New Mineral Named After GIA’s John Koivula
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 Post subject: I have $500 to spend on gem id equipment
PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2018 7:19 pm 
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Actually I have more, but I'm not sure how deep to get into this.

I have a lapidary business I operate during the summers in Montana. I get a lot of people asking me about the stones in their rings, etc. I have a friend in town who operates a pawn shop in the midwest. He pulls all stones and whatever else from rings and pendants and gives them to me for nothing (last summer I got a 2" dinosaur claw in the mix!).

My gem ID skills are pretty rudimentary and my time is somewhat limited. So let's say as a first step I would like to be able to ID most of what my friend gives me. I am not interested in the latest or best (obviously) equipment but am willing to learn.

So if you were going to drop five bills, what would you buy? I have a loupe, optivisor, and ultrasonic cleaner. Thanks for your patience in answering my inquiry. I know I'm not exactly on the cutting edge here.


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 Post subject: Re: I have $500 to spend on gem id equipment
PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2018 1:40 am 
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I would get a cheap chinese refractometer, a good carat scale (also good for simple specific gravity measurements, though you might want to consider trying Dr Hanneman's cheap sg method (search the forums for it)), a dichroscope (though you can use an lcd screen to view pleochroism it is still nice to have one, and they're not too expensive). You might be able to fit a cheap used gem microscope into that budget too, which can be handy but takes more experience to use.

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 Post subject: Re: I have $500 to spend on gem id equipment
PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2018 1:46 am 
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About microscopes, I have seen some pretty impressive USB scopes, like Dinolite, Would not a high resolution digital scope and monitor accomplish the same, or more than a stereo microscope?


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 Post subject: Re: I have $500 to spend on gem id equipment
PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2018 1:07 pm 
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I would recommend getting a dark field loupe rather than a scope at this point.
As Stephen said, a refractometer is essential, perhaps you can get a cheap polariscope that doubles as a light source for the refractometer.
Scale an specific gravity attachment. I recommend the one available from Mineralab:
https://www.mineralab.com/SGK-C/

The most important thing is to know how to properly use the instruments.
You might want to contact your closest Gem and Mineral Club and see if they offer any classes for instruction or perhaps an individual club member could help out.
http://www.rockhounds.com/rockshop/clublist.shtml

The above link is often stressed with too many visitors. If that is the case just try again.


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 Post subject: Re: I have $500 to spend on gem id equipment
PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2018 4:47 pm 
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mikeinsjc wrote:
About microscopes, I have seen some pretty impressive USB scopes, like Dinolite, Would not a high resolution digital scope and monitor accomplish the same, or more than a stereo microscope?

I wouldn't spend my money on a new dino-lite. An all-in-one unit like that has a very limited shelf life as the camera ages and becomes obsolete, plus you're spending top dollar for what are essentially no-name optics and a no-name microscope camera (dino-lite is certainly a known brand but not in the same way that Nikon or even Navitar are).

Just looking at the cost, if you want something from dinolite that's nominally 5mp with a stand it'll cost like 1000 dollars. There are more affordable options at a few hundred bucks if you don't mind getting nominal 1.2 mp or something like that, but that's not much resolution and you're likely going to have trouble seeing details. In that kind of price range you could buy some nice name-brand optics and an older quality Canon dslr (like the XS, 10mp with free software available from Canon for remote capture and live view on your computer) and still have money left over. Ideally you could get a trinocular setup and attach a modern dslr, but that does take a bit more research and effort to get set up perfectly. That said, you would probably do just as well getting a binocular stereo microscope and an eyepiece adapter for a camera phone, as you'd still likely get better pictures than the dinolite that way, and having the stereoscopic view through the eyepieces is really nice and comfortable. If you really wanted something more like the dinolite with a single light path and no eyepieces you could probably get a computar/navitar/optem zoom lens setup inexpensively too. One of the best aspects of this approach is that when you either decide to upgrade or to quit, you can resell the optics for a similar price (or even higher if you got a good deal). That's not as viable when buying new, particularly something with an integrated camera that will start showing its age over time.

Those issues aside, you're going to want gemological darkfield illumination for looking at gem inclusions (which is different from the kind of darkfield dino-lite advertises in some models, which is more suitable for metallurgical applications). There would be ways to kludge this for something like a dinolite but it'd take some work. You might get by with strong incident illumination from several lamps or better from a 150w light source with fiber optic light guides though.

Anyway, that's a bit long and rambling. To make a long story short, I wouldn't spend the kind of money Dino-lite wants for their system, and even if you do you'll likely find it doesn't quite do what you want for gem identification.

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 Post subject: Re: I have $500 to spend on gem id equipment
PostPosted: Sat Oct 27, 2018 4:32 pm 
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Barbra,
Thanks for the minerlab link- wow, they have some cool stuff! To heck with my $500 limit. The specific gravity stuff will also be of benefit in my rock business.

