GemCam: Diamond and Gemstone Photography Solution

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Taking professional looking photographs of gemstones and jewelry can be incredibly difficult. From the expense of assembling a equipment, to the cumbersome nature of traveling with the equipment, to wasted time just trying to get the setup just right to take the photo, getting a clear crisp professional picture can feel like a dreaded chore. If this sounds like you then GemCam may be your solution. The GemCam Diamond & Gemstone photo solution (available from the company’s website www.gem-cam.com for $599.00) offers users a way to create consistently beautiful images that are sure to delight both you and your clients.

The GemCam is a lightweight portable professional photo-kit that is designed specifically for use with smartphones and tablets. The GemCam comes in an attractive and well protected carry case that keeps everything snug and secure so nothing will be rattling around when you travel with it. The entire case measures 6” x 8” x 3” allowing it to easily fit in any bag. The GemCam travels disassembled into several parts: the main body of the device, the gemstone holder, the platform to hold a smartphone or tablet, and a USB charging cable. 

A 10x corrected loupe is built into the main body of the device so there is no fussing with lenses. Inside the main body, LED lights illuminate stones from both above and below. On the rear is the control panel and the USB type A and mini-USB ports. The USB type A port can be used to charge your device, while the mini-USB port can be used to charge the non-removable rechargeable battery. The first button controls the lighting at the base of the device (under the stone), the next button controls the overhead lighting and has several brightness settings. Next are the buttons that control the rotation function. There is one for manual rotation and one for automatic rotation. The manual rotation moves the stone more slowly and is great if you're looking for a specific point of interest or angle for a photo. The automatic 360 rotates the stone much faster but it would be a fun way to show off a stone to clients.

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The platform that you rest your smartphone or tablet on is thick heavy duty silicon. The piece simply unfolds and fits into the slots on the side of the main GemCam. The pad itself is non slip and large enough for any of the smartphones on the market. It will also accommodate tablets comparable to in size to the iPad mini. The last piece is the stone holder that makes taking your photos virtually hands free. You simply depress this button and clamp the stone between the two soft pads and it is held securely.  I found that the easiest way to pick up the stones is to lay it flat on the counter and with the button depressed place the holder over the stone. Slowly release the button and your stone is firmly held in the clamps. Then the entire piece is inserted into the side. Once you have the stone inside you can adjust the lighting and rotate to get the photo that you want, or just show off the stone. The stone holder can accommodate diamonds up to about 14 carats. That's roughly a 15 mm round diamond. 

As an appraiser I was interested to see if I could stretch the GemCam to work with jewelry as well. What I found out was that if the jewelry piece was shorter, for example a smaller size ring, it could be put in the holder just fine; however you do want to be aware that just some jewelry fits while still being too large to use the rotation option. If the jewelry piece is too long, it won't fit into the holder; it gets caught on the top or bottom and cannot be inserted. In those cases I put the gemstone holder next to the opening to use as a stabilizer for my hand and held the piece in place with tweezers while it was in the chamber. After experimenting with it for just a few minutes I was able to take wonderful detailed pictures. I was also able to obtain pictures of the markings inside a ring.

GemCam also has an app you can use to take your photos and videos. It works with both iOS and Android but currently it only has the same functions as your smartphone’s built in camera. GemCam is currently working on further developing the app to allow users to add things like grading and cert information as well as your business name to the image. 

I was overall very impressed with the GemCam. The compact size and light weight means GemCam can travel anywhere you do and the controlled lighting environment means that photos will look consistently good no matter the surrounding conditions. Even notoriously difficult colors of gemstones looked nearly perfect without having to retouch or color correct. Using the smartphone or tablet to capture images or video mean you can instantly preview every image and you’re never left guessing or squinting at a small display screen. The addition of the hands free stone holder means that there is no fighting with instability.

The GemCam has a bigger price tag than other photo solutions I've tried but it is definitely the Rolls Royce of the photo solutions I've used. The build quality is excellent, the loupe is integrated so it has less chance of coming loose, the lighting is much more dynamic and the addition of the hands free stone holder with rotation makes it extremely convenient. I also really appreciate that you can plug it in or use the rechargeable battery. There is a lot less fuss when you don’t have to worry about changing batteries, especially if you use the product frequently. GemCam has presented the public with a product that eliminates the need for carrying numerous pieces of cumbersome equipment. GemCam is easy to setup and use regardless of skill level. This convenient and consistent photo solution can help you bring your stones and jewelry to life.  
 

Visit www.gem-cam.com for information on purchasing.

See the GemCam in action on my Youtube channel.

