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Which Microscope

Hi everyone,

I’m new to geology and I have a difficult decision to make. It’s difficult because I’m on a tight buget and the time has come where I have to have a microscope.

I have seen many on line and I have narrowed it down to two options.

  1. Optigem-20 which is the topend I would be able to afford, and I would have to make considerable sacrifice on other tools.
  1. AmScope 3.5X-90X Jewelry Gem Stereo Microscope + Dual Halogen + 14MP Camera from ebay

It’s cheaper, better magnification, better wide angle eye piece, better working distance, camera included.

It does not have the nice possibility to be turned into a submerge scope like the Optigem.

Is the trade off for for being able to do submerged gem analysis justified?

Is there a way to do submerged gem analysis on a regular Gemological microscope like the AmScope?

Thank you for your opinion and help.


Hello Johann.

If you want quality you should go for the Optika.

If you want quality AND immersion you can check out Krüss microscopes. I have one myself and i am very satisfied with it.

If you take the Amscope you will have to pay customs and vat if you are living in Europe.

Best regards

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Thank you very much Pierre.

The Krüss Scope looks very good.
The one I want is 1.5k ontop of the Optica.
I probably go for the optica as I would be able to bild it up to be an immersion scope.

I do belive that your eye pieces have are 30mm if I’m right. I would love to have them on the Optica.

It’s good to know what’s on the market which is very difficult because ist not a common sector.

I still wonder if there is a way to do immersion testing without a purpose build microscope.


It is possible to do immersion without the expensive microscope. You just have to get a Petri bowl and you will do just fine with it. I started with a Petri and a common microscope. A Konus Diamond that worked great.

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That sounds good.
Will I have any problems with reflections?


I didnt have any problems with reflections. Just remember to keep your oil clean. The only issue is that it is hard to rotate the stone.

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There are people who want the best and don’t understand gemology yet. There are others who master the principles of gemology and let that guide their purchases. Dr. Hannemann, one of the pioneers of innovation in gemology used to say that the more gemology you knew, the fewer instruments you needed to make decisions. If I were you I would first get a copy of Hanneman’s book, Affordable Gemology, in which he talks about ways to produce a dark field with a loupe, etc. My first gemological microscope cost me $325. It was a B&L microscope with a glass stage and a mirror underneath for which I rigged a darkfield illuminator which I still have from a transformer and a halogen headlight bulb, a chrome bowl and a black flag to cover the direct light. Pretty much any illuminated stage can be turned into passable dark field with a suitable washer to provide the aperture and a disk below it to block the direct light. Nowadays we have cool LED lights instead of that hot halogen and the color temperature is much better, too.

Looking at ebay today I see numerous older zoom microscope for under $500. You could easily rig an LED light underneath, and buy a third hand tweezer if the scope does not have one. Any suitable small vessel serves to immerse your sample. LIttle gooseneck LED lights and an LED ringlight increase your lighting choices. A few months ago I sold a 7X to 30X B&L head to someone for $150. A set of WF 10X eyepieces ought to run about $40 or less.

Currently I happen to have an older Gemolite V GIA scope because I found one with a bad head and a busted diaphragm for $300 and replaced the diaphragm for $30 and put a different AO 7x to 45x head on it. The old halogen bulb was replaced with a cool LED bulb.

If you have $1500 and are not able to rig things, you can go with one of the scope you mention. However, you would learn a lot about inclusions and lighting if you merely got a simple stereo scope with a direct illuminator underneath or one with a mirror base to which you could attach a penight flashlight. Side lighting with those little gooseneck lamps gives you endless flexibility and you will find one or another angle that highlights what you are looking at. The LED ringlights are cheap, $25, and they add another dimension. You can learn to take pictures with your phone and a macro eyepiece or use it through one of the eyepieces of a stereo microscope.

A lot depends on whether you have more money or more time. If you saved $1000 on your scope, you could easily spend $500 of that on your spectroscope, refractometer, dichroscope, fillters, etc. You probably would not need to go over $1000 total for a complete gem lab. This is all assuming you need gemology tools and not a polarizing microscope, etc. for metallurgy, geology, etc.

I hope this is helpful.

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Thank you very much.
This is very helpful.

I already placed an order for the scope. It just means I have to work hard to make the money back.


Hello again, Johann,
I don’t want to drive you crazy with rants, but I do see that US ebay has two GIA diamond grading microscope for $488 each. These have a similar base to the vintage Gemolite scopes. The head gives 10X and 30X and a 2X booster, I think. You would have to query this seller to be sure, but the setup seems to be the same as that which fits the old squarish B&L heads, which are easy to pick up for about $200 or so. So you would have a set of 10X WF eyepieces and 10, 20, 30 and 60X and you could later upgrade to 7X to 60X, which is all you would ever need. Even if you bought another head, you’d still be under $700 with this purchase. You would have to be certain that it is certified as working, because you would want to return it if it did not work and that would depend on it being “not as described.” At any rate, I think if you waited, you would find that these come up for sale from time to time. The optics on the old AO and B&Ls are very good, as good as the imports produced today, I would guess…they were certainly good enough for GIA back in the day and the original retail on a Gemolite was about $4500 in 1990 dollars. Hope this is useful info for you and others. -royjohn

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Wow, I wish I had waited now.

Thank you very much for your suggestions. I’m very happy that there are still some people like you on the planet.