In order to distinguish natural from synthetic gems, you may need microscopic inclusions and color branding so as to identify gemstones.
A microscope thus becomes a crucial instrument as it’ll give you a larger field of view and brighter image, even if you only need 10X loupe for gem grading.
Microscopes for gemstones and jewelry will also show alterations such as assembled stones, fillings, diffusion treatments and dye concentrations.
Most gemologists use their microscopes to take photos of their appraisals or even as sales tools when explaining different features to customers or why they’re proposing a certain course of action.
They’ll also be impressed when they see the gem under magnification as it often produces beautiful images.
What is a Gemology Microscope?
Gemology microscopes are typically used by gemologists, jewelers, and stone setters to help with stone inspection and setting.
They’re more advanced than your ordinary microscope as they have a darkfield condenser on the bottom light source and an iris.
They also have a set of jewel clamps or tweezers that are built to hold the stone in place, and help determine the interior condition and outlook of the stone’s surface.
Gems and jewels have various quality levels or grades that ultimately influence their market value and cost. This is why a professional diamond or quality gem microscope is essential for jewelers.
A modern gemological microscope is every appraiser’s go-to tool in their repertoire of equipment.
It packs sophisticated illumination capabilities, high-grade lenses, and the ability to zoom from about 7x magnifications up to 60x or more.
For trained gemologists, a good microscope will open up a whole new world of information allowing them to see the growth characteristics and inner structure of minerals.
They’ll also see minute features that can help identify unknown gemstones.
Gemstones’ physical features are akin to a fingerprint or the grain in wood as they’re unique to each gem and allow you to identify your products, while being integral to technical grading and value assessment.
It’s an easy, fun, and informative way of seeing gems and jewels, and you’ll come away with an appreciation and enhanced understanding of your own items.
Appraisers also get to view jewelry closely and determine their structural integrity as they’re commonly worn extensively for years, so the cumulative wear and tear impacts the metals and gems.
Sometimes it isn’t easy to see these changes, and they become apparent when there’s a major structural failure or a stone falls out.
When jewelry items are closely inspected, you can have preventative maintenance that’ll extend their lifetimes and allow other generations to enjoy them.
Features of Microscopes for Gemstones and Jewelry
Gemology microscopes come with advanced features, though they’re easy to use. Some also include the ability to assign saving folders which helps with organizing images, or features that allow you to annotate images.
Ring holders, gemstone and diamond stages, and light boxes are specially designed accessories you can find on some gemology microscopes that help aid in delivering the best imaging results.
Below are some of the salient features of a good gemology microscope.
The location of this feature can be at the top or on the sides of the microscope’s head.
It should always be set to the lowest setting so you can see the widest view at the lowest magnification. By turning the zoom, you may have to refocus, but you increase the magnification smoothly.
This knob lowers or raises the microscope into focus on an object. Initially, the focus will be low, but generally, it should always focus upward first.
Oculars or eyepieces
These are what gemologists use to look through. On many scopes, they’re 15x magnifying eyepieces.
This value is set to 0.7, which makes focusing easier so you can see the largest field, but you can also see and understand the whole object. It also increases your depth of view (how much you can see things in focus).
This knob lets you switch the microscope off when you’re not looking through it, to prevent the bulb from getting hot and heating the whole microscope. It also saves energy and the bulb eventually lasts longer.
This is a horizontal surface where the other pieces are attached, and the lights below and above illuminate the gemstones.
This is a fluorescent light source that helps illuminate the stone’s exterior so you can see external scratches and grade it’s color using the daylight bulbs.
This feature holds a special parabolic mirror that focuses light in a cone, upwards. An elongated knob is placed on the stage that helps to control the cone.
This knob is like a lever that moves a dark stop to the microscope’s lighting system, only light from the sides created by the light/well parabolic mirror.
The darkfield microscope system displays the interior of the stone in a way that wouldn’t be possible with light from below.
Clamps or on-stage spring loaded tweezers hold the gemstones over the microscope’s well or light. The holders fit into a small ring of metal and hold the stone around its girdle. This feature is delicate and shouldn’t be used with force.
This is the most delicate part of the microscope and is found on the stage. It is adjustable and can be left fully open or moved to any desired amount of closure.
It is prone to breakage as it has little protection so handle it with care. Don’t close it down too tightly, or force an object through its opening, or close it around any object.
It can easily get damaged or spring its blades rendering it useless.
