This is my journey to Loupe-dom. The tale of the over-complicated process of obtaining a simple jeweler's loupe for scrutinizing my vintage costume jewelry. Really, it was way more difficult than it needed to be. I am writing this in the hopes of helping other poor souls that just want to see their jewelry better.
I began with research, (which is probably what you are doing right now), and found lots on Amazon under the review section for each loupe. The issue for me was...I know nothing about these things--and I am not someone who needed to study bacteria growth on the old Chinese food in my fridge. Yup--lots of people use high powered loupes as a sort of portable microscope. Although that is extremely cool...and gross...but the kind of gross you Might want to see, if you haven't eaten yet for the day....there was very little written by people like me. Folks that just want to see if it is indeed a rare piece of Danecraft.
So I went to those sites, wonderful sites, like Illusion Jewels and Morning Glory Jewels and there were in fact several helpful articles on purchasing a loupe. However, these collectors take their jewels VERY seriously, and although I do to...I cowered beneath the weight of information and terminology. I read admonition upon admonition to be careful in your loupe purchase...that some loupes that say they are loupes are not really the best loupe or loupes at all. I felt loupey. All I really wanted to know is--what power level is good for seeing signatures on vintage costume jewelry. Never having held a loupe or used one, it all seemed just out of the realm of my meager self to grasp.
Doom started to engulf me...buying a loupe was a bigger deal than I thought. This was do right or die trying...
So I started to call around to local jewelers. Logical right?! If anybody knows jeweler's loupes--it's the jewelers. Maybe I could get a closer look at one, and some sound proven advice--maybe I could even Buy one from a jeweler. Things were looking up! Over twenty-five jewelers later I discovered that most jewelers don't call it a loupe, they call it an eye...or a huh?
Let's just say if I ever am able to afford that diamond necklace, there are probably only three places in a fifty mile radius of my home in Ohio I would buy from. It was scary how little the people I spoke with knew about something I would think was essential to their trade. However, I did get propositioned when I dialed a wrong number trying to reach a store, so you know...I guess my phone voice 'still has it'. LOL.
In the end I bought my loupe and a 10X at Hobby Lobby in the Stamp Section.
Here's what I learned:
1. Go with your gut as far as quality goes. Mine was not in a leather case, but it has held up nicely. (I get the joy of making a snazzy bag for it...think Disco Funky meets Vera Bradley in 1940.)
2. 30X is too much power. Think 20X. The jewelers I spoke with that really knew their stuff, and are well respected for making custom jewelry only use 20X for most applications. --I bought a 16X and (apart from the whole cross eyed look for fifteen seconds after I use it)--it's perfect.
3. Don't pay too much. I ended up paying fifteen dollars for my 16X, and ten dollars for my 10X. Those prices are higher than what you might pay on Amazon for comparable or a little better. I paid more because I knew less, and needed to see it to understand it better. If you order them from a jeweler...they seem to be more pricey. Again, you are not buying a house or a dog. Your investment and commitment as you learn is not so great that you can't just get a different one once you learn exactly what you need.
4. Don't get frustrated when you start to use your new loupe. After what I had read, I thought--Oh My Goodness--All my vintage jewelry is signed...I just can't see it. Nope. Some has been signed, though...and I am looking forward to finding more.
5. LIGHT. You will need lots of it and a neutral background behind your jewelry. I took my first look in a moving vehicle with a heavily patterned coat under my jewelry. Don't do it.
Have fun on your journey and realize that there are not as many rules as their seem to be. Do research, and be willing to change your loupe as your needs change...I highly recommend a 16X. But really...after reading all of this...I am not sure I would trust me either.