Types of loupe, triplet loupes, magnification, price and quality, pictures, examples.
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What is a Loupe
A loupe is a small folding magnifier, typically 10X magnification (though it can be as low as 5X or as high as 30X). When examining marks on jewellery or the quality of gemstones, or anything small (stamps, coins, insect & plant samples, PCB solder joints...) a loupe is your most important tool, without being able to see, all other tools and testers are useless.
The following is just a very approximate idea of the difference in quality between lenses. The pictures are 'approximate' because I've simply held my camera to each lens (not the best way to take a photograph) and photographs on a monitor are never as good as real life.
The numbers: the first number is the magnification (e.g. 10X) and the second number is the diameter of the lens in millimetres (e.g. 20) - so 10X20 means 10X magnification with a lens diameter of 20mm.
Example of a £3.00 loupe.
This really is the best photo I could take!
(This particular item is discontinued but we do have a slightly better-quality model, click here to see it)
Example of a £6.50 loupe, many traders like this one because the quality is quite 'acceptable' and they don't want to spend a lot of money, especially if they keep losing them.
Example of a £29.50 loupe, a large lens with virtually no distortion, and good contrast, quite impressive (by Quicktest).
Example of an £89.00 loupe
No distortion, high contrast and very few reflections. This one is by Zeiss, the best that you can buy.
EXAMPLES: 30X MAGNIFICATION, GENUINE AND FALSE
The pictures below show a British penny.
The coin in these pictures is a British 1p. It is the same size as a 1 cent (US or Euro).
There seems to be a fashion for printing random numbers on magnifiers. Pictured above is one I found at a market, marked '30X" (and guaranteed to be 30X by the seller). Even a novice should be able to see that the magnification is nominal and cannot possibly be 30X. A bargain at £2.00? I think not!
The one pictured above is typical of those I see at antiques fairs; again, the sellers insist they are 30X magnification. We bought a pack of these (a pack of 360) by accident. We asked for 10X21 (10X magnification). What we received was 30X21. The manufacturer apologised, they explained it's all the same loupe and that they sell more if they print "30X21" on them rather than "10X21". We've now sold out of those marked "30X21" but we have plenty of the same loupe marked (correctly) "10X21".
Making a true 30X magnification loupe is very difficult, it does have to be a good quality genuine triplet loupe for you to be able to see anything at all, but look at the result, this is what you should see through a genuine 30X. You will be working about 3mm from the object, and the area you see will be absolutely tiny, and focusing will be very fiddly (if you move the lens 2mm too far or 2mm too close to the object, it goes out of focus). That's why I don't recommend 30X (or even 20X, except for very specialist applications).
Recommendations / Most Popular
The numbers: the first number is the magnification (e.g. 10X) and the second number is the diameter of the lens in millimetres (e.g. 20) - so 10X20 means 10X magnification with a lens diameter of 20mm. Some customers express surprise, when they receive a loupe, because the size is not as they had imagined (see our feedback!), it may be worthwhile looking at a ruler.
If you really want to go stronger than 10X (though all genuine high-power loupes must be held very close to the object and you need a steady hand to keep them in focus): 15X12 or 20X12 5-element. There are many loupes that are larger and / or more powerful (see a selection) but you cannot maintain good quality and high power and large lens size, it simply is not possible (you would need a microscope).
For 'general purpose' (e.g. not tiny hallmarks, gemstones and rare coins) there are some nice loupes of magnification less than 10X, e.g. the English-made Gowlland, from 5X to 8X magnification.
Must be more powerful, must be small? - choose a pocket microscope.
The Best 4 Loupes We Sell
Some customers look at this articles and say, "Spare me pages of technical explanations, I'm a professional trader and don't have time for that, just give me a list of the best loupes!"
As usual, the first number is the magnification (e.g. 10X) and the second number is the diameter of the lens in millimetres (e.g. 20) - so 10X20 means 10X magnification with a lens diameter of 20mm.
Zeiss 10X20 (it splits into a 4X or 6X, or use them together to get a 10X)
Lens Quality including triplet loupes
The very simplest loupes contain just one lens; better loupes contain two (doublets), very good loupes contain three (triplets) and a few contain five ("five element"). These lenses are placed on top of each other, and each corrects for the distortions of the previous. Since all the lenses are transparent, the overall appearance is of just one lens.
There is a company selling "triplet loupes" who have registered the trade name Triplet and who claim that only they sell genuine Triplet quality. They are correct in that, having registered the name Triplet, it is only they who sell their own-brand (being 'Triplet') - however their triplet loupes are not triplets! - and the optical quality is so poor that the weaker magnifications give a fuzzy image and the stronger magnifications are so bad they are unusable.
