Case Lighting Ideas

Hello Orchidians,

I am having new cases built and the carpenter has suggested slim
florescent lights to be placed along the edges to light the jewelry
inside. I currently have small halogen lights lining the edges of the
cases and these are okay–with various problems, heat being one of
them. Also some of the little bulbs that are used in this system
currently do not work and this sort of thing has been a problem since
the cases were first built. I have this feeling that florescent
lights are not okay but I am not sure why–so I am putting it out to
all of you to see what I can learn. Feedback anybody’

Thank you to all of you for all your generous sharing about things
in general–

Janet Alix


I had a case with a similar florescent light, and we stopped using
it. It is all about the color balance of the lighting, and the impact
it creates. We found that the florescent lamps did not make the
jewelry look all that attractive. If you are worried about heat, and
want lights inside the cases, why not look into fiber-optic lighting?
It may be a little more expensive initially, but it is a long term
investment that really does an excellent job of spotlighting the
work. You will have a single lamp that generates light, usually a
halogen spot, and many bundles of optical fibers that connect to
miniature spots. The light source would be located below the display
case, and the spots can be positioned wherever you wish.

There are companies that can supply a ready-to-install system, or
you can build your own. It’s not that difficult.


Douglas Zaruba
33 N. Market St.
Frederick, MD 21701
301 695-1107

Hello Janet,

I had a conversation on this same subject with an electrician only
yesterday! He suggested that I take a look at fluorescent lights in
5000 Kelvin Daylight. I use a 5000 K for photographing my work, and
it seems to be true to color.

If you take a look at them, please let me know what you think.


Susan Ronan
Coronado, CA

I have this feeling that florescent lights are not okay but I am
not sure why- 

The main problem with fluorescent bulbs is that most of the usual
types have narrow limited spectrums of light, not a full range of
colors. Some colors simply look washed out or wrong under typical
cool white fluorescents. If on the other hand, you use full spectrum
bulbs, which will cost you more, then these should be fine. The
issue is especially true when dealing with gems, some of which depend
on very specific areas of the spectrum for their proper colors. If
the lights used don’t supply that area of the spectrum, the gems
don’t look right. There are a number of brands of full spectrul bulbs
available, but you may need to hunt some to find them in the slim
size you’re using. Also be aware that there are several levels of
improved spectrum bulbs. Some just correct part of the spectrum, for
things like improved skin tone appearance, while what you most
likely need tries hard to fully duplicate most or all of the solar
spectrum. Such bulbs are used for gem color grading, but as I said,
the fully corrected bulbs will cost you more than standard ones. The
advantages though, are that they produce much less heat, and they
last a good deal longer than the halogens. Often not quite as
intense light, though, and the light is more diffuse. Some things
look more sparkly and glittery under halogens simply because multiple
sharp points of light are more contrasty and give sharper reflected
glitter than the more diffuse fluorescent type bulbs. The degree to
which this is a factor for you will depend some on the type of
merchandise you carry.


Hey Janet- Good question! Here is a solution that you will like, as
well as your shop (the bottom line)… First off- flouescent bulbs
have come a long way since the days of flicker-start… but the
color shift is something to be wary of…

Our naked eye “tunes” the colors to what we know should be… but the
refractive properties of certain stones and certain metals arent as
forgiving… especially if there is any photography involved…
Incandescant sheds a yellow tint, UV/Flourescent (yes, even the
"Full-spectrum" high dollar ones are this way) light bars shed a
blue-green shifted light.

Halogen bulbs are a bit more to the visible wavelength, but if you
want to be right on for spectrum- use Xenon bulbs. Go to your local
Lowes or Home Depot and take a couple of paint samples from the paint
aisle (its OK- they wont yell)… get 2 paint cards of the same color
white, 2 of the same color pastel (any color- but pinks and soft
ivory are more dramatic) and 2 solid colors in earthtones. Go to the
Flourescent/Undercabinets aisle and lay one card of each under
different lights… (theres also a “lightbox” with a
Sunlight/UV/Incandescent switch in most paint departments- same
experiment- less hacking throught the store…) You will see a
dramatic difference!

