Choosing and Using a Jewelry Loupe
Loupe Selection Tips
What Is a Magnifier
Jewelry professionals use a magnifier, also
called a loupe (pronounced loop), to inspect gemstones
and other jewelry. These magnifiers have special lenses that
allow our eyes to focus on an object at a much closer distance
than is normally possible, making the object appear to be larger
and revealing tiny details we couldn't see with our normal
One Lens or Three?
One: Loupes made
with a single lens are generally of poor quality, distorting
the object you're magnifying and adding flashes of color to
A triplet loupe is a magnifier that contains three
lenses placed together in such a way that distortion and
color problems are corrected.
Loupes are labeled with a number, followed by
the symbol "X," which means "times." For example, a 2X loupe
makes an object appear two times its actual size and a 5X loupe
shows you a times-five increase.
Best Loupe for Jewelry
A 10X triplet loupe is a good choice for
It is the type of loupe used by professionals to
grade diamonds and other gemstones. Anything visible through a
more powerful loupe, while interesting, isn't included on a
Look for a loupe with black framing around the
lens, because black eliminates reflections that can alter the
color of the object you are viewing.
Loupe Terms to Understand
You will hear other terms when you shop for a
loupe. Three important terms are:
The distance that you hold the loupe from an object in order
to get the best focus and magnification. As magnification
goes up, focal length goes down.
Field of View: This refers to the
size of the area you can see through the lens. The diameter
of the lens affects the field of view, but so does
magnification power--the higher the power the smaller the
Depth of Field:
This characteristic tells you how far you can move the loupe
towards or away from an item and still have the item in
focus. The higher the power, the shorter the depth of field.
Looking through a loupe won't make you a
jewelry expert, but even a beginner can learn to spot basic
- Cracks and chips in gemstones
- Larger inclusions and blemishes if you
- A close up view of the quality of
workmanship in the piece
Ask your jeweler to point out important
characteristics, but don't pretend to be an expert. If you want
to use the loupe as a learning tool, you'll need the help and
cooperation of your jeweler--and jewelers can spot a fake
"expert" just as quickly as they can detect a fake gemstone.
Ask questions. Are there characteristics to
watch for to help you determine if a stone is fake or the real
thing? What are the signs of a great cut? Are prongs secure and
well made? The "best" questions depend on the type of jewelry
you are viewing.
How to Hold the Loupe
The photo above gives you a pretty good idea
of how to hold the loupe. An alternative is to make a tripod of
sorts from your hands, placing wrists together and bracing them
against your face as you hold the loupe in one hand and the
jewelry in other.
Loupes come with instructions. Practice using
yours on any small object to get a better feel for the distance
the loupe must be from your eye and the item being magnified. It
won't take long to become familiar with the best way to hold it,
and after that you'll be hooked--and off to look at every piece
of jewelry you own! Have fun.