Best optical visor?

This is my 1st attempt at an orchid post!

I am at that age when I can’t rely on my near-sighted vision for
really close work like stone setting.

Can anyone suggest the best system to use as an optical magnifier?

I have a couple of sets of opti-visors but they never seem to give
me the right working distance or comfort.

Thanks for any suggestions, Terry Venables Vancouver Island BC

Terry, Two weeks ago, having gone through ever stronger power and
shorter working distance Optivisors, I finally decided I’d had enough
and bought a ‘zoom boom’ stereomicroscope. What an epiphany!
Originally, I’d planned to buy Zeiss surgical telescopes (James
Binnion has talked about these in previous posts) but wanted
flexibility of different powers and working distances more than
mobility. Also, there’s a whole new class of stereomicroscopes with
really good optics at a third to half the price of the Zeiss
telescopes, that are entirely suitable for engraving, setting, and so
on (I plan to use mine for granulation, too). Steve Lindsay reviews
these on his website (Microscopes),
which is where I came across them.

I contacted Mike Little (of, mentioned on the
same page), and asked some questions. Mike and his staff are
extremely helpful and knowledgeable*, making the whole process far
easier than I would’ve expected. In less than a week, I was setting
up my scope. My only regret is that I hadn’t done this sooner. It’s
completely changed everything for the better. Not only can I see
perfectly, but I don’t have to wear glasses. And with a couple
auxiliary lenses, I have three nicely balanced working distances and
magnification ranges. I cut my workbench down 5" from nearly 44"
(Optivisor height for my Benchmate), so it’s much easier on my arms
and wrists, and as I’m still looking through the eyepieces at the
correct height, my posture is balanced and there’s no neck stiffness
whatsoever. It’s surprisingly comfortable and affords a lot of moving
about – I’d have thought it would be more restrictive. Now while I’m
certainly no expert on scopes, I’ve looked through a few, and this
one has big bright crispy clear 3D images. I’m sure for more money,
one could find a jazzier boom (this one’s fine, though) and a heavier
head (mine’s a composite), but these things aren’t all that important
to me, as this isn’t an industrial environment where things get
banged around by different people. So for me, the price was right and
I couldn’t be happier. It is a real joy.

I realize this isn’t exactly what you were asking and may be more
than you’d care to spend, but thought I’d offer it as an alternative.
And maybe it’ll help someone like me (with aging diabetic eyes) who’d
about given up doing something truly enjoyable.


*Mike is to microscopes as Kenneth Singh is to jewelry tools, in my
opinion - both will patiently work with you until you get it right.

(the usual disclaimers as to self-interest apply)

Hi Terry,

Can anyone suggest the best system to use as an optical magnifier?

Will it’s a gamble to define ‘what’s best’ when personal taste &
needs are involved, I like the find the Opticaid made by Edroy,
Nyack NY the best for my needs.

It’s available in 1.5, 1.75, 2.25, 2.75 & 3.50 powers. The working
distances aRe: 20", 14" 8" 6" & 4" respectively. It attaches to your
glasses using a wire spring. The lens is made of a polycarbonate(?)
& is rectangular, 20 mm x 80 mm. It weighs 12.8 gms & is easy to
wear all day.

I like it because it allows you a complete range a vision around the
magnifier as well as through it. It doesn’t have the dark visor like
Optivisor & others. When not in use, it can be flipped up above your
glasses. another nice thing about it is the cost. Volume 33 (2002)
of the Stuller tool catalog list it at $18.95.

There are other magnifiers that look like small telescopes mounted
on spectacle frames that allow you to change the magnification &
field of view. I’ve never used them so I can’t comment on their
usability. These can cost upwards of $300 a pair.


Hi Terry, I have fabulous 4X at 10" magnifiers that look like little
loupes mounted on eyeglass frames that I bought at the GJX show in
Tucson from this German company: Mine are the LB010 model, found
under gemmological instruments, then hand loupes/stereoscopic. It’s
not obvious how one buys them through the website, other than
writing an email. The Frei and Borel booth at the GLDA show had
another model that provided slightly less magnification for lower
cost (still big bucks - around $285 I think). That model had longer
lenses set farther from your eyes. For me they never produced a
seamless image, but I didn’t take the time to configure them
properly, so they might be fine for you. These things have changed my
life! The government should issue them to all people over 50.

