By Brecken Branstrator
After 38 years with the GIA, Dona Dirlam retired from her position as director of the Richard T. Liddicoat Gemological Library and Information Center as of Aug. 25. (Photo credit: Michael Justice © GIA)
Carlsbad, Calif.--The Gemological Institute of America’s longtime director of its library and information center, Dona Dirlam, has retired.

Dirlam officially stepped out of the role on Aug. 25 after 38 years of serving the GIA.

In her role, she was responsible for establishing and expanding the Richard T. Liddicoat Gemological Library and Information Center, now a leading resource center for gems, gemology and jewelry.

That role now will fall to Dirlam’s successor, Robert Weldon, who has been manager of photography and visual communications for GIA since 2006.

Dirlam followed a passion for minerals and gems to GIA’s Santa Monica campus in 1979. After she received her GIA Graduate Gemologist diploma, she joined the institute as a staff gemologist and later was offered the opportunity to build its library by Liddicoat himself.

She began as a research librarian in 1980 and became the director of the library in 1995, and also served as abstract editor of GIA’s quarterly professional journal, Gems & Gemology, from 1981 to 1994.

Over her tenure at the GIA, Dirlam expanded the library’s collection to include more than 57,000 books, 700 journals and magazine titles, 198,000 digital images and 1,800 video recordings.

And when she added the 14,000-volume John & Marjorie Sinkankas Gemological Library in 1987 and created the Cartier Rare Book Repository & Archives in 1998, she helped make it the world’s largest library for information on gems and jewelry, according to the GIA.

She also spearheaded a project to digitize the collection’s rarest items to make them available for free to the public and gem industry across the world.

Since it launched two years ago, more than 300 books have been scanned and are now available online.  

Dirlam also has been recognized numerous times for her contributions to the industry.

She received the Outstanding Gemologist Award from the Association of Women Gemologists in 1989, and GIA’s Staff of the Year award in 1991. In 2004, she was bestowed with GIA’s highest honor, the Richard T. Liddicoat Distinguished Achievement Award.

20170830 Robert WeldonDirlam has been succeed by Robert Weldon, who has been manager of photography and visual communications for GIA since 2006. (Photo credit: Judy Colbert/GIA © GIA)

Less than a decade later, in 2015, she received the Accredited Gemologists Association Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2016 was honored with the Women’s Jewelry Association’s Award for Excellence in Special Services.

She also has co-authored more than a dozen articles for Gems & Gemology, five of which received the publication’s Most Valuable Article award.

“Dona’s groundbreaking efforts on behalf of the institute’s research, education and outreach capabilities have kept GIA at the forefront of gemological scholarship,” said GIA President and CEO Susan Jacques.

Weldon took over responsibility as library director upon Dirlam’s retirement. The GIA said he plans to carry on her legacy of expanding its collection and making it available to all.

After receiving his GG diploma in 1987, Weldon spent three years working at the GIA library with Dirlam.

He then joined JCK magazine as colored gemstone editor, followed by a role at Professional Jeweler as senior writer.

Since he returned to the GIA in 2006, Weldon’s photographs and articles have appeared in numerous gemological, jewelry and consumer publications.

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