Although a loupe might just look like small magnifying glass, there is a lot more to their lens than meets the eye (both literally and figuratively). We gathered 18 popular loupes from various brands and retailers and compared them in aspects like magnification power, image clarity, lens design, and more. After careful consideration, plus speaking to several jewelry experts for their opinions on certain models, we think the Zeiss Optics D40 is the best jewelers loupe to buy. This is the go-to for professionals and enthusiasts alike due to its ability to provide a perfect, ultra-clear, color-correct view. Article Summary
Loupes are used in a number of different industries thanks to their unique magnification power, but their most notable presence is within the jewelry trade, which is why they’ve adopted the more common name of jewelers loupe (as opposed to just loupe). For the uninitiated, loupes are high-power magnifying devices used to inspect diamonds, gemstones, watch movements, metal bands – basically anything involving jewelry. If you’re going to be working with jewelry or other extremely small items, a quality loupe is an absolute necessity so you can easily examine pieces for clarity, imperfections, and more.
Buying a jewelers loupe isn’t as simple as just ordering some fancy magnifying glass online, though. Think of these like miniature digital camera lenses, or even like miniature telescopes in a way. These are specialized pieces of equipment with many delicate parts, and as such, finding the right one requires careful consideration. There are a few different magnifications, styles, features and standards that your loupe must meet to keep up with all of your requirements (whatever those requirements may be).
We’ve taken a look at 18 quality magnifiers in search of the best jewelers loupe. Whether you yourself are a jeweler, or you just happen to have an interest in a trade that requires the use of one of these tools, we’ve considered all parties and compared models based on their abilities to clearly examine jewelry and other small items. This involved looking at the magnification power, lens style, view color and clarity, and more. After speaking with a few jewelry experts for their opinions on the matter, we’ve concluded on a few different loupes as the top choices based on their quality and price.
The best jewelers loupe overall
While Zeiss Optics is more widely known for their variety of outdoors equipment like riflescopes and binoculars, their D40 Magnifier is an incredible jewelry loupe that offers as close as it gets to perfect image quality. This is a highly recommended model by jewelers around the world, and after comparing its quality to competitors on the market, we think this is the best jewelers loupe you can buy.
Clarity is arguably the most important factor in a good loupe, and the Zeiss D40 might just be the clearest jewelers loupe on the market. This is a true ten-power (10x magnifying ability) triplet, providing a bright, clear, and color-correct image as you look through the lens. Although the casing is overall on the smaller side, the viewing area extends across the entire surface of the lens, which gives you great viewing ability when inspecting gemstones and watch movements. Because of this high-quality viewing ability, the D40 is considered the gold standard for diamond cutters and other gemologists dealing with high-caliber stones.
The D40 weighs in right around one pound, which is a bit heavy for a loupe, but this adds to its durability and steadiness while grading and making evaluations. It also helps to keep the lens protected in case it’s ever dropped (or something is dropped on it). Crafted in Belarus, this sturdy loupe is built to last. In fact, this is the type of tool you buy once and won’t have to replace for decades as long as you store it properly and don’t damage the lens.
The only small downside to this loupe is that it’s a little higher in price. But as we mentioned above, this is the type of tool you buy for the long-term, and the extra bit of price is well-worth the quality you’re getting in our opinion. When you’re dealing with jewelry that can cost anywhere from $100 to over $10,000, viewing quality is definitely something you’re going to prioritize. If you want a loupe that’s both recommended and actually used by the pros, the Zeiss Optics D40 is the way to go.
Another high-quality professional loupe
You may only know of Nikon from their cameras, but they have been manufacturing optical devices for other purposes for a long, long time. Among providing some of the best lenses and other components in the photography and cinematography industries, Nikon produces a pretty great jewelry loupe. The Nikon Precision Loupe is an industry favorite that’s depended on by many jewelers for clear grading and an even, precise image.
The first noticeable difference between Nikon’s loupe and Zeiss’s is weight. The Nikon 10X has a plastic construction as opposed to the metal body of the Zeiss. This makes it slightly less durable but also lighter, meaning that it doesn’t quite have the solid, sturdy feel that the D40 has – but it is a bit more graceful to hold and more convenient to carry around with you. Consumers love the Nikon for its clarity from one edge of the lens to the other, just like our top pick’s view. When it comes to view quality, this is about equal to Zeiss, although there have been reports that the Zeiss has a slight edge over Nikon. The plastic construction is less durable than the metal casing our top pick, which is something heavily mentioned in industry comparisons and consumer reviews.
Although the image quality and sturdiness of this loupe don’t quite measure up to our top pick, the Nikon Precision Loupe is still one of the most elite models out there, manufactured by one of the top optics companies in the world. If you prefer a lighter loupe that you won’t need to transport very often, you may even prefer the Nikon over the Zeiss. The price for the Nikon is the same as for the Zeiss, so it all comes down to if you want slightly better clarity and a heavy body, or slightly less clarity with a light, plastic body.
The best bang for your buck
While Zeiss and Nikon’s models are extremely popular with professionals looking to pay top dollar for the clearest lens out there, the BelOMO Triplet Loupe is the most popular among hobbyists, enthusiasts and even professional gemologists looking more for total value than top-quality lenses. The BelOMO loupe doesn’t quite share the clarity of the other brands, but it is still one of the best jewelry loupes out there, and it comes in at a fraction of the price.
The biggest reason we picked the BelOMO loupe third, behind Zeiss and Nikon, is due to image quality. Although this is still a ten-power triplet magnifier, some users have reported minor issues with clarity in certain situations. There were virtually no bad reports when it came to Zeiss and Nikon. However, with that said, this is only a small percentage of reports. Most experiences have been extremely positive, and there will be many people who argue back and forth about which is better. Truth be told, unless you’re grading diamonds all day or need the most expensive loupe out there for complex observations that require absolute clarity, this loupe’s viewing abilities will be just fine.
One other thing to note is the size of the BelOMO. If space is an issue in your shop, or you prefer working with smaller loupes, you may find this model a bit too big, as it is much larger in size. With that said, the benefit to the larger size means a larger viewing area, which is great for people who want to be able to view more of an object without moving the lens around too much.
Although there are a small percentage of reports of issues on image quality, the BelOMO 10x Triplet is undeniably the best jewelers loupe when it comes to value for your dollar, which is why it has become such a go-to product. At roughly one third the price of other more “professional” loupes, this a no-brainer for those looking for quality on a budget.
How we picked our top three
Whether by profession or hobby, jewelers demand quality when it comes to their inspection tools. Knowing this, we scored loupes based on several standards in order to come up with our top three. The most obvious powers to look at were clarity and magnification since those often have the biggest variances from model to model, not to mention we knew this is what people would compare most when shopping for the best jewelers loupe. We also compared other things like size and construction because these two factors still play a role in how easy the loupe is to use.
Image quality (clarity, color correctness, etc.)
Being able to see diamonds and sapphires on a subatomic level isn’t going to help you if it’s blurry around the edges and the colors are distorted. There are a majority of loupes that offer additional features during use, but they don’t have the strength where it counts – in the clarity.
The clarity we’re looking for comes from triplet-style lenses, which means that there are three lenses in the loupe that have been fused together into a single lens (hence the name “triplet”). This triplet lens prevents distortion and will give you a clearer image. There are many false triplet lenses on the market and they’re not always the easiest to spot, which is a major issue for most consumers while shopping. However, with a little bit of comparison and contrast and consulting some user reviews, you can pick apart the quality triplets with good lenses.
Another matter of image quality is color correction. Since the image is magnified, the color can also become distorted. The best jewelry loupes will have a color correction coating on the lenses so that the view through the lens appears absolute and true, which is something we specifically looked for when comparing each model.
One of the key aspects to a good loupe is the proper magnification. Without magnification, these tools wouldn’t be needed at all. The recommended standard magnification for jewelers loupes is 10x. This may seem low, but you really don’t need anything greater unless you’re grading diamonds for Tiffany’s or looking at microorganisms. Also, extra clarity will reduce the depth of field and make it more difficult to get your stone, band or other jewelry component in view and make a quick analysis. There are some good loupes with 14x magnification power, and several that have multiple magnification settings, but sticking with a single 10x magnification lens is the most ideal way to get a clear image and make sure that you have close enough view of the object under inspection.
Casing and material construction
Many loupes look very similar, but there are several styles available and they can all be constructed very differently. First, we’re looking for a durable construction. A jewelers loupe that has all of the clarity and the most intensive color correction in the industry isn’t going to be extremely valuable if the lens falls out of the casing after a week. Most of the best jewelers loupes come with a turn-out style construction that can be easily stored within its attached case.
The other styles of loupe include bodies with built-in lighting systems, magnifying glasses that call themselves jewelers loupes, and cone-style watch loupes that are built to be freestanding and for you to place the piece you’re expecting underneath. Some gemologists have preferences outside of the standard style, but most stay within it due to standard practice and industry precedent, which is why we strictly looked at standard loupe styles and chose from this collection of equipment.
There are few brands recognized within the jewelry industry that consistently provide quality optical devices. Within brands, we took a look at how each individual loupe was received by the industry and surrounding communities. If a particular model has everything we’re looking for on paper, but is reported by many consumers to be all hype and no substance, its value and reputation are both going to take a pretty hard hit. Each of the loupes we chose had next-to-perfect reviews for their viewing ability and quality.
Things to consider before buying
Buying a jewelers loupe has a few intricacies in the process. As we touched on earlier, loupes are specialized pieces of equipment that generally need to be ordered, so they need to be fully vetted before purchasing. In that, there are a few questions that you should keep at the forefront of your mind when shopping around for your ideal loupe.
What will you be using your loupe for?
Although loupes are primarily made for grading and assessing stones and other components of jewelry, they can be used for other things. Photography, watchmaking, small mechanics and a field magnifier are other common uses. These practices may require different magnifications, different styles of construction, multiple lenses and several other factors that will make the loupe specially adapted to your jobs and hobbies. Perhaps you’ll be using your loupe for multiple purposes? If that’s the case, you’ll want a loupe that can adapt to these multiple purposes and perform under the pressure of whatever your uses are.
Do you need any additional functions or features?
Since image quality is our most important criteria (as it should be), and the loupes with the highest level generally do not include accessories, our top three lack them as well. However, your job or working conditions might require some additional importance placed upon extra features such as multiple lenses, multiple magnification powers, LED and UV lights, or the ability to be attached to glasses or worn on the head. Define your component needs if you could use a highly versatile piece with specialized parts, lights and components to make your day go by more smoothly.
What’s your budget?
Given the fact that these little magnifying tools range in price from $10 to $200, defining your price range is an essential part of the shopping process. In general, the quality does tend to increase with the price, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find quality options on a budget. Our third pick, the BelOMO loupe, is the perfect example of that. If you’re a professional, we’d recommend investing in the best equipment; but if you’re an enthusiast, you may be able to get away with a cheaper model (depending on your priorities for you hobby, of course).
The different types of loupes and magnifiers
Given the fact that optics is a huge industry with a large amount of variability and different options, it comes as no surprise that there are several different styles of loupes and magnifiers. These different styles all have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages, and are suited better and worse for certain jobs. Below are the common styles used for examining jewelry so that you can decide which will work best for your personal usage.
Triplet lens loupes generally the highest quality. This is because instead of focusing on new designs and innovations on the body and added accessories, the manufacturers focused on clarity and image quality – easily the most important aspect to any good jewelers loupe. The “triplet” quality that you’ve seen mentioned above and in other articles is that of three independent lenses that have been fused together. Triplet lenses are the best because they provide clear views throughout the entire lens, and don’t lose focus as you near the edges, which happens with lower quality lenses and lens setups. They also provide a bright image, and one that’s completely color-correct.
As you may have guessed, while the triplet lens contains three fused lenses, the doublet contains two. Doublet lens, perhaps the least common variety, are better than single-lens models, but do not provide the image quality that triplet lenses contain. For professional gemologists, geologists and other professions that use loupes, these aren’t quite clear enough. However, for a casual gem enthusiast or coin collector, a doublet would be fine.
The lowest level loupe is the single-lens. The point of multiple lenses is to correct the blurriness and distortion of only using one. There a few decent single-lens loupes, but they are very few and far between since these really just act like regular magnifying glasses (which we’ll explain the negatives of in the section after this). For general magnification and entry-level hobbyists, a decent single-lens will wort you out, but for anything past that you’ll need at the very least a doublet.
Loupes worn on the head are particularly useful for those who need to have both hands free for the job. Watchmakers and jewelers who spend a lot of time setting stones are fond of head-mounted magnifiers. They general feature two unbonded lenses that are, comparatively, pretty far apart. Due to this, the image quality is usually not like what you would achieve with a triplet lens, but there are some models capable of better imagery and the hands-free aspect does make them handy to have around. Zeiss offers a line of this style too, but be warned – they can be extremely pricey.
Pen-style magnifiers are becoming increasingly popular, and usually feature some method of illumination, whether it be UV, LED or both. These pen-style models are, of course, long and cylindrical, and feature a wide variety of lenses, but there are none yet that compare with the top-tier of triplet lenses.
Pocket microscopes are something else entirely, but they can be used as loupes for certain aspects of gemology, jewelry making, and maintenance. Pocket microscopes are exactly what the name implies, small microscopes that can be held in the hand. These are rarely only 10x magnification, and hold higher magnification and lighting elements for much, much smaller elements that are harder to see.
Why you shouldn’t use a regular magnifying glass
We touched on this a bit when we discussed single-lens loupes; however, to elaborate, having a single lens with the focal point in the middle means that when you look at your object or image, it is clear only within a small area in the middle. Since the blur increases as you move away from the center of the lens, you’ll get a distorted image that may make your work or hobby more complicated. Many magnifying glasses also do not feature a coating to assist with color correction, something featured in most quality triplet lenses, and also something that is supremely important in gemology and other jewelry-related work.
Wrapping it up
Jewelers loupes are far from “just little magnifying glasses.” These are specialized pieces of equipment that undergo a similar production process to a several-hundred-dollar digital camera lens. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a professional or enthusiast, clarity is clarity, and when you consider that you could be looking at jewelry or gemstones in the five-figure price range, it makes sense to take careful consideration when buying a loupe. We based our research primarily on image quality, so each of the options in our guide will be wonderful if this is your priority. While the Zeiss is easily the most recommended option, the BelOMO also offers a great value that’s hard to ignore.