This is commonly what happens when you get paint home and “It just
doesnt look the same” after you put it on the walls- its the light!
Now- another test is to take a picture with regular 35mm film (its
corrected for Sunlight), you will get a sickly green to the persons
face you are shooting under UV, and an almost campfire glow in
incandescent (regular lightbulb) light… Which in synopsis is
basically- get a color shifted light if you are worried about truth
in stone reflection and showcasing- but the usual bulb is about 20 W
and uses about 5-7 cents of electricity EACH BULB per day! (statistic
from Daily Press 9-25 edition)

OK… well… info overload time kiddies! HA! If you want a Greener
wallet and a greener Eco- concious outlook (Sidebar note: This
actually has helped sales at some shows as "Energy Star and
Eco-Friendly are big Buzz words- laugh- but its true! I have sales
from a local eco club that liked the eco friendly approach- Vinegar
pickle at the show, reclaimed pumice and sawdust for buffing
medium… you can take it a long way)

Try looking into the new breed of LED lights! Low draw electrical
(less than 2 cents for a bank of 5), and high blue-white light that
is pleasing to the naked eye. High lustre and reflectivity as well- a
blue-white light makes pearls POP… and I could honestly not believe
the change in my few (OK-2… Im still a beginner and dont have a
large stock) diamond pieces!

-As the LED is not a filament style bulb- it produces no heat (less
than 1 degree in most settings- its a solid state emitting diode- no
excess thermal energy to burn your arm as you reach past the

-The LED also has a running life of over 4000 hours- no more
changing bulbs! Available in spotlights and “bar” light styles- its
cool to use and can even be run from a 12 Volt source- low voltage =
less energy drain/no more bought bulbs = more money in your bottom

-For those reading and scoff at the please note- I have
no vested interest in the company I am recommending- but I do have a
vested interest in my environment, and in my profits- Im the guy who
wants to know why is it saving me $$$ as well as what is the other
product NOT doing to save me $$$ BEFORE I switch… The LED meets
the 55 watt/lumen capacity required for light sources, and produces
no radiant thermal energy- this also (if youre big on logistics and
operations in your shop) saves on A/C and wasted energy if youre
paying the rent!

-I switched my house-shop over and no longer sweat in the shop from
a combined 300 watts of worklamp over my shoulder, and have begun
switching my showcases as well- Case in point- I switched one
showcase out 2 years ago- the one beside it- still has Halogen track
lighting spots- I have been through 6 Halogen bulbs in a year- the
LED case gets more compliments, and has yielded better photo results
as well (nothing posted- I would have to scan and Im not there

-There is a company that has an excellent website and customer
service support for this type of light. It is the company I use- but
you can find a retailer of your choice anywhere. But I sincerely
hope this is helpful and in overall worth- the
investment is a choice- but the savings are manfested in a variety
of ways! The company info: Cyberlux- Located in
Research Triangle Park, Durham, NC TELE:(919) 474-9700

Love this forum- from a beginner to the rest of my peers- I am
finally glad to have returned a tidbit of info to the collective- I
have drawn so much from it in so many ways! Fellowship and

Kerri Duncan- SilverForgeStudio
Norfolk, VA

I have done some research and have learned a little about natural
light and the Kelvin scale which can be related to jewelry display.
Natural daylight at noon has the most equal amounts of blue and red
spectrum and are measured at 5500 Kelvin. So the closer you get to
5500 with a CRI (color rendering index) in the 90’s the most natural
the color rendition. Most halogen lights are in the 3500 to 4500K

For further go to and scroll down the
page to helpful links at

I welcome further discussion!

Susan Ronan

I had a case with a similar florescent light, and we stopped using
it. It is all about the color balance of the lighting, and the
impact it creates. We found that the florescent lamps did not make
the jewelry look all that attractive 

I have overhead 75 watt halogen narrows spots, but in the cases we
have florescent warm white bulbs, and they really help with color
and give a warm" look to the jewelry. We have one case of sterling
jewelry that feature sterling with moonstones, and we use a regular
cool white bulb and that makes the moonstone pop.

Richard Hart

Thanks to all of you for the very interesting about case
lighting. So far I am most interested in the LED option as I want as
much sparkle as possible, I love the lack of heat associated with
this type of lighting, and I like the low energy use. Has anyone
actually seen this type of lighting in jewelry cases? I would love
to see some in use before I make this commitment–it’s fairly pricey
at the set up end. I’m pretty close to San Francisco. Anybody know
of LED lights somewhere around here?

Thanks again to all who offer their expertise not to mention

Janet (in beautiful Mill Valley where it seems as tho we really are
going to have an Indian Summer after all)