The Gemist: Stone File App

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The Gemist: Stone File (The Gemist Gemstone File in the Google Play Store) application for iOS and Android is brand new this year. The app packs a lot of information into its $2.99 price tag. It provides the user with not only a gem reference guide but also a list of gemology/geology basics and gemological tests.

The app is the brainchild of students who are part of the very first BSc gemology  and jewelry studies program at Birmingham City University, United Kingdom, a program that is partnered by the Gemmological Association of Great Britain (Gem-A). Ryan O’Sullivan along with his colleagues Matin Abbassi DGA, Amber Clohessy-Brown DGA, Kushagra Rastogi FGA DGA, Kyalo Kiilu FGA DGA, and Olusegun Akintayo FGA DGA compiled information that they learned during their coursework into a succinct and much more portable format. O’Sullivan says, “While studying I had long thought how it would be ideal to have a phone app with easy access to useful gemmological constants and recaps on some key theories and concepts...the idea was borne out of a wish to start collating all the data we were getting from the full time testing and projects we were doing at University.”  

The app includes: 

  • A guide for testing and grading diamonds, gems & crystals 
  • A gem reference file and high quality photos for over 120+ varieties of gemstones 
  • The geological nature of diamonds & gemstones (occurrence, origin, locality)
  • Physical and optical properties of crystals and cut diamonds & gemstones
  • An overview of gemmological equipment and tools, the 4C's
  • Identifying common treatments and synthetics, like those seen in diamond, emerald, ruby & sapphire
  • Exploration, mining and recovery
     

All of this information and more are separated into four sections titled “Stones”, “Basics”, “Tests”, and “More” that are listed in a menu bar at the bottom of the app.

The “Stones” section displays a list of gem species from andalusite to zoisite, includes glass and an “organics” listing. When you tap on each species either a list of gemstone varieties or detailed information about the gem species is presented. For stones that list varieties once you click on the variety the details are displayed. The information includes: chemical composition, localities, crystal system, as well as physical and optical properties such as specific gravity, hardness, fracture, transparency, luster, etc. Some of the stones also list synthetic, simulants, and composites. The topics covered in “Basics” include the earth’s geological processes, crystal structure, composites & simulants, gem classifications, and so much more. “Tests” tackles the broad scope of gemological testing. The user can tap on various types of tests or testing equipment such as observation, or dichroscope and see what each method entails. The last section of the app is “More” which contains links to further resources and labs, links to the creators, and a contact page. 

The Gemist app really stands apart from other gemology apps that I have used when it comes to the “Basics” and “Tests” section. The range of topics that they cover really impressed me. Gemist has effectively crammed a mini course in gemology and geology into an app format. I immediately recognized that this app was tailored for a trained or in-training gemologist, which I found to be quite refreshing. It clearly defined and explained concepts without too much oversimplification, much like a refresher course in gemology. This is not to say that the app is inaccessible to the novice by any means; the resources listed in their “More” section will help enthusiasts expand on everything that is covered in the app. 

Because this app is so new I have high hopes that it will continue to expand and improve over time. The inclusion of a sort of index and dictionary for common terms as well as more images top my list of requested additions. O’Sullivan states that the app is “a great canvas to build upon, improve the content, and expand.” A fellow student at BCU, Laura Boccardo (pending DGA), is currently helping to translate and create an Italian language version which should be ready for the summer and O’Sullivan is optimistic that it will be available in other key languages soon thereafter. Beyond the expected updates for reorganization and cleanup O’Sullivan is already looking towards his next big step. He would like to add original article based content written by gemologists. He sees the app as an eventual community for gemologists to share ideas, “As we all move on from the BSc, with some of us entering into varying jobs or going onto relevant Masters, we could provide a nice microcosm of the gem industry in the future.” 

O'Sullivan and his colleagues will undoubtedly have more exciting updates for this app and other projects in their future. I absolutely recommend this app to any practicing gemologist or gem enthusiast and I look forward to see what The Gemist company adds in the future. 

Want to try this app for free? Make sure you are following me on Instagram for future giveaways!

triple d Diamond & Gemstone Photokit

Taking photographs of gemstones and diamonds can truly be a struggle. Getting a clear crisp professional picture is more, often than not, the result of a lot of expense and wasted time trying to obtain the correct lighting, position, and focus. The triple d Diamond & Gemstone photo kit (available from Kassoy for $299.00) and companion app simplifies this process and makes photographing and sharing images of stones easy and enjoyable.

The triple d Diamond & Gemstone photo kit is a portable professional photo-kit that is designed specifically for use with smartphones. The kit comes in a nicely padded attractive carry case that measures 5-¼” x 3”, allowing it to easily fit in any bag or briefcase. Inside the case is the kit itself. The small size compact kit is comprised of two parts of high quality metal that attach to each other via a magnet, a high quality loupe with an LED light, tweezer stand, and a black and white removable background. 

