How to use a jewelry loupe

When you examine a piece of jewelry through your loupe, are you seeing everything there is to see? Don’t be surprised if you’re not. Gem and jewelry expert Antoinette Matlins sees people in the jewelry business using loupes wrong all the time. Her tips:

Proper technique: close up and well-braced (photo National Jewelers Supplies)

• “Hold the loupe about an inch from your eye and the item you’re examining approximately an inch from the loupe. Many people – including jewelry salespeople – hold the loupe six inches or even a foot away and the item they’re looking at another six inches from the loupe. That is not effective.”

• “You have to learn how to focus, and that takes practice. Once you find a sharp focus on the surface of the stone, you can examine the surface but not what’s inside the stone. If you want to see further into the stone, you  have to move the stone slowly, closer or farther away.”

• “It’s important to brace your hands or arms so that you’re not wobbling, and to hold the loupe so it’s in contact with some part of your face. Some people hold it against their eyeglasses and use that as a  brace. Some use their cheekbones, some use their nose. I’ve never mastered using my nose. You have to find what works for you, but the loupe has to be touching some part of your face in a way that allows you to see through it.”

• “Find a way to keep your hand steady. You can do that by putting the fleshy part of your arms together or bracing your arm against something, but always try to find your most stable position.”

• “Remember, a novice will not be able to see what professionals who have been using a loupe for years can see. But use your loupe regularly and you will gain proficiency. Slowly, you’ll begin to see more and more inside each stone.”

It helps to start with a professional-quality loupe, of course. Ten-power (10x) magnification is the industry standard, but make sure you get what you pay for: Antoinette’s tips for how to buy a loupe. Want more? All of her gem and jewelry buying guides have a section on how to use jewelry loupes like a pro.

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