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Gemmologists who changed the game: Jack Stanley Taylor

The latest addition to this series of gemmologists who left their mark on the world of gemstones and jewellery is a man who likely contributed to the education of many readers of Jeweller.

Born in August of 1910 in Greenwich (NSW), Jack Stanley Taylor was one of the founders of the Gemmological Association of Australia (GAA) and is referred to as the ‘father of Australian lapidary.’

Taylor’s grandfather and father were both jewellers, the founders of fine jewellery retailer W.C. Taylor & Co. The family-run business opened in the 1920s on King Street in the Sydney Arcade and operated as a specialist in diamond jewellery until the 1960s.

Jack joined the family business after finishing school, as all the Taylor children did. Here, he started his jewellery apprenticeship directly under his father and grandfather.

By the 1940s, Jack had fallen in love with gemstones more than jewellery and started to drift away from the retail side of the industry. He enrolled in a gemmology course offered by the Federated Retail Jewellers Association (FRJA), taught by the then -Curator of Minerals at the Australian Museum, Thomas Hodge-Smith.

Taylor completed the course alongside John Pope, Arthur Wirth, Arthur ‘Sandy’ Tombs, and Alan Philby.

W. C. Taylor & Co was a fine jewellery retailer on King Street in the Sydney Arcade until the 1960s.

Shortly after graduating, the FRJA ceased offering their courses, and Taylor, Tombs, and Wirth believed they had identified a gap in the market.

Australia needed more formal education opportunities in gemmology. With the desire to educate the industry, gemstone enthusiasts, and consumers, these three colleagues joined forces and proposed the foundation of the GAA.

To acquire academic standing for the association, Taylor, Tombs, and Wirth approached Dr. G.D. Osborne, a professor of geology, and D.R. Mellor, a reader in chemistry, and requested their support. As fellow gemstone enthusiasts, Osborne and Mellor were happy to contribute.

The GAA’s inaugural meeting was held on 29 October 1945 in Sydney. Tombs was elected chairman, and Taylor was elected secretary. Osborne accepted the office of patron, and Mellor took that of president.

In just five years, the association had created divisions in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia.

In October 1947, Taylor sat his exams and completed the first diploma in gemmology. He was the first to earn the postnominals FGAA (Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Australia).

In the following years, Taylor remained a lecturer and passionate contributor to the world of gemmology. In 1953, he appeared on a radio interview with Radio 2GB Sydney, promoting the art of gemstone cutting and fashioning. He announced he was seeking like-minded individuals who may want to learn more.

After receiving considerable interest, Taylor called a meeting and invited all parties to discuss the formation of a club where its members could discuss and learn the art of lapidary.

Later that same year, Taylor officially founded the New South Wales Lapidary Club – the first in Australia. He was elected president and took to forming his own lapidary business and publishing works such as ‘Gem cutting as a hobby in Australia.’

Throughout his life, Taylor travelled around Australia, fossicking and operating his successful lapidary business. Today, a sample of his extensive gemstone collection can be seen in the Australian Museum in Sydney and the NSW division of the GAA.

Taylor was a passionate man who loved sharing knowledge on gemstones. His dedication to the world of gemmology, along with Tombs and Wirth, may well be the reason many in Australia can call themselves gemmologists today.

The author would like to express her gratitude to Jill Taylor, daughter of Jack Stanley Taylor, for her generous assistance in preparing this article.

Name: Jack Stanley Taylor, FGAA
Work: Gemmologist and Lapidarist
Born: 1910
Died: 1988 (Age 78)

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