Learn How to Use a Jewelry Loupe

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How to Choose the Best Jewelry Loupe for Your Needs

A woman using a jeweler's loupe
Elke Meitzel/Getty Images

What Is a Jewelry Magnifying Loupe?

Jewelry professionals use a magnifier, also called a loupe (pronounced loop), to inspect gemstones and other jewelry. These magnifying loupes 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 vision.

Magnifying Loupe Lens Variations

  • One: Loupes made with a single lens are generally of poor quality, distorting the object you're magnifying and adding flashes of color that obscure the view.
  • Three: A triplet loupe is a jewelry magnifier that contains three lenses placed together in a way that corrects distortion and color problems.

Choosing a Magnification Power

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 five-fold increase.

Best Loupe for Jewelry

A 10X triplet magnifying loupe is a good choice for viewing jewelry and 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 grading report.

Look for a magnifying loupe with black framing around the lens, because black eliminates reflections that can alter the color of the object you are viewing.

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Get Acquainted with Loupe Terminology

An example of a jewelry loupe

You may hear new terms when you shop for a loupe. Three important terms are:

  • Focal Length: The distance that you hold the loupe from an object to get the best focus and magnification. As magnification powers increase, focal length decreases.
  • 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 view.
  • 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.
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What Can You See Through the Loupe?

A man examining a diamond with a jeweler's loupe
Lane Oatey / Blue Jean Images / Getty Images

Looking through a loupe won't make you a jewelry expert, but even a beginner can learn to spot basic characteristics:

  • Cracks and chips in gemstones
  • Larger inclusions and blemishes if you look carefully
  • A close-up view of the quality of artistry 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 an experienced user -- and they 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 Jewelry Loupe

The photo on this page 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 magnifier in one hand and the jewelry in other.

Loupes come with instructions. Practice 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 the tool, and after that, you'll be hooked -- and off to look at every piece of jewelry you own! Have fun.