The USB 2.0 digital microscope is commonly used for gemology, stamp or coin analysis, classroom exploration, micro-soldering, garden parasite identification and much more.
It can be used with its stand for lower magnifications, placed on subjects for the highest magnifications or handheld for quick point-and-click inspection.
Features include a rugged plastic body that makes it ideal for industrial and classroom applications.
It also includes built-in LED lighting that can be dialed through a range of brightness levels to illuminate the gems or jewelry properly.
Unlike many USB microscopes, the Plugable’s LEDs shine via a diffuser to manage glare, which is useful when using reflective objects.
A capacitive capture button is available to initiate image capture with the lightest touch for blur-free images.
Its versatile stand lets you easily analyze the surface of objects small and large at any angle by positioning its gooseneck precisely wherever you want it.
This microscope is compatible with Windows, macOS, OSX, Linux, Android, iOS and Chrome.
You can begin by viewing objects at 40x magnification or 250x magnification with a closer view of the calibration side.
It is compatible with Windows XP and above, Mac, and Linux, but doesn’t work with iPhones. The magnification only supports Android devices with OTG functions.
Its features include eight built-in LED lights, an adjusting knob for changing focus and brightness, and a focus wheel that can be used on all devices. It also has a zoom and snap button though it can only be recognized on Windows systems.
You can use its software to capture screenshots, record the micro world, and record video.
It features a binocular viewing head with interchangeable pairs of 10x and 15x widefield eyepieces, 45-degree inclination, and adjustable interpupillary distance for easier viewing.
Its interchangeable 2x and 4x objectives offer longer focal length and low magnification for inspecting large-scale specimens.
A halogen light source is included for illumination of specimens, plus a darkfield condenser to reflect light off the specimen, which results in a light image on a dark background.
The frosted stage plate allows light through from below with reversible black and white stage plate that offers contrast with dark or light-colored specimens.
Stage clips are also available to secure the specimen during viewing.
The microscope also has optical glass lenses that offer sharp images and are fully coated for high-resolution images.
It also has eye guards for comfortable viewing and dioptric adjustment to accommodate individual eye-strength differences.
Its upper or episcopic illumination reflects light off the specimen to enhance visibility of opaque specimens, while the diascopic or lower brightfield/darkfield illumination sends light up through the specimen for enhanced visibility of transparent and translucent objects.
BF illumination lets the specimen absorb light, delivering dark images on light backgrounds, while DF illumination reflects light off of it, resulting in a light image on dark backgrounds.
Its pillar stand style secures the microscope’s head for precise focus, while the bilateral coarse focus eases use for right- and left-handed users.
It also has a barrel fine focus wheel so you can get specimen images of up to 160x on the screen and 200x when connected to your PC.
The InfiniView features an on-board rechargeable lithium ion battery, which lets you carry it around away from your lab, plus it can be powered through a Windows or Mac computer.
An on-board MicroSD card slot lets you save high resolution images and videos for upload to your computer, which is great if you’re using it while away from your lab or outdoors.
For the sharpest images, there’s a stable shutter trigger on the microscope’s base, which snaps your photos without blur or shakiness.
It also has an 8-LED illuminator with a brightness adjustment wheel so you can highlight your gems’ or jewels’ features with a simple finger swipe.
It’s compatible with Mac, Windows XP and above, Linux, ChromeOS, iOS and Android.
This microscope features a built-in 8pc LED light, with two adjusting knobs for changing focus and brightness. You can use its software to record the micro world, record videos even without data service, or capture screenshots.
It comes with a WiFi box, OTG cable, metal stand, two phone suctions, and a CD driver.
The microscope works well, is well packaged and easy to set up and use. The zoom/focus adjustment is on the front, with LED lights built into its microscope housing. Brightness control is also on the USB cable and is easy to access and use.
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It features a four position nosepiece with 4x, 10x, 20x and 40x objective lenses, and a camera sensor that acts as a 10x eyepiece lens that yields between 40x and 400x powers and 1600x digital zoom.
A rotational LCD touchscreen is included for easy viewing by a group of gemologists, with a fully adjustable mechanical stage and fine position control knobs for accurate and easy slide positioning.
With this microscope, you can save images to an SD card or output via USB mini or AV connections. It also has a built-in adjustable lower LED light source that delivers clear illumination for specimens.