Stephen,
I appreciate you dispelling my misconceptions about the dinolite. As I said, I am revising my budget upwards. Can you recommend a microscope in the 300-500 range? Are the scopes used in gemology work all binocular scopes?


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 Post subject: Re: I have $500 to spend on gem id equipment
PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2018 12:34 pm 
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Although I would agree with Barbara that starting with a darkfield loupe would be a great option, if you are set on getting a scope, I'm partial to this model in your listed range:

https://www.amscope.com/applications/je ... scope.html

Higher magnification up to 80x is simply an ocular change away if you end up needing it.

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 Post subject: Re: I have $500 to spend on gem id equipment
PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2018 1:20 pm 
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Personally I wouldn't recommend buying an Amscope new. They're not total garbage like some people say but they're not awesome either, particularly the darkfield illumination which is usable but kind of weak. I still have the one I started out on and haven't had luck reselling it for less than half of that price. Switching to a gemolite felt like a big upgrade. Anyway, while that scope certainly isn't trash, if you want a microscope in that price range you'd probably do better to wait for an inexpensive older model gemolite or GIA Diamond Grader to come up on eBay (I had some to link but they both sold.overnoght :( ), or maybe make a lower offer on this mark V https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre ... 3590858911 The downside to these is they get hot after the light is on for a bit, but otherwise they're amazing bases, built like tanks and often quite underpriced. The general downside to buying on eBay is that microscope heads can go bad, particularly from mold, so you need to be sure not to buy units listed for parts and be sure they have a good return policy. You can always force a return with eBay if the piece isnt as described but that's a pain.

All that said a darkfield loupe is a good option too, amd a lot cheaper.

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 Post subject: Re: I have $500 to spend on gem id equipment
PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2018 1:47 pm 
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I agree with Stephen on the Amscope, not good enough to do the work needed. Mostly based on poor lighting rather than optics.

I suggest investing $500 on training. After that you will be able to better choose your equipment. But if you want to buy now here are some of my thoughts.

Inexpensive Chinese made instruments work OK for polariscope, dichroscope, hand held grating spectroscopes, chelsea filter, UV light box.

Their refractometers are good enough for faceted stones, but do not do well with spot readings. Make sure it comes with a good dual light source. No refractometer works well without proper white, and monochromatic light sources.

Make your own S.G. setup to fit your existing digital scale. Cheap, and will work as good as any fancy purchased one. Just bending some wire to do it.

Get a used Gemolite MARK V microscope, make sure that the one you choose goes to at least 45X, 65X is better. Realize that interpreting what you see is the key to microscope work. So, again education first.

Haunt EBay, and Amazon for a used, current, copy of the G.I.A. Colored Stone Lab Book. It is the best resource to have on your desk. It contains enough training on tools to get you going. If used as designed, it is both a protocol/methodology, and reference that will take you to a correct identification the vast majority of the time. They don't come up often, but if you see one buy it.

Good luck.


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 Post subject: Re: I have $500 to spend on gem id equipment
PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2018 3:04 pm 
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1bwana1 makes a good point.
Learn to use instruments before buying them.
See if you local Gem & Mineral Society has classes.
Perhaps one of their members has some redundant instruments that you could buy.


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 Post subject: Re: I have $500 to spend on gem id equipment
PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2018 6:34 pm 
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Ok, I have ordered a refractometer and polariscope. I am going to purchase a microscope next.

Here's what I have decided. I am going to purchase an AMscope from Amazon. These appear to be student units. Hey, I'm a student. That way if I have a problem there will be no issues with returning it. The problem is there are a hundred different models, and I am not sure what features to look for in a gem microscope.

Does anyone have a specific unit they might recommend or specific features to consider? I will budget $300 max for this purchase.


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 Post subject: Re: I have $500 to spend on gem id equipment
PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2018 5:31 am 
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If you really wa t an amscope, I can sell you my old trinocular one for 150 including shipping inside the US. It retails for 400 new, 1-4.5x. Normally I wouldn't post an offer outsode the classified section but let's say this isn't a moneymaking venture. I enjoyed it, I bet you will too.

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 Post subject: Re: I have $500 to spend on gem id equipment
PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2018 11:15 am 
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That sounds like a very decent offer, as a trinocular you can get an adaptor for almost any camera and get some really decent resolution photos for not much cash. I am a Nikon fan and picked up a good D600 for just over $500. As a full frame 25mp camera it gives really good resolution and can be used for general photography as well


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 Post subject: Re: I have $500 to spend on gem id equipment
PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2018 11:23 am 
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I forgot to mention, I did some drawings and calculations for an S.G. rig that is on here somewhere. Also, when looking for a spectroscope, watch Ebay for a Beck prism unit, they change hands reasonably. The advantage is that because they have an adjustable slit the brightness of the image can be adjusted. Good Luck!


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 Post subject: Re: I have $500 to spend on gem id equipment
PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2018 2:58 pm 
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My opinion.
I have a Beck.
My OPL mops the floor with it.


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