Linda in MA, looking forward to warm and sunny Tucson

Hellooooo Orchid My suggestion is that we “all” forget about
optivisors and move to many available systems of surgical loupes. We
can order these at different magnifications. I think optivisors are
the most damaging of all .Feel free to contact me offline for further
winings. Peace Karl

Terry - My former dentist had a wonderful pair of binocular
magnifiers! They had a focal range which provided good magnification
between 8 and 19 inches. I’m sorry that I don’t remember the name of
the manufacturer; I do remember they were very expensive, in the
$200US range though. You may want to ask your dentist, or do a web

Jim Small
Small Wonders Lapidary

Terry Venables wrote in part: I am at that age when I can't rely on
my near-sighted vision for really close work like stone setting. Can
anyone suggest the best system to use as an optical magnifier? I
have a couple of sets of opti-visors but they never seem to give
me the right working distance or comfort. 

Although expensive, you might want to consider the devices used by
some dentists, for example see One big
advantage these devices have over opti-visors (which I have, for the
same reason you have them) is the greater depth of field.

Daniel Kamman

On Optivisors: You can purchase a set from Lacy’s or Transcontinental
for less than $40.00 (CND) but you can buy the identical article
from a Dental/Medical Supply Company for approximately 1.5 X as
much; that’s about $100.00. My advice is this: if you can purchase
any low or high-end magnifying device from a tool company, you’ll be
much better off financially for it, if you do the search. Stay away
from medical supply houses if you can at all possibly manage it,
unless it’s some highly specialized tool that can’t be found
anywhere else.

Hi Karl. I am a jeweller in the UK. I am interested to know why you
say Optivisors are damaging. I use one most of the time. Is there
something I don’t know. Thanks, Ruth.

Hi Terry,

I would recommend the Zeiss binocular loupes. Thew have the best

depth of field and a 4x magnification at 12" focal length means you
don’t have to hunch over your work so your back is not so tortured
at the end of the day. It is a higher power magnification than the
strongest optivisor (the optivisor numbers are diopter values not
magnification power). If you get down to Bellingham give me a call
and I will be happy to show you my Zeiss loupes. You can also see
them at – Jim Binnion

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160

Member of the Better Business Bureau

Dear Terry Venables, eh! As a “mature” diamond setter, I am
extremely comfortable with the number #5 lens of the commonly used
"Opti Visor" that is well used by many of ‘us’ in the trade. I will
suggest using the # 7 as a back up or for most intricate jewellery
work. I found that the number #3 has your head too far back and you
won’t be able to “see” the finer details of e.g. diamond setting. If
perchance you select a number #10…“DON’T”…too much eye strain,
you will be almost leaning your head too far forward and will have
considerable back and neck strain. I use bifocal-corrective eye
glasses and along with my #5 visor, I am able to continue setting for
hours on end. Hoping you can glean some helpful ideas from just what
I use with satisfaction.

I have had prescription reading glasses made at a higher
magnification and love them. When I get my regular eye checkup (which
I trust you do with some regularity), I ask the doc to give me an
additional persrciption for the higher magnification glasses. I do
very fine wax carving and repousse w using them.

 I have had prescription reading glasses made at a higher
magnification and love them.

I have also done this. The glasses I use for my crochet work I had
made specially by my eye doctor in Thailand. They are about the
equivalent of a 400 reading glass, perhaps a bit stronger. The focal
length or working distance is about 7 inches which makes them
perfect for crocheting. They are lighter and less cumbersome than
optivisors, which I still use at my bench for fabricating, soldering,
and stone setting.

