Looking at gemstones with all the tool of the trade

What tools do I need to start a gemstone collection?

It is best to carry a few essentials when off to buy gemstones, not only will you have a clear understanding of the gemstone in front of you but you will be able to make an informed decision on what you are buying. You are often looking at hundreds of stones in a single sitting, tools, help speed up this process.

After you have made a purchase, having tools at home can help you handle the gem in the correct manner and also display them correctly in an organised manner.

Here is Gemhunters preferred tools for appraising and collecting gemstones.

Tweezers for picking up gemstones
Gem Tweezers

They come in all sizes and shapes. But the ones I prefer are long and some have a sliding mechanism to grasp the gem. This helps if the pressure of your hand isn’t consistent. Gems can easily drop from your grasp in a nano second and bounce into a crevice!

Sometimes good old fingers give you the best grip  and hold the gem  over your other open hand, you may get glared at by the gem owner as you are putting fingerprints on the gem, that dull the stone, but hey,safer, he can polish it when you’re gone.

Grabbers for Gemstones

These look like a pen, when the top is pushed little bent prongs come out that grasp the gem, these are great and much safer than tweezers. They come in a variety of ends, from 3 prongs to 5 prong grabbers. It is still not 100% foolproof, but safer than tweezers. You then are more freer to move the gemstone around and get a good look at it from different angles.

Gemstone boxes

A Gem Box

A gem box is fabulous for displaying your gemstones to friends and family. I recommend getting one with a clear top, so when showing them off your stones don’t have to be removed from the container. Gem boxes come in a huge variety from a nice soft cushion ones with or without little indents which the gem nestles into. Others are more like a hard pillow, which are good for little gems as larger ones make the stones sit a bit skewiff.

It is best to have a few boxes of different sizes. Then as you progress and it’s fun to group them in different colours, types, sizes or value.

Plastic bags for gemstones


Hundreds of Little Plastic Bags

You need to have many little plastic bags that you can write on. This is especially because gemstones come in different hardness, and can not be stored together. You can write the price you paid, what the stone is, where you got it, for future reference.

You can’t put a citrine in with a sapphire. A sapphire is much harder and will scratch the citrine.

I only put one type of gem family (thus same hardness) into each bag for easy transport.


tourch for gemstone collecting

A Little Torch

A little torch is fantastic for examining the inside of gems, checking to see if light goes through in a straight line can tell you if there is any invisible cracks.

If you shine your torch into it a faceted or rough gem, the crack will stop the light traveling through and the crack is suddenly visible.

A loupe for looking at gemstonesLoupe

A loupe is little magnifying glass  without a handle. A 10x magnification loupe is all you need. The loupe often has a cover on a hinge that swings away to expose the lens.

Digital Scale For Weighing Stones

Gem Scales

A little lightweight gem scale that is very accurate, some have different modes for ease of use. Your scales should be able to measure in carats. You need to make sure you think in carats which is one fifth of a gram –  therefore 5 carats to a gram. Big buyers tend to talk in grams, normal gem buyers talk in carats. Which is not to be confused with karats which is the gold content measurement.

Some gem scales have a plastic lid that you can close over your gems while weighing. This stops the breeze interfering with the weight of the gem. It is surprising how a tiny breeze can make the weight fluctuate quite a bit!

Dont forget to remove the gem from the plastic bag before weighing it! Those little plastic bags can weigh a lot.

If you are technical person, you might consider buying weights and re-calibrate your scales from time to time.

For normal use, switch on the scale, then wait for the lights to all go to 00.00 then put your gem on the scale for an accurate reading.

Gem Calipers to measure


Calipers are used to measure your stones. There are a wide variety from digital to dial, plastic to metal. You will soon find the one you like to use the most. It is important to measure your stones, especially if wanting to set you gem into a jewellery setting. The gem is gripped  in the calipers and held tight and straight, only the widest part of gem is measured

Lint Free Cloth for cleaning gems
A lint Free Cloth

You need a lint free cloth to polish your gems. You will be surprised how dull your stones become after handling gems with your fingers. If you use a tissue you often leave bits of fluff that can confuse people into thinking the stone has spots on it.


A Calculator

As some dealers will offer you the gem in dollars per carat, this forces you to think quickly and on the spot and you might make a mistake.

If its $135 USD per carat and the gem weighs 4.7 cts, you must think quickly so the whole piece is 135 x 4.7 = $634 . The seller’s price is often what they want per carat, rather than the stones actual weight. This can be challenging, so ask to confirm, “is that per carat you quoted me or for the whole gem?”.  Then you may have to convert it to your currency, then calculate quickly how much a parcel being offered is worth. Then work out what you want to pay. A calculator is an invaluable tool. It also shows the seller what you are prepared to pay on the calculator, rather than saying it out loud, show the total on the calculator so no misunderstandings occur.