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Choosing stereo microscope


What power stereo microscope do you recommend for jewelers?

Lastly, I know you get what you pay for in this industry but is there
anything less than $300 out there that would be an ok first scope?

What set up do you recommend?


Hi Chris,

I have two, a fancy Nikon that I picked up at an auction, and a
Chinese Meiji clone that I bought from Otto Frei for around $1000

The Nikon’s definitely a better, sharper scope, but $5000 better?
Probably not. That said, the Meiji’s clone’s much better than the
$300 scopes that I’ve tried. The $300 scopes are pretty crappy.
Better than an optivisor, for sure, but nothing I’d want to be
looking through for hours.

The one thing you want to make sure you get is a GRS acrobat stand.
Amazingly useful, especially if you’re going to be using the scope
for hours. Two big issues: (A) headrest. Gives you something to use
to brace your head, so you don’t get black eyes from the eyecups, and
also lets you stabilize the thing, relative to your head, without
using the hands that you’re also using to work. (B) lets you put the
scope anywhere within range, just by grabbing and moving. Bar+Post
mounts aren’t as flexible.

Both of mine are zooms. I tend to leave them set to about 10X
(widest field, lowest power) most of the time. For fussy engraving,
I’ve been known to zoom in to 20x. They’ll both go in to about 50x,
which is great for inspection, or getting a really good look at your
engraving point, to see how good a job you did with that last
sharpening pass, but not a whole lot of use for doing any real work.

For whatever that all’s worth.


I have the GemOro Elite 10 and 30 x. This is a great simple scope for
a beginner. Remember that 10x is the US standard for examining a
stone for inclusions, etc. It does not have all the bells and
whistles, but it does dark field illumination, back light
illumination, and above illumination and combinations. Also has a
stone holder. Easy to use and easy to learn gemology with.

John Atwell Rasmussen, Ph.D., AJP

Lastly, I know you get what you pay for in this industry but is
there anything less than $300 out there that would be an ok first

I recommend spending as much as you can for your tools.

Sorry, you’ll never find a scope of any quality for the price you
want to spend!! Go on ebay and look at Leica, Wild, Zeiss Nikon, and
get the whole unit, the base the lenses and the proper lighting. This
purchase is not to be taken lightly as these scopes are the best
money can buy, but be prepared to spend a few thousand for a tool
that will over time make your work look better than you ever thought
possible. Why not try to go somewhere where you can look thru these
lenses and see why most if not all engravers and stone setters have
spent so much for their eyes. You’ll not believe the new world of
perfection these scopes will give your work.

You’ll not be sorry you saved for the best.


I don’t know about under $300. Especially for a stereo scope. I
found my old American Optical scope for about $400 on ebay but I
watched scopes for nearly a year before buying it. Mine is a 10-60X
zoom and it came with a halfdiopter adapter for the objective which I
mostly keep on making it 5-30X. I mostly keep it in the lower end of
the range. I love it. It came with a light but I added a ring light
(also off ebay) for about $30 more. You can find scopes on ebay every
day but ones like that don’t come that often. It was sold as an
"inspection scope" if you stuck the word Jeweler on it then you can
add a couple hundred to the price easily. Another place to look is
the lab equipment auctions run by You can sometimes find
good equipment at decent prices.

Ben Brauchler

I bought my Meiji with all the trimmings from GRS tool. They have an
outstanding website.

And don’t let the idiot you work with clean the lenses with a shop

Before buying a microscope I would recommend visiting the web site of
Absolute Clarity & Calibration and looking at their list of what to
buy and what to avoid. They also have a page of diagnostic procedures
to use if you get a chance to try before you buy.


Hi Chris,

I think you are going to have to spend $650 or so at minimum for a
good quality microscope system for your bench. Here is the system I
put together, and I think you’d be hard pressed to do it much

I chose the Nikon SMZ-1 stereo microscopes as it has an ideal zoom
range and working distance (with mods-see below) for jewelry work.
They are kicking around for various prices on eBay as there are
plenty around, retired from industrial and medical applications.
These can sometimes be an excellent deal, and Nikon makes a good
scope–quality optics & good mechanics.

I bought my Nikon SMZ-1 with the 10x Nikon eyepieces for $375. It
has a zoon range of 7x to 33x (or 8-35 for a SMZ-1B). I added a 0.5x
objective (auxiliary) lens–this cost me $40, as old new stock, on
eBay again. The use of the 0.5 objective reduces magnification by
half and doubles the working distance under the microscope. My
average working distance is 181mm/7.25", plenty for everything so
far. The 3.5x to 15x range is perfect for my work. I do not consider
the 0.5 objective as optional. The working distance gets too close
otherwise and the microscope gets in the way of my tools.

Finally, you need a articulating stand and a good light source.
These are important. Fluorescent ring lights are available for about
$40. For the stand, unless you are handy mechanically and can rig up
something up, you will have to spend the $215 as I did. Search for
"Articulating stand with clamp for stereo microscopes" on eBay.
You’ll need to modify it slightly to make the microscope tip, as this
stand is perfectly adequate except for this requirement. It’s sturdy,
locks well, and is a good price. I mounted mine on the bench in such
a fashion that it can be swung in and out of use rapidly.

BTW, I have an extra Nikon SMZ-1 scope (no eyepieces) for sale if
anyone is interested.

Good luck!
Joris Van Daele, custom jewelry.