Having a love for gems but no family tradition in the trade Bilgore understood the need to condense generations of learning. He gained professional training which took him well beyond any graduate gemologist diploma. Bilgore's work at the American Gemological Laboratories the world’s premier gemological laboratory specializing in colored gemstones, gave him a priceless foundation. He analyzed gems for identification, grading for quality, detection of treatments, and determination of country of origin, all in one place and at the highest level. This experience gives Bilgore a perspective few gemologists in the world ever achieve.
In the gem lab Bilgore began an advanced study of gemstone cutting, working with the renowned master gem cutter Reggie Miller. The diamond world has its ‘Ideal Cut’, and he wanted to explore and develop its equivalent for colored stones.
Bilgore went from professional gemologist to professional gem buyer. He was the gem buyer for HENRY BIRKS JEWELERS whose companies included the carriage firms of Shreve, Crump & Low, J.E. Caldwell’s, C.D. Peacock, Shreve & Co., and J. Jessop’s.
The next 16 years, he was privileged to work at OSCAR HEYMAN & BROTHERS, one of the oldest and most prestigious American jewelry manufacturing firms. Behind the scenes Bilgore bought gems for Tiffany & Co, Van Cleef & Arpels, Graff, and many other of the most sought after jewelry brands. As Oscar Heyman’s primary Gem Buyer, he traveled the world, developing close relationships and procuring the finest gems.