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 Post subject: Help with choosing a microscope in the UK
PostPosted: Tue Jan 05, 2021 5:28 pm 
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Hi everyone.

I'm looking into acquiring a microscope for gemology. I'm based in the UK and there do not seem to be a large range easily available, especially in the used market. Ideally I would like something which I can learn with and perhaps sell once I have more experience and am ready to decide what I need going forward buying a more professional model. I still want it to be useful with good resolution, not a toy or hobby level example.

I have been looking around, and the only dedicated gem microscopes seem to be around the 2000 GBP mark, which is more than I'd like to invest for now. So does anyone have any ideas of models, suppliers etc which I should be looking at? They would need to be available in the UK, or perhaps Northern Europe (USA & Asia would be problematic due to import and spares/service).

I did find this:

Image

Price looks good, but does anyone have any experience with this model/type and is it going to be suitable for examining mounted stones.

Any thoughts and help appreciated.


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 Post subject: Re: Help with choosing a microscope in the UK
PostPosted: Tue Jan 05, 2021 6:46 pm 
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May I suggest taking a class which uses microscopes so you will familiarize yourself with the instrument and decide what is important to you.

I never recommend blindly looking for a bargain.
Where are you in the UK?


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 Post subject: Re: Help with choosing a microscope in the UK
PostPosted: Tue Jan 05, 2021 7:00 pm 
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East of England, Lincs. I haven't come across any local classes, and it wouldn't be possible for a while as England has just gone into full lockdown again. Will likely be a few months until non-essential classes will start back up, nothing like this has been running since last March.

I do have some scope experience from my electronic engineering days at college, many years ago (for repair, circuit soldering etc). I'd like to be able to study inclusions and get a feel for the internals of stones, not just use tools for identifying gens.


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 Post subject: Re: Help with choosing a microscope in the UK
PostPosted: Wed Jan 06, 2021 3:54 am 
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I agree with Barbra in the sense that a bargain microscope could do more harm than good. One option is you could pick up the ones from Gem-A itself. I might be contacting Gem-A and see if they can recommend where you can at least go to get one for gemmology purposes, I know with the CGA we get emails about retiring members selling their microscopes every once in a while, maybe Gem-A has something similar. Otherwise maybe contact some jewellery supply companies nearby and see what kind of options they might have either in stock or something that they can order.

To be quite honest though, I'll give you the same advice I received from another gemmologist before I started my training. The microscope will be the main thing you use on almost every stone and you'll be spending hours in front of it. Make sure you don't skimp out and buy something you'll want to replace almost immediately.

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 Post subject: Re: Help with choosing a microscope in the UK
PostPosted: Wed Jan 06, 2021 6:28 am 
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S. Rautiainen wrote:
One option is you could pick up the ones from Gem-A itself. I might be contacting Gem-A and see if they can recommend where you can at least go to get one for gemmology purposes

Thank you, that would be very helpful, and thank you also for your other thoughts it is good to hear your personal perspective. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any local suppliers, I'm in the East of England and the two companies I have found so far are in London & Oxford, so 3-4 hours by car - and we are in lockdown so I may just have to wait a while.


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 Post subject: Re: Help with choosing a microscope in the UK
PostPosted: Wed Jan 06, 2021 11:12 am 
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I have had good luck with Gemolite microscopes on E-Bay. There are often excellent used examples for sale. I would only buy Mark VII and newer at this point. Since lighting is critical in gemology work, make sure it has all the lighting stages, and they all work properly. I have enough experience to vet the scopes.

One of our members buys and reconditions used gem microscopes. He has sold one to some of my students. They have always been happy. PM him to see if he can help. Stephen Challener is his user name.


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 Post subject: Re: Help with choosing a microscope in the UK
PostPosted: Wed Jan 06, 2021 4:46 pm 
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1bwana1 wrote:
I have had good luck with Gemolite microscopes on E-Bay

Many thanks I will keep a look out, they seem to mostly be confined to the USA (I'm in the UK), but I will set up an alert so if one pops up I will get a note.

I did see some posts by Mr Challener, that would also be great, but I understand he is in the USA - importing to the UK is very expensive, costs about 35% on top of the item and shipping costs unfortunately.


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 Post subject: Re: Help with choosing a microscope in the UK
PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2021 11:16 am 
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C Elwell wrote:
1bwana1 wrote:
I have had good luck with Gemolite microscopes on E-Bay

Many thanks I will keep a look out, they seem to mostly be confined to the USA (I'm in the UK), but I will set up an alert so if one pops up I will get a note.

I did see some posts by Mr Challener, that would also be great, but I understand he is in the USA - importing to the UK is very expensive, costs about 35% on top of the item and shipping costs unfortunately.


While that is true, (customs costs in the UK are quite high. I wonder if Brexit will get some of that corrected?), it still would be worth your while contacting him. He can give very good advice at the least and his prices may surprised you.
(Note: I am his Dad).


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 Post subject: Re: Help with choosing a microscope in the UK
PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:00 pm 
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The Olympus pictured is an oldie, probably back from the 60s. At first glance it looks like one of their JM series of gemological scopes but it doesn't have the gem clamp or any clear sign of brightfield/darkfield illumination, so I think it isn't, just a general research stereo. I have not used one of these vintage olynpus stereos but they have a good reputation and should give a very nice image, especially since it has fixed magnification steps (continuous zooming is harder and especially in that era fixed mag ones would have a clearer better image). I do find some older stereos more difficult to converge the image on, but that is not a universal issue.
Overall this is actually a pretty good deal for a general stereo microscope (not surprising as Brunel seems to offer some of the best used deals in the UK) but without switchable darkfield and a gem clip it will be a pain to use for gems.
One other important feature it lacks is a tilting base, which makes a big difference for ergonomics. If you get it set up just right it can be fine but you want to be sure your posture is good if you're looking through a microscope for long.

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 Post subject: Re: Help with choosing a microscope in the UK
PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2021 6:00 am 
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Stephen Challener wrote:
The Olympus pictured is an oldie, probably back from the 60s. At first glance

Thank you, that is very helpful, perhaps I should give them a call and discuss. Overall that's not a big investment for me and if it doesn't work out I don't mind selling it on.

Thank you for the tips about the gem clip and the darkfield lighting. I see you can get aftermarket items, I guess a gem clip would be simple enough to drill and tap to the base (or epoxy). I'm guessing the darkfield solutions may be a bit sketchy though? Also nearly all the study (for now) I will be doing will be on mounted gems, does this present any special considerations for a darkfield base?

Again many thanks.


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 Post subject: Re: Help with choosing a microscope in the UK
PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2021 11:17 am 
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Mounted or not, without darkfield illumination in the base, a microscope has very limited application and capabilities in current gemology. So much depends on studying inclusions to sperate synthetics, treatments, and grading. Don't waste your time if you know it lacks darkfield.


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 Post subject: Re: Help with choosing a microscope in the UK
PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2021 4:32 pm 
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Yeah, you can get a darkfield baffle inexpensively, but the quality of illumination from them isn't the same as a proper darkfield well, and unless you design something special most of the light gets wasted. This base does have a 100w illuminator which is unusually bright and might help on that front, but even then you'd have to swap it in and out to go from brightfield to darkfield which is not the most practical.

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