Rapaport Magazine
In-Depth

Living and learning

Meet Adrianne Sanogo, cofounder and education chair of the Black in Jewelry Coalition. In her inaugural column for Rapaport Magazine, she shares her own educational journey through the industry.

By Adrianne Sanogo

Image: Adrianne Sanogo 

Personal beginnings

My passion for collecting minerals began at the home my great-grandparents built in Virginia during the 19th century with their own hands. There, I was surrounded by nature and all sorts of incredibly beautiful mineral specimens. I later earned a graduate gemologist (GG) diploma at the world-renowned Gemological Institute of America, better known as the GIA.

Getting a start in diamonds

As Charles Bukowski says, “you have to die a few times before you can really live.” My entrée into the diamond industry is not typical; it’s not legacy or heritage. It took almost 50 years to get here! After winning a battle against cancer, I honored my second chance at life with a commitment to pursue a long-standing fascination with diamonds. The journey became an important facet of my successful healing. One single spark ignited my educational journey: the purchase of an unmarked tennis bracelet at a secondhand store (price: $89 plus tax). The bracelet ended up being an 18-karat tennis bracelet set with 20 carats of diamonds, appraised at $20,000. After that acquisition, I steadfastly expanded my diamond expertise with the best education possible.

Challenges and opportunities

When I began diamond studies through distance learning at the GIA, I could see straightaway I would need equal amounts of discipline, commitment, focus and an unflinching belief in myself. In addition, my success required the use of latent skills I had not used in years, such as complex math, chemistry and geology, along with technological dexterity and ability. While studying, I juggled treatment, remission, working full time, raising two teenagers, and recovering from major surgery.

Some weeks were more challenging than others, but my determination to complete the GG program was unwavering. As arduous as studying gemology was, each evening, I consistently looked forward to working on my assignments. At one point, my GIA instructor asked me if everything was okay, but I never disclosed my illness. There were financial challenges as well.

Fortunately for me, I applied for and won an education grant from the Women’s Jewelry Association (WJA) Foundation and the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation. Without access to those funds, I would not have been able to afford the lab equipment necessary to complete the program. After 25 months, I graduated with a hard-earned GIA GG. The wonderment of diamond’s simple chemical composition is in direct contrast with the complexity of the industry, and I love that.

A bit more about me

In addition to being cofounder and education chair of the Black in Jewelry Coalition (BIJC), I serve on the diversity and inclusion committee of the WJA’s New York Metro chapter. Previously, I was a board member of the WJA Philadelphia chapter.

I am also the proud mother of two daughters, one son, two felines and one canine. My hobbies are hummingbirds, reading, gardening, and antique jewelry.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - April 2022. To subscribe click here.

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