With my optivisors I have cut away most of the top leaving only 1/2
inch of the frame remaining as a border above the lens and on the
sides. I find that this provides better lighting, and it allows me to
look over the top of the lens to see the tools on the bench or look
out the window at my garden. It also makes them a bit lighter and I
don’t have to tighten the headband so much that it gives me a

Michael David Sturlin

Hellooooo Orchid, I entered a thread on eye magnification this past
year so I will try to keep this brief . Optivisors have a "set "
papillary distance just like humans .,unfortunatly in most cases this
distance is not a match causing the eyes to compensate.Optivisors
also have plastic lenses that quickly wear causing a cloudy feild of
vision, the working distance on optivisors is also poor, I wear
surgical loupes and work with either pair @ 11-13 inches keeping my
back upright. Simply I think that our eyes are far to important
and requires a greater investment not only for thier good health but
the quality of our work improves with our ability to function in the
small world. I will also forward a note I sent to "Sam the Man "in
the hope it might be helpful. Peace Karl

My eye doctor sold me a pair of clip on magnifiers that add 3X
magnification to my perscription glasses. They flip up and down and
can be positioned at your choice of distance from your glasses. I use
them for delicate soldering, drilling where accuracy is very
importantetc, etc. For $36. they are a bargain. I’m sure you could
find them on the web by search for “magnifying lenses”. Jan

Thanks ALL! A very hearty thank-you to all who responded to my plea
for a better magnification system for small detailed jobs such as
diamond setting! I had wondered about these surgical loupes (such as
dentist’s use) and even the very sophisticated macro devices. I
guess it’s just like making a piece of jewellery! We will likely
ALL have a different way of going about it. I am definitely going to
explore some of your suggestions! Thanks again for taking the time to
help me out! After 25 years, I am still having fun tinkering with
metal and gems. Now… any ideas for that aching lower back, or
neck tension?

Terry Venables
Vancouver Island, Canada

Hello Orchidland, As Dave Barnett indicated, stereomicroscopes (or as
biologists call them, “dissecting scopes”) are wonderful for
stone-setting, fine work, stone examination, deciphering marks,
checking a solder joint, etc.

FYI, I got my 'scope from a school lab. It’s an older model and was
being retired. Most states have some sort of surplus sale
mechanism. Since schools and health agencies have all manner of
labs being upgraded, you just might get a 'scope at low cost. Who
cares if it’s got some scratches or dings. If it’s dirty, you can
disassemble it and carefully clean it. Avoid scratched lenses and
be sure you can adjust everything to “fit” your face.

Judy in Kansas, who is looking forward to Tucson and the Orchid
dinner. MMMmmm, Mmmm, good! Love that Mexican food.

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
B.A.E. 237 Seaton Hall
Kansas State University
Manhatttan KS 66506
(785) 532-2936 FAX (785) 532-6944

I had wondered about these surgical loupes (such as dentist's use) 

Terry -

I just went through this at the optometrist’s office. My plan was
to get a prescription set of those little loupes that look like
telescopes just like my dentist uses. They do have them available
in the optometrists’ catalogue, but they are $500.

Since I am a hobbyist and not a professional jeweler, I didn’t want
to pay the money, and instead went with a new type of prescription
lens that is like a blended bifocal for ranges from three feet to
close up that I can also use for computer work and reading.


Hi Karl,

The Optivisor brand optical visors have glass lense plates, not
plastic. I have two of them. One was purchased many years ago and
one was purchased recently and both of them have glass lense plates.
Some other brands do have plastic lenses. One of mine used to
belong to my father who used it for television repair. The lenses
are still in good shape. This one is a DA-10 which has 3.5X
magnification (you are correct Noel) and a working distance of about
4 inches. I needed a greater working distance so I recently
purchased a DA-5, which has 2.5X magnification (I think) and a
working distance of about 8 inches. I would like to try some of the
fancier surgical scopes. They sound excellent but are way out of my
budget. My vision isn’t what it used to be and I find that I need
vision assistance for just about any jewelry related endeavor now.
The Optivisor is reasonably comfortable and works well for me and is
very affordable. Sometimes I even forget I have it on.
Fortunately, I haven’t yet left the house still wearing it!

Best Regards,

Dear Orchians,

I also have been using regular prescription glasses which are
stronger than my regular reading glasses and haven’t used my optical
visors since. But now I wonder why everyone doesn’t do this> What are
the reasons people actually use the visors as opposed to eyeglasses?
Is there something I am missing about this? Thanks for the info.

Sharron in K.L., very hot these days due to less rains