Before you start buying jewelers tools and setting up your gem lab, you need to invest in good reference materials to make sense of what the instruments will tell you. You’ll find all the information you need for the International Gem Society (IGS) professional gemologist certification course in the Learning Center. However, you may want to add other resources to your library.
You’ll need magnification. Start with a good quality 10x (ten power) loupe. Some economy loupes on the market range from mediocre to very good quality. The best you can get, and the standard for diamond grading, is a color corrected triplet loupe.
You’ll also need a microscope for studying inclusions. This is often the only way to separate natural gems from their synthetic counterparts. While the loupe is more portable, the microscope is easier on the eyes and offers higher magnification.
Measuring the refractive index (RI) of your gems will be a high priority. You can do this with a microscope, but a refractometer is the best tool. Besides measuring the RI, a refractometer will give you the birefringence and optic sign of a gemstone.
Next on the list is one of the most inexpensive gemology tools. The dichroscope is a small, hand-held instrument that separates the colors in dichroic materials.
Equally important (and just a little more expensive) is a polariscope. It’s used in conjunction with a loupe or a strainless (not stainless) sphere, which is a glass sphere with no strain lines in it.
If you’re serious about gemology and gem identification, you’ll need a spectroscope to study a gem’s absorption spectrum.
Another important feature is a calibrated scale. Many people learn to use a spectroscope without a scale and make their determinations strictly by the colors. This ability depends on your eyesight and experience.