The package includes accessories such as seven prepared slides, a dust cover, touch pen, AV out and USB cables, 2GB SD card, and a universal AC adapter with multi-plugs for international usage.
This little device can accurately differentiate diamonds from other materials. It features a small or large switch for testing diamonds, and emits audible sounds for accurate readings.
It also shows a diamond indicator if the stone is a real diamond, and helps you tell the difference between the genuine and the fake.
Its cost isn’t even a fraction of the cost of a diamond, but you’ll have the assurance that you’re buying a real gem instead of a cheap knockoff.
The tester comes with a small testing tray that holds loose stones, a leather bag, and a 45x illuminated LED loupe.
Its features include a glass lens, compact design for 60x magnification, and bright LED light that illuminates the magnifying glass providing enough light in low-light or dim conditions.
The package contains a 60x microscope LED magnifier, and a faux leather pouch that protects the microscope from attrition, scratches, and much more.
A single coaxial coarse focus knob is also available, plus a specimen stage with two built-in stage clips and an LED or nature light illumination system.
This means the microscope can be illuminated by natural light via a mirror, or by its built-in LED light that lets you control the light directly.
The microscope has a metal construction that’s durable and makes it a great value, plus it comes with cover slips, sample slides, scalpel, tweezers, specimen vials, collecting lamps, and adjustable lenses. If you’re on the go, a sturdy hard case is included for easy travel and storage.
You can also save videos or photos of your findings directly to the hard drive of your computer using intuitive software. At high power, you can examine specimen slides, and use lower magnifications for examining objects like coins, jewelry, and much more.
The microscope can be used right out of the box as it includes accessories like three prepared slides, two blank slides, one well slide, a light diffuser, eye dropper, needle probe, and tweezers.
It’s a plug and play so you don’t need to install any drivers, plus it has top and bottom electric illumination so you can view translucent and opaque specimens in different backgrounds. It’s easy to use single dial focus control lets you acquire specimen images quickly.
Its battery powered illumination allows you to carry it on the go for use in the field or in your lab. This way, you have everything needed to start exploring your jewelry and gems and know the real from the fake.
Gemstone and Jewelry Microscope Considerations
With a good microscope, refractive index fluids and the correct fluids, you can identify many gemstones and jewels by determining their refractive indices, internal characteristics, optic characters, and double refraction estimation.
Price: While microscopes are some of the most expensive pieces of equipment, a good one is worth the investment.
Your best bet is to buy a top-of-the-line microscope, but this isn’t affordable for everyone. However, there are other options, for example binocular microscopes, such as those used in geology or biology, can be adapted for gemological use easily.
There are also Russian microscopes that are affordable for good quality, though they don’t always have a good magnification range.
Magnification options: Generally, for gemological usage, you’ll want from 10x to about 80x magnification cleanliness and function for gemology and the lighting system options through using exchangeable eyepieces or a rotating objective lens underneath.
Most gems can be identified with just 40x power, but you can’t identify all gems or jewels without higher magnification.
The adequate power has been considered at 80x, but new and higher quality synthetics tend to need even higher magnification.
Lighting/Illumination: Lighting from below and above the gem is good, so is a darkfield and zooming objective.
When checking for the eyepiece and replacement bulb, you can use a monocular microscope or a binocular microscope for depth perception.
This helps you examine inclusions with better results. Fiber optic lights are crucial as they allow for effective side lighting of gems against dark backgrounds, and deliver accurate spotlighting and side lighting of gems and their inclusions.
Focusing adjustment: This is a factor to consider especially if buying used microscopes.
Examine them carefully for play in this area, the condition of the lenses, and accessories.
Darkfield system: This is critical so as to see light inclusions from the sides against dark backgrounds in order to see and understand gems or jewels better.
A swiveling darkfield provides more versatility in lighting conditions allowing you to see inclusions more clearly.
Clips: These hold the specimens well on the microscope as the stones are put in the holder before placing the holder on the microscope.
You can use alligator clips as they’re affordable, compared to commercial options. Once you have several loaded, you’re good to go.
A good microscope for gemstones and jewelry should be equipped with at least a darkfield and light field, adjustable iris (preferably), and overhead illumination.
Another good feature to have is an integrated stone holder. However, fairly priced gemology microscopes are hard to come by, especially those that fit within the microscope standards of the GIA.
With the right factors in mind and knowing what features to look for, it’s much easier to find one from our roundup of the ten best gem microscopes that’ll be best suited to your needs.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.