Tom Tivol teaches two courses within the Department of Visual Arts: Gemological Science in the fall and the History of Jewelry in the spring. Gemology is studied primarily by metals students, though students from other university disciplines occasionally take the course, sometimes for the science credit that is offered. The History of Jewelry course is more suited for students of art history, as it explores the use of metals, gemstones, tools and jewelry design from the Stone Age through the 20th century.
Tom's background is well-known to most mid-westerners. He grew up within the Tivol Jewels business on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, the company started by his grandfather around 1910. His gemstone and antique jewelry lessons began at age 5, and after a brief practice of trial law in Kansas City, he officially entered the family business in 1975. After apprenticing with his grandfather and father in the world of gemstones and appraising, Tom became President of Tivol in 1988, and remained with his family through 2005. Always interested in optimal service to the public, he then opened his own jewelry business, where he continues to buy, sell, appraise and repair gemstones, antique and modern jewelry.
When he is not working with clients or teaching at KU, Tom is a permanent student of antique jewelry, especially jewelry from Rome produced in the first centuries of the common era, through late Renaissance pieces of the 17th century. Within this period, he is especially interested in the historical events which created the demand for gemstones as well as the evolution of the art and science of gemstone cutting. In the 1980's, he was privileged to work with the American Gem Society Laboratories as it began to research and study how light moves in fancy shape diamonds, and how to best communicate this information to consumers.
Since 1978, Tom has provided over 1200 lectures to the public across the United States, offering detailed tips on how to purchase gemstones and jewelry both in the United States and when traveling abroad. He has given major addresses at several Gemological Institute of America Symposiums, held every 7 to 10 years, on subjects ranging from the chemistry and physics of gemstones, jewelry design, and appraising, which he considers the most demanding task in the jewelry industry.