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Equipment brands!

Hi everyone
I’ve almost completed the Gemologist course, have just paid for the Diamond Specialist course.
Now I am on a mission to purchase all my equipment for my lab…… Now I would love to hear of any big issues with anyone’s purchases I’d rather skip the mistakes and purchase what is going to work.
I’ve had a look on EBay and a heap of websites for equipment.
I need everything so please hit me with what you have got or any help would be appreciated.

Im in Australia so knowing what is available in the US would also be helpful, but hard from over here to find all the secrets :rofl:


Hi Samantha,

It might be worth your while to join GAA. The WA division is in Cottelsoe. I haven’t been down there yet, but members have access to their lab, library, gemstone collection. Members are also eligible for a discount at the GAA online shop. You can also join their group on FB and that should help you find the secrets :wink:

I’m doing the GG course at GIA and I bought a Gem-A travel kit because it’s small and transportable. GIA are very particular about the refractometer that we purchase and I’ve been provided a list by my instructor. That’s the one thing that’s holding me back at the moment as I don’t really care to buy a second-hand refractometer. Hopefully when I venture down to the GAA lab they will have something on the list that I can use for the Gem Ident module.

Best of luck.

GIA is only interested in selling you expensive stuff, which you do not need. The instruments coming out of China are perfectly adequate and MUCH cheaper. Any calcite dichroscope will work and you need one. Look for a pocket OPL style diffraction grating spectroscope. Any Chinese refractometer is OK, just get a return privilege and check the readings on a piece of quartz or two, which is pretty much invariant and constant. Occasionally the refractometer is out of calibration and if that happens, return it and get them to send you a good one. This problem occurs infrequently. Get a polaroid and a sodium filter for the refractometer or a built in yellow light source. Get a good pocket scale to determine SG by the “salad cup” method. Get a good triplet loupe…the Belomo is good, but so are several others. If you can afford it get a good zoom stereo microscope, either an old B & L or AO, or a new one and equip it with a darkfield light source, easily made with some washers…you’ll need a gem holder for this, too. $500 or less on this. Get a copy of Hanneman’s book Affordable Gemology and read it. You might want a UV light, too. Homemade hardness points if you deal in rough. If your instructor is particular about the equipment, don’t show it to him/her or challenge him/her to compare readings from yours vs theirs. The refractometer does not need to cost over $100. And, yes, I did take the GIA course and I learned a lot more from Hanneman’s and Reed’s books than from that course. That’s all I can think of at the moment…hope I didn’t miss anything…-royjohn

Oh, and I forgot, read the internet pages on gemstone magnetism and buy a standard magnet and make a styrofoam boat and get a small bowl for water…a great tool! -royjohn

Wow thank you RoyJohn,
I figured as much I’m a professional photographer and when completing my masters with it, I was led to believe I needed the best of everything only to find out after spending over $100k I need not even half of it.
Gemology seems to be the same, hence my question and as suspected I’m correct!

Anyhow thank you for that info….

Glad to help! If you are familiar with the history of gemology, Hanneman was the first one to come up with alternative methods in gemology in the USA and it was Hodgkinson in the UK. Hanneman advocated using visual gemology (look it up in his book) and an SG scheme to ID gems, esp. unmounted ones. He also developed a refractometer that could be built easily and would work to ID about any cut gem in a darkened room. The regular tabletop refractometer is easy and requires little knowledge…Hanneman contended that the more knowledge you had, the less need you had for instruments and that has certainly been what I have found. That said, a refractometer is a comforting thing to have when you have a mounted gem in front of you.

Hanneman felt that the diffraction grating spectroscope was the equal of the expensive prism spectroscopes in most cases if you were familiar with pattern recognition of the common spectra. Either the refractometer or the polariscope with a quartz wedge substitute and a strainless sphere will give you optic sign and optic character and you can ID most all gems from that. It is a little difficult to learn how to find optic figures, but once you do, you can reduce the equipment you need by quite a lot. A cell phone produces polarized light, so you just need one extra polarizer and presto, you have a polariscope. You need some blue tack and some dexterity and you can use this “field polariscope” with a strainless sphere (a dollar item if you can find an acrylic marble) and a side off a plastic box for a quartz wedge.

Hanneman was never mentioned by GIA until their alumni groups began to use his methods and invite him to speak to their meetings. He was really cutting into their profits when he showed people how to ID gems without a $800 refractometer and a $1000 spectroscope.

Another thing I forgot was Hanneman’s filter sets. These are pricey for filters, but they are great for in the field ID and separation in parcels. I think Mineralab still sells them. You can probably find Hanneman hanging out at Gemology On Line from time to time. -royjohn

Not to air my grievances with GIA but just information for anyone who is studying externally, these days they will ask for photographs of your equipment and also a scheduled phone discussion before they will allow you to enrol in the Gem Ident module.

Really?? OMG :scream: I thought they would be more then helpful not a hindrance to your future!

Ugh. IDK. I guess there are reasons for everything…
Samantha let me know if you are after a microscope. I have a Saxon, barely used, purchased here in Australia. I bought it before I got my travel kit and it’s just sitting in storage. I like it but I’ve got too much stuff in general. saxon GSM Gemological Microscope 10x-160x

@royjohn Dr. Hanneman has passed away.

@Studioequine You can still purchase his filter sets and book at and also at

This Chinese company also produces excellent equipment:

I’m starting the fundamentals of gemology diploma course with Gem-A in September. They provide you with most of the basic equipment as part of the 2270 GBP cost of the course. You will just have to buy your own polariscope. They will provide you with a refractometer, some small hand tools, and a travel microscope.

I purchased a trinocular gemological microscope from alibaba. It has a 36-megapixel camera integrated into it. I find attaching a 21-inch monitor to my microscope easier to use than the eyepieces. I can also take photographs of what I see using this microscope. I’m still learning how to use this, but I hope to master the microscope soon.

I also purchased a complete set of synthetic corundum and spinel from a Chinese manufacturer as a reference and to practice as it was inexpensive. I have a small collection of synthetic gemstones as samples to compare other stones to should the need arise.

Also, don’t forget about using UV light as a test as this has been found to be quite useful. GIA has several articles showing that you can separate natural from synthetic corundum using UV light (especially blue corundum) as it reacts very differently from synthetic.

You can also purchase a book for the spectroscope on the mineralabs website that shows you the spectral graphs for many gemstones. I’ve ordered the book and will be waiting for the next month for it to arive since Philippine customs is infuriatingly slow.

Here is a link for testing gems via magnetism:

useful links:

I thought I might as well share some links that I have found very useful since we are both on the same path.

Best regards,


@Studioequine here is another excellent link you may be interested in: