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Optivisor & Eyesight

Hi everyone, in the latest lapidary journal an enamelist talked
about loosing eyesight . I wear an optivisor, usually #3 most of
the day. Does anyone have any about wether wearing an
optivisor and doing small work ruin ones eyesight? I have known
old jewelers who seem to see as well as anyone, should we have
our eyes tested more frequently, and can you wear your regular
glasses along with the optivisor? I just wear the optivisor
alone. Thanks everyone.

Funny you should ask. After 20 years at the bench, my eyes were
starting to get “tired” after hours of close work , you know
prong setting 40 or 50 .02 pt diamonds or the like. I went to the
eye doctor, and he said my vision was perfect. He recommended
that I buy the off the rack ( magnifying) glasses at a pharmacy
when my eyes got tired. Similarily, I know an 80 year old
diamond setter ( he’s Irish, an Irish setter, get it?), who
claims that if you use really good light, the close work actually
improves your vision. go figure…

It may have just been coincidence, but when I was using my
optivisor a lot and not using glasses - I’m just a little bit
far-sighted and usually wear glasses for reading only - my focal
point changed. I asked my optician who is an old friend if he
thought there was something else that I should be doing, he said
that I probably should bbe wearing my glasses with the optivisor
and that I should also be taking “focus” breaks to keep the
muscles working right. I haven’t gotten any worse since trying
this. I find that a loupe on my glasses works as well as the
optivisor with less eyestrain. Of course, being a few years
younger would help too - :slight_smile:


I’ve been a jeweller and setter for forty two years and found
that I needed to use magnifiers more and more about twenty years
ago. I always had good close vision, but gradually, more and
more, my eyes needed a boost with 3X magnification. Nowadays I
use the 3X magnifiers almost continually when I’m working at the

The curious thing is that my long sightedness is getting better.
Glasses for my long vision were essential ten years ago. Over the
last five years, each subsequent prescription has been for weaker
and weaker lens. My optometrist explained that my natural lens
hardens as I get older and it looks as though I’ll soon have
perfect vision for distance. Now… if only I can make my arms
longer when I’m reading the newspaper… Kind regards, Rex from

Simply using your eyes won’t harm your eyesight. However, what
you are looking at can do so, if it contains harmful radiation.
Excess ultraviolet, or infra red radiation can be harmful. (I.R.
is linked to cataracts) Looking at red hot items through a
magnifier will increase the I.R. exposure. A solution is to be
sure that your eyewear will absorb I.R. radiation. Glass lenses
usually absorb a good deal of I.R., while plastic may or may not.
Ask your optometrist about your own glasses… Edmund
Scientific can sell you a piece of specifically infrared
absorbing glass, usually used to protect photographic slides in
projectors, if you really want to make up a safe filter and are
unsure as to whether what you have will work. As to the small
stuff issue, as you age and your eyesight deteriorates, seeing
small things, as well as focussing close and all the rest, become
more difficult. This can lead to eyestrain. But that word is
more a description of general fatigue, in muscles controlling
eye focus and position etc, than in any effect on the retina
itself or damaging effect on the eye. It can give you a headache
and much frustration. But it won’t actually damage your eyes.
(All this from my opthalmologist, who I see for diabetic
retinopathy, and of whom I’ve asked most of these questions

Peter Rowe

Hello Knopp:

   should we have our eyes tested more frequently, and can you
wear your regular glasses along with the optivisor? 

Being that your eyes are one of the most important tools you
have in this trade, yes a yearly check-up is recommended. You can
and should wear your glasses under your optivisor. The main cause
of eyesight lose or degradation to jewelers other than physical
damage, is strain from poor lighting and poor magnification.
Avoid looking at very bright flames when soldering and welding
and always wear the proper eye protection. Looking into a high
heat kiln is bad for you eyes also, so wear properly shades
glasses. Clean your optivisor every day and keep your finger
prints off of the lenses.

Michael Mathews Victoria,Texas USA

The curious thing is that my long sightedness is getting better.
Glasses for my long vision were essential ten years ago. Over the

I’m told that it’s normal for people to become more long-sighted
with age. Short-sighted people often have improvements in their
eyesight as the get older and people with normal vision tend to
become long-sighted which means holding things further away to
read them.

I have found that my eyes also prefer to have magnification
whilst I work at the bench. I use those clipon lenses rather
than the optivisor as I like to just look over the top of them
when I need to look for something on the bench.

Kerry McCandlish Jewellery - Celtic and Scottish styles
Commission/Custom Work undertaken…
Katunayake, Creagorry, Isle of Benbecula, HS7 5PG SCOTLAND
Tel: +44 1870-602-677 Fax: +44 1870-602-956 Mobile: +44 850-059-162

Here is a small chunk from the ‘The Jewwlry Workshop Safety
Report’ book I am working on. You should note this is in draft
form only and will be added to in the book. the additions have to
do with the difference between magnification and focus, and how
some people may see well close up as they age.