Getting started with the kit is easy. Simply slide the two kit pieces apart and then reattach them via the magnet to form a stand for your smartphone. Flip the background to black or white depending on preference, or remove it altogether. Your smartphone is then placed on the slip-proof silicone pad with the camera lens over the high quality loupe lens. The magnet that attaches the pieces together allows you to slide the base portion across so that your phone’s camera can be positioned properly regardless of the phone’s model or orientation. Once you are ready, flip on the LED light and pick up your stone in your tweezers. The tweezer stand that is on the side of the kit contains an insert that aids in stability and allows you to smoothly spin your tweezers to get images from every angle. The wheel can also be pulled out to allow larger stones to be viewed. Once your stone is positioned and you can see it clearly on your phone’s screen, start shooting; it’s that easy.

triple d has also created a free companion mobile app to facilitate easy sharing of stone images as well as any accompanying information, including any laboratory certificates. Images can be taken through the app or uploaded from your phone’s photos or videos. Once you have an image you then can add any certificates (GIA, EGL, etc) or other specific data.  When that is complete, you can send the stone to your contacts or just save it to your library. The app was clean and simple. If I did have questions I found that the tutorials on the company’s website were easy to follow. When sending images of stones you have the option of creating a blind group; think of it like the BCC option in your email, everyone can see the image and information but they can’t see or tell if others are part of the conversation. The app keeps your conversations private and organized. As you can imagine, this can be especially useful for selling stones. 

I am very impressed by the triple d photo kit. The compact size and light weight means I can take it anywhere. The LED light allows me to work in all light levels and, coupled with the reversible background, all colors of stones. Even somewhat difficult to photograph stones come out looking near perfect without having to retouch and color correct. The photos are crisp and clear every time right from the start; using the smart phone’s screen as a viewfinder means that I can clearly preview every image and I’m never left guessing whether I have one that works or not. I’m able to zoom in and see inclusions and examine facets without having to change lenses. The flat non-slip surface means I don’t have to fight with instability. Because the kit is made for smartphones, I’m able to easily switch over to video. I especially enjoy the video option because it allows me to present gemstones in a more compelling way. 

This triple d photo kit is not designed for photographing jewelry, but I decided to push the product a bit and I was not disappointed. I simply removed the reversible background, used the travel case as extra stability for my hand and either held the piece with a tweezer or my fingers. The results were beautiful clear images of hallmarks, close ups of details on settings, and photographs of set stones as they would be seen through a loupe. 

triple d has created a product that eliminates the need for expensive and cumbersome equipment or costly photo studio fees. The easy to use portable setup allows anyone, regardless of skill, to obtain stunning results without the hassle of possible wasted time spent trying to get a good shot. The images that can be captured are professional and beautiful and the ability to take videos can add a dynamic element bringing your stones to life for buyers. I personally would count this among the “must haves” of equipment for photographing diamonds and gemstones.

See the triple d photo kit in action on my youtube channel.

MetDia Gem: You need this app

Metdia Gem is an app that any gemologist, or anyone just interested in gemstones should own. The app cost of $4.99 provides a comprehensive gem reference guide that allows you to access information on all widely accepted gem species and varieties in a fast and easy to access format. 
The app is available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 8. If a person downloads the application for a specific operating system (such as iOS), then you may use the application on up to 10 devices that share that operating system (such as an iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch) without being charged again; it is also available as family sharing application for those operating systems that support it. One of the best features of the app is that it’s not dependent on wifi or cellular data, so you can access it at any time from anywhere without the headache of wasting cellular data or needing a wifi password. 
 

After the you install and open the app you are greeted with a main screen that lists gem species from actinolite to zoisite (and everything in between.) The list also includes organic gem material, synthetics, assembled, and man-made stones. Detailed information about the gem species is listed when you click on each gem, including: chemical formula, crystal system, specific gravity, hardness, toughness, dispersion, transparency, polish luster, fracture, fracture luster, cleavage, heat, chemical, and light reaction as well as ultrasonic, steam, and soap/water cleaning cautions, variety-by-species information, commonly confused stones, separation(s) info for stones (how to separate from similar looking/testing stones), enhancements, and sources. 
There app’s UI has icons along the bottom of the screen that bring you directly to the list of varieties of stones and accompanying images with the species listed underneath. You can click on the varieties and see an image of that variety (if available) which is also clickable. Clicking through will bring you to the specific properties of that variety such as those listed previously. There is also an icon that leads to a list specifically for images