue of The Australian Gemmologist, the official journal of The Gemmological Association of Australia, was published during July 1958 by an Editorial Committee appointed by the then Victorian Branch of the association. In retrospect it is interesting to note that the Editorial of volume 1, number 1 provided future editors with six guiding aims for the journal that are just as applicable today as they were in 1958.

  • To create a scientific journal of gemmological interest.
  • To further interest in and study of gemstones, both within Australia and overseas.
  • To bring about a closer bond between gemmologists in Australia and to make their views known overseas.
  • To provide a discussion forum for controversial gemmological subjects.
  • To provide a suitable advertising medium for gemstones, minerals, jewellery, and allied goods.
  • To produce revenue for the G.A.A. to enable it to further its aims as stated in its Memorandum.

The 36 page first issue of The Australian Gemmologist, which was reprinted during 1998 to celebrate the journal’s 40th aniversary, contained three papers of gemmological substance:

  • ‘Gem inclusions through a x10 loupe’ by Arthur A. Wirth.
  • ‘Do we know enough … about diamonds’ by W.A. Catanach.
  • ‘Gemmology and the salesman’ by Stewart Morrow.

Editorial Committees and Editors

The Australian Gemmologist is produced by an Editorial Committee, whose members may belong to any Division. The Editor/Chair of the Editorial Committee is elected by Federal Council.

The Second Decade

By May 1968 Jack Oughton had replaced Geoff Tombs as Chair of the Editorial Committee and in the May 73 issue was appointed Editor. Following the death of J.H. Oughton, on the 13th January 1975, R.A. Ball and Miss O. Zimoch were appointed Joint Editors from the February 1975 issue. With the May 1976 issue Reg Ball became Editor/Chair, with the assistance of Joint Editors R. Powell and B. Chambers. Reg Ball resigned as Chair at the 1977 F.C.M, and as Editor at the 1978 F.C.M.

The Third and Fourth Decades

Reg Ball was replaced by R.A. (Ray) Powell, who became Editor/Chair and edited the November 1978 issue. By May 1980 Powell had been replaced by A.G. Kovacs as Chair, but continued as Acting Editor until responsibilities for publication of the journal were returned to Victoria by the 1981 F.C.M. For a few months C. Fisher was appointed Editor, to be followed in August 1981 by W.H. (Bill) Hicks. Twelve years of stability followed, during which time Bill Hicks proceeded to edit and progressively upgrade the standard of four volumes of the G.A.A.’s ‘window to the world’. Miss Patricia Callaway became Chair in July 1989, and following Bill’s death in November 1993 with the assistance of an Editorial Committee of Mrs N. Jamieson, Mrs C. Sutherland, and G. Brown continued to publish the journal until the 1994 F.C.M. At this meeting responsibilities for publication were once more transferred — this time to Brisbane, with Grahame Brown being appointed Editor/Chair.


Two hundred and twenty-four issues and fifty years on, The Australian Gemmologist has matured into a quarterly colour illustrated gemmological journal published by The Gemmological Association of Australia. The journal has a deserved international reputation for quality. That the journal still satisfies the six aims specified in the Editorial of Volume 1 Number 1 is a tribute to the dedication and professionalism of past Editors, Editorial Committee members, and of course contributors — past and present.

W. H. HICKS PRIZE LIST 1993 - 2020

The W. H. Hicks prize is in memory of W.H. (Bill) Hicks who died in November 1993 after 12 years as Editor of The Australian Gemmologist.

History of the Prize

The Federal Council may award annually or biennially the W. H. Hicks Prize to author(s) resident in Australia, for the best paper published in The Australian Gemmologist. Voting is decided by an independent selection panel, appointed by the Editor and Editorial committee. The announcement of the winner of the prize is made to members of the Federal Council at the Federal Conference, then to all members of the GAA at the AGM, and also published in The Australian Gemmologist in the first issue of the year.

In mid-1981, production of The Australian Gemmologist moved from Sydney to South Yarra, Victoria under the Chairmanship of Bill Hicks. He hoped as Editor to include more articles on Australian gem materials, new deposits and diagnostic features of local gems. Recently retired from the family book publishing business he was able to improve the quality and minimise costs by editing and rewriting papers by hand (pre-computer age), preparing layouts and supervising printing. He was ably assisted by Mrs Rose Hicks as secretary.

Limited colour printing was introduced to support articles rather than just colour on the cover as seen in the short article by Rod Brightman, “Surface topography of gem crystals”, published in Vol. 14, No.11, 1982.

Even though overseas in 1982, Bill and Rose compiled the journal from Florence and Athens – a task much easier today with email and word documents. A bonus during this time abroad was meeting with Dr Gübelin.

In 1983 it was reported that readers in 30 countries were subscribing to The Australian Gemmologist with an overseas annual subscription rate of $12. An Editorial Review Board of seven experts in their field was formed to assist the Editor with advice on the more technical articles.

In 1985 the 20th International Gemmological Conference was held in Sydney and the Proceedings were published in two issues of The Australian Gemmologist with Bill Hicks as Proceedings Editor, assisted by Grahame Brown and Ralph Segnit. The GAA and The Australian Gemmologist were showcased on the international stage.

From 1989 Bill Hicks as Editor was ably assisted by Pat Callaway as Chair of the Editorial Committee. In 1991 the GAA bestowed Honorary Life Membership on Bill Hicks in recognition of his significant contribution to the Association and The Australian Gemmologist.

From February 1992 the page size of the journal was increased slightly. There was a circulation of 1900 copies within Australia and 300 distributed to over 40 other countries.

W. H. Hicks died in November 1993 and Grahame Brown took on the role as Editor. Two Bill Hicks Memorial Issues of The Australian Gemmologist were produced in 1994.

The Federal Council of the GAA decided to create the W. H. Hicks Prize to acknowledge the contributions of Australian resident authors who published in The Australian Gemmologist. A record of recipients has been compiled in Table 1.

A list of Editors of the The Australian Gemmologist after Bill Hicks is in Table 2. Prior to 1982, a general committee was responsible for the production of the journal without the specific role of an Editor.

Dr Grahame Brown followed on in the esteemed footsteps of Bill Hicks and was Editor from 1994 until his death in January 2008, the longest tenure to date. Grant Pearson was Editor from 2008-2009. Francine Payette took over as Chair/Editor from 2010 to 2012 and made significant changes to the format of the journal to full colour A4 as we have now. Francine also focussed on issues significant to the journal such as copyright and introduced the first copyright assignment form for authors to sign.

Current GAA Federal Patron, Terry Coldham, held the position of Chair from 2013 to 2016 after which Stephanie Thomas took over as Chair/Editor for two years from 2017-2018. Dr Michelle Clark became Chair/Editor in May 2019 and continues to the present.

TABLE 1: Recipients of the W. H. Hicks Prize

Year Author(s) Article Title The AG Issue
1993 Gayle Webb An important peridot Vol 18 (6) 1993
1994 Bill Sechos Fracture filled diamonds Vol 18 (12) 1994
1995 Rod Brightman, John Tunzi A new variety of grossular garnet with extended gemmological constants Vol 19 (1) 1995
1996 Grahame Brown, John Chapman, Bill Sechos The typical gemmological characteristics of Argyle diamonds Vol 19 (8) 1996
1997 Anthony Smallwood A new era for opal nomenclature Vol 19 (12) 1997
1998 Not awarded
1999 Janelle Free, Ian Free, Grahame Brown, Trevor Linton Verneuil synthetic corundums with induced “fingerprints” Vol 20 (8) 1999
2000 Hylda Bracewell Gems around Australia Part 15. Moonstone a rare Queensland gemstone Vol 20 (9) 2000

Vol 20 (12) 2000

2001 Not awarded
2002 Terry Coldham Orange sapphires or just lemons Vol 21 (7) 2002
2003 Grant Pearson Spectra of gem materials Vol 21 (12) 2003
2004 Pam Hutchins Culturing abalone half-pearls Vol 22 (1) 2004
2005 – 2006 Trevor Linton Practical application for measuring gemstone dispersion on the refractometer Vol 22 (8) 2005
2007 Brian Senior, Lewis Chadderton Natural gamma radioactivity and exploration for precious opal in Australia Vol 23 (4) 2007
2008 Not awarded
2009 Jack Townsend Opal similarities between Andamooka and Coober Pedy, South Australia Vol 23 (9) 2009
2010 John Chapman The Argyle Diamond Mine in transition from open pit to underground extraction Vol 24 (1) 2010
2011 Not awarded    
2012 Anthony Ahmat The Ellendale Diamond Field: exploration history, discovery, geology and mining Vol 24 (12) 2012
2013 Francine Payette A simple approach to separate natural from synthetic ametrine Vol 25 (4) 2013
2014 -2016 Tony Smallwood Unique attributes of Australian precious opal Vol 25 (6&7) 2014
2017 Susan Stocklmayer, Bertrand Macray, Vernon Stocklmayer Riverina emerald deposit revisited



Vol 26 (7&8) 2017
2018 Chantelle Green The Pursuit of Colour Parts 1 and 2 Vol 26 (9&10, 11&12) 2018
2019 Not awarded


2019-2020 Monica Casamento Artificial Colour in Diamonds – with a focus on HPHT Treatment of Natural Diamonds Vol 27 (3), Jan-Jun, 2020

TABLE 2: List of Chair/Editors of The Australian Gemmologist

Years Chair / Editor
1982-1994 Bill Hicks
1994-2008 Dr Grahame Brown
2008-2009 Grant Pearson
2010-2012 Francine Payette
2013-2016 Terry Coldham
2017-2018 Stephanie Thomas
2019-present Dr Michelle Clark