I spoke with several Doctors of Optomettry in Calgary; Dr. Bruce
Redmond, Dr. Allen Jones and Dr. Craig Meckelborg asking them
about eye issues and whetehr the use of magnification had any
particular dangers to it.

Because jewelry work is often very exacting in its details
goldsmiths tend to use magnification at times, often to check
their work. Engravers and stone setters in particular use
magnification freqently. Some goldsmiths will use an optivisor,
some a lens that attaches to glasses or fits into an eye socket,
some work under a binocular microscope.Dr. Jones noted that if
magnification is properly arranged then the eye’s focus is set
at infinity, much as if one were looking into the distance. Dr,
Redmond commented that using one eye excessively may cause strain
and as with a monocular miscroscope it is important to learn to
keep both eyes open when using magnification.

With age the focussing lens of the eye gradually loses
flexibility resulting in blurred vision and loss of the ability
to focus on close things. This condition is called presbyopia. It
can occur as young as thirty and usually occurs in the eraly
forties. By the time one is 55 almost everybody has the condition
and needs reading glasses or bifocals to work up close. Symptoms
of presbyopia include a tendency to hold reading material at
arm’s length; difficulty reading in dimly lit environments; tired
eyes or headaches after concentrating on close work; and blurred
vision at the normal reading distance.

All the physicians we spoke with felt there were no particular
safety issues associated with using magnification. Dr. Meckelborg
noted that when using magnification such as a microscope (as is
used in gemmology, and certain engraving and stonesetting
procedures) there is some possibility of the eye drying out and
becoming sore from this. On average people blink (and moisten)
their eyes about 12 times a minute. When concentrating hard
however the blink rate slows down to as low as 4-5 blinks a
minute, increasing the evaporation rate and dryness ensues. So,
if you are concentrating hard, or using a microscope for longer
periods of time you should try and remember to blink.

Some stone setters have glasses made for them that magnify 3, 4
or even 7 times. The wide field of vision is very pleasant.

A number of people use ‘drug store’ reading glasses for minor
magnification in the studio. They seem to like them because they
are inexpensive (and thus easy to replace if scratched). One can
purchase side protectors which clip onto ordinary glasses which
help prevent things flying into the eyes if used in the workshop.
These kinds of glasses are also made from plastic (and thus may
be less likely to shatter).

One can apparently obtain such reading glasses which are
darkened up to a #5 shade strength useful for brazing. (Buddy
Holmes, Artmetal list, 1/11/97, 'Re: Eye Safety Issues (Again))

Dr. Meckelborg suggested that an adult aged 40 or so should have
their eyes tested every two years or so as a matter of course. He
also pointed our a subtle distinction that is worth noting, that
focusing is not the same thing as magnification.

(Lewton-Brain =1998)

Charles Lewton-Brain/Brain Press
Box 1624, Ste M, Calgary, Alberta, T2P 2L7, Canada
Tel: 403-263-3955 Fax: 403-283-9053 Email: @Charles_Lewton-Brain

Metals info download web site:
Book and Video descriptions:
Gallery page at:

I’m at the age where my nearsightness is starting to reverse. I
have to take off my glasses to see anything up close, and hold
things away with my glasses to read. One problem using
0ptivisers is the looking at

things close up and then without, looking at things far away. I
kept getting headaches all the time until my Dr. said to focus on
a middle distance object for five seconds. This seems to work
well for me.

I suppose we will all see each other in the old jewelers home,
trying to read our papers in 36 pt type! – Karen Christians M E T A
L W E R X 416 Main St. Woburn, MA 01801

Knopp - Thank you for raising a very good and serious issue for
metalsmiths. Basically we’re all tool users with a variety of
titles but essentially dependant on our hands, eyes and
imagination. Continually re-defining our practices and safety
measures is a necessary habit. I’ve learned some good points from
this discussion but I have to take exception with your original
issue, i.e. that the enameller’s blindness was the result of
overuse or abuse of his vision. Blindness amongst enamellers is
an age-old problem and has been medically linked to lead
poisoning. In Norway, where the problem was long standing, I
visited an enamelling shop that installed fans and vacuum-ducts
over the multiple enammeling work stations.A method that would
also avoid the dangers posed by cadmium exposure in
soldering.There is a very good publication by SNAG on some of the
dangers in the metalsmith’s workshop and suggested remedies. A
very important topic for all of us who want to live long and
prosper. Thanks. Kim-Eric Lilot. In San Francisco, where the sun
refuses to shine.

When I was still an apprentice, my mentor made me wear an
optivisor at all times (with a #7 lens). I really kicked, but
now I’m really grateful 15 years later that I still have
excellent eyesight. However, I can’t do any close-up work
without it. Now I insist on my apprentices wearing one.

Wendy Newman (check out my cool new website!)