New member with a new-found fascination for gems! Seeking guidance

Hello everyone! I am brand new to the world of gemology and I have recently become very fascinated with gems.

I came here because I would like to learn as much as I can about gems/minerals and the process of identification and grading. I’d possibly like to pursue a career later on, but I cannot afford to attend one of the reputable schools such as GIA or Gem-A. Although I am interested in getting IGS certified to start.

I researched many different education options to try and find the best place to start my journey, and this seems like a good place for that. I’m seeking some guidance on what the minimum required/recommended tools are (I am on a budget) for identification and grading.

I studied the “Tools of the Gemologist” page and it sounds like the basic tools I need to get started as a complete newbie are the following:

  • A good quality 10x+ triplex color-correct loupe
  • Tweezers
  • Flexible arm lamp (/w incandescent bulb)

items that may be of convenience:

  • Stone line
  • Gem cloth

other items that may be of interest:

  • Calipers
  • Scale
    (I don’t know how much this stuff typically costs but it sounds like the loupe would be the expensive part)

It also mentioned this book:
Color Encyclopedia of Gemstones by Joel E. Arem

and this software:
Gemology Tools Pro
(do I need both? which do you recommend?)

I’d like to put aside $460 for the certification+gold membership in the future, and would like to know if the tools I listed above are a good starting point, and how much it might cost to purchase them, where the best place to purchase them is, and what the recommended types/brands are. If I’ve got this all wrong, please point me in the right direction!

Another resource I was recommended to check out was this website:

Thank you very much in advanced for any help you will be able to give me!

Hi Patrick,

Welcome to IGS! This is a fantastic community that we are very proud of. We are thrilled to have you join us.

You definitely want the scale. Have you thought about a microscope? From personal experience, I would recommend that as part of your home lab, even as a beginner, if you can find the budget for it (maybe try eBay or Craigslist for used microscopes). Here is a thread where a good microscope is discussed: Microscope - Gem Related Discussion - IGS Forums

I would prioritize the microscope over the reference materials, as we already have a lot of similar content on our site.

Happy for others to comment as well.

Welcome Patrick,
I would deffinately suggest the GemTools Pro software. It has all the information the book has and is easier to sort the gems by the gem separator. Just put in your findings and hit query and it narrows the list of possibles. You may want to invest in a few known stones to confirm you’re testing them correctly and your findings match the books. Cheaper lab created stones should work fine for most tests except inclusions. Inclusions are also a big part of the identification but 4 or 5 different stones will help you hone your skills and doing the testing correctly. I’m just getting started myself and found the refractometer I bought was out of calibration by using some known stones.

Lancaster, PA


The information you get in the classes here are great too. The yearly membership gets you all the classes and a ton of other information. I plan on learning as much as I can as I save and budget for the tests to become certified. I looked for a while and didn’t see anything that said you could take the classes first but you can, just the yearly membership is required. Good luck!


Thank you gemgirl, and thank you Duane!

I went ahead and ordered a lighted 10x triplet loupe, calcite dichroscope, chelsea filter, tweezers, gem tray with removable jars, milligram scale, and digital calipers. That should be a good head start. Then I picked up a used copy of the book I referenced, “Color Encyclopedia of Gemstones” by Joel E. Arem. Everything I’ve read about it is very positive and it was highly recommended. I like to use the old fashion tools to start sometimes and move to the more advanced stuff later on if you know what I mean.

I also could not resist my temptation to start a gem collection (and a collection of specimens to study), so I researched some reputable gem dealers on ebay who were located in the US and made a few purchases… By the end of next week I should have a wide variety of different gemstones to study. I got a mix of beryl, corundum, quartz, topaz, garnet, tourmaline, zircon, peridot, tanzanite, iolite, and opal facets. I tried to get a good mix of different types for each mineral category. For example I got Aquamarine, Emerald and Heliodor for the Beryl category.

I probably jumped the gun a little bit, but I’m very excited. I should have all my tools and gemstones by the end of next week. Until then, I’ll keep studying so I have an idea of what to do with the tools when they arrive.

I do have a question though - I am confused about the “gem cloth”. Is it just a regular microfiber cloth? Or does it need to be 100% cotton? When I type in “gem cloth” to google or amazon, I get a lot of “polishing cloths” that come up, but that doesn’t sound like what I want. Any recommendations?

I also decided to hold off on the microscope for now until I have an idea of what the heck I’m doing. But I found a used Gemoro Elite 1030 on ebay, is that a good one? I’d like to be able to take pictures of my gems in the future. Is that possible with this microscope? Or any microscope for that matter?

Thanks again for replies! (and sorry for the wall of text!)

Like you Patrick, I am newly enthralled. Most of my toys (tools) of the trade came from Amazon and were affordable. Loops to Diamond Testers, books written by experts and a 200 gram digital scale. Bought a Refractometer but returned it cause it was for beer…oops. Yeah, i’m new at this. Research gives me answers but those answers are usually followed by more questions. Time flies when your having fun. Thrift stores are great places to find study material. Never know what 'ull find and reasonably priced. Then get ur tools out and identify it. Sometimes im right, and sometimes im wrong repeadidly, but i always learn something. I love my three loop end gem holder for loose stones. Ive shot a few across the room. LED40X loupe is under $7, bright light comes in real handy. Gem Pro Software??? Sounds interesting. I would like to know more about it. Better to have a Diamond tester that detects electrical as well as heat signatures, and practice. Identifying metals and their purity takes some time too. My best to you fellow enthusiest. Hope to see some updates on ur progress. lf

One cloth is for polishing and is treated. I’m thinking the other is used as a sort of cloth mat. Mostly black in color and the thickness of say… felt. A bare table is hard and things bounce. Only 2 i can think of.

Dear Patrick,

My name is Philip Mwangi a professional gemologist of IGS. I desire to welcome you to the IGS a community of greatness. I have seen that you have the urge to know more about gems and I tell you courageously that IGS is the best place for you to be. Welcome.
That you may become a professional gemologist and be able to Identify gems quickly, the following tools are a must to have
 1. Pay the IGS Gold membership for about 59$ per year.
 2. The refractometre-> For taking the refractive index of gems. 
 3. 10Xpower loupe-> It is a tool of every time. A gemologist best friend.
 4. Dichroscope-> This is for Identifying doubly refractive gems.
 5. Gem twizer-> For holding gems.
 6. Polariscope.
 7. Carat or grammage scale. (1gram is equal to 5 carats)
 8. Hardness pencil tester for separating rough stones by hardness.
 9. Chelsea filter.
 10. Gemologist tools pro is a software for easy separation of gems. A gemologist 'must have'.
 11.Diamond pencil tester->For separating diamonds from simmulants.
 12. A mini gem microscope-> This range from 50X to 100X. it goes for 50$ to 150$ depending on which one you want.

-> I bought My gemologist tool box from China through a website known as Alibaba transactions at a company called FABLE Technology.

Very good advice/support to beginners in the gem field.

Hi Philip, one other tool I always carry in the field on any buying trip is a spectroscope, it is not easy to use for beginners and you really need a fair bit of practice to understand the spectrums, but in the field it takes only seconds to identify, sapphire (except some Sri Lankan) nearly all Garnet, Ruby, pink red tourmaline peridot apatite, and a fair few more.
of course it will identify the gem and in a lot/most cases can be diagnostic, but it cannot tell if it is natural or synthetic, although in saying that if the gem is too clean and has a perfect spectrum ie as in a spectrum book, then you would suspect it to be synthetic. I have a gemmology diploma “Gem A” and they rely heavily on training students with the spectroscope which is part of their practical exams Thanks