I have no objection to other companies selling loupes but registering the name Triplet and selling loupes that are not triplets...that is not right.
You can see this in the two pictures below. Both loupes are identical in outer appearance, even the markings ("10X18, 20X12") are the same. But the lenses are completely different. On the left: fake (single lenses); on the right, genuine (triplet lenses).
Look at the PICTURE ON THE RIGHT, the left side of the loupe has three lenses cemented together (you can see where they are joined) and the right side has five (5-element), two of which comprise two lenses joined together, and the third is a single lens, all very precisely separated with metal spacers - that is why it costs £30.00, click here to see.
Now look at the PICTURE ONT THE LEFT, although the printing on the casing is exactly the same as the genuine version, both sides have single lenses; not only is the optical quality very poor but the magnifications are far less than stated. We do sell this one! But we don't pretend it has genuine triplet / 5-element lenses, and it's only £6.50, click here to see.
Please do remember that when you use these loupes (without taking them apart) you can't see how many lenses there are in each section, because each lens (element) is transparent.
Do not confuse a triplet lens (one lens containing more than one element) with a loupe that has two or three separate lenses. These can be one loupe one side, another loupe the other (as pictured above); or they can be two or three separate lenses that swing out on top of each other.
Different types of loupe and where to find them
On this website I have divided our dozens of models into the following categories:
Single (10X magnification). One loupe, 10X magnification. This (10X) is the standard strength for hallmarks on jewellery and other small marks, diamonds and gemstones, stamps, coins and banknotes, insect and plants samples, paper and fabrics.
Single (other magnifications). One loupe, magnification can be anywhere from 15X to 30X. Apart from reading particularly small laser-engraving on diamonds (we have a special 20X for this) these tend to be too powerful (very narrow field of view, fiddly to focus, difficult to manufacture in good quality).
Dual & multi-magnification, some have 2 or 3 lenses that slide (or swing out) on top of each other to give a selection of magnifications; some have one loupe on one side of the casing and another on the other side.
Microscopes, tiny pocket microscopes, large bench microscopes, specialist stereo inspection and gemmological microscopes (we sometimes have second hand microscope, when we have them in stock you will find there under second hand microscopes).
(more information in the article, How to Choose a Magnifier)
As regards magnification, there are very few uses for anything more powerful than 10X.
For extra power you might want to try a 15X (I'd recommend the 15X12, i.e. 15X magnification, 12mm diameter lens), if you go for a larger lens (e.g. 15X21) the optical quality will not be as good. A 15X lens needs a steady hand to keep it in focus.
If you have to read particularly small laser-engraving on diamonds (writing that is a fraction of a millimetre in size) there's a special loupe with a holder for a ring, 20X-INS. Alternatively (same size but much smaller, for the pocket) the 20X12 5-element loupe. Apart from laser-engraving, 20X is really a bit too powerful.
By the time you get up to 30X you are asking the near-impossible, though we do sell one, a 30X18 triplet. You will have to hold the lens about 3mm from the object (to get it to focus) and it will go out of focus if you move the lens 2mm closer or 2mm further away, and the image will appear be dark and it will be distorted around the edges - because it simply isn't possible to make good loupes this powerful....though, all this said, our 30X is actually a 30X, unlike most loupes I see at fairs and markets which are marked "30X" but are really 8X or 10X.
If you want a loupe more powerful than 30X - you are just being silly, you need to go for a microscope. We do sell a tiny (not much larger than a loupe!) microscope which is 45X magnification. It includes its own powerful adjustable light, because, at this strength, the lens must be touching the object, and this makes everything too dark to see unless you have a powerful light - which this little microscope has. Because it must be held so close, it is really only suitable for flat objects, e.g. stamps and coins; the very surface of plant or insect samples; documents, photographs and banknotes (you'll see the dots that make up the print).
It is better, of course, to go for a full-size microscope.
- How to choose a magnifier (plus everything you would ever want to know about magnifying lenses)
- How choose a binocular headband magnifier (from simple hobby model to a professional surgeons / dentists models)
- How to choose a magnifier for the partially sighted (specialist low vision aids including lenses and video magnifiers)
- How to choose a UV loupe (ultra violet light)
- Calculator (Excel format) - enter the magnification, it tells you the working distance, or enter the working distance, it tells you the magnification.
- How to choose a stereo binocular microscope (all sizes and magnifications)
- Professional USB microscope attachment (it replaces the eyepiece of your microscope)