Dear Milt: I am 45, and have experienced the same problems as you with
my vision. (and my vision was terrible even when much younger…) My
advice is to hold off on the bifocals. In my experience, bifocals
mostly work for the average person. The average person does not need
nearly the same visual acuity that jewelers need! In my former
career, I used to dissect invertebrate specimens with organs measured
in angstroms, so I have a different notion of visual acuity than
most. Jewelers need to see at a level that doesn’t exist for the
You will be better off with two separate prescriptions: one for
distance (driving, TV, etc.,) and one for “reading”. Explain to your
opthalmologist (make sure you have a GOOD opthalmologist, not an
optomotrist!) exactly what kind of close work you are doing, and to
what level you need to see (millimeters, tenths of millimeters,
I find I can wear my “reading” glasses anywhere in the studio or
house, for most normal use; which is most distances under 10 feet. I
only need to switch when I go outside. It sounds like a chore to
switch, but you quickly adapt. Most of my jeweler friends are around
the same age as myself. I know of only one out of 10 who found
bifocals useable for really close work. Bifocals have distortions
that are maddening on a tight visual scale.
For help beyond the glasses: try “Mag-eyes” . I find them much easier
to use than the Optivisors. For one, when you need to look up to grab
a tool, there’s no need to move them; you can just glance above or
below the lens. They are light, cheap, convenient, and easy to toss
on or off. (The lens are acrylic, so toss carefully. I keep the dust
off them, to avoid scratching them prematurely. ) They come with two
different lenses, and others are available. Besides Rio, found on p.
297 of 2001 Tools, they are readily available in other catalogs, and
at craft and hobby shops, such as Hobby Lobby, for about $22. I have
a shelf full of magnifiers, but I consistently use the “Mag-eyes”.
The magnifiers that clip onto glasses did not work for me. Hard to
put on and remove, focal distance wrong. I use the Mag-eyes right
over my “reading” glasses, something you can’t do comfortably with
most “fit on the head” type magnifiers. You will still need a loupe
for such things as stone inspection. I have a “linen tester” too,
which is great for inspecting things like depth of etch or engraving.
It is a lens on a small stand about 1 inch high, which places it at
the right focal point for inspecting a surface. I got mine at a stamp
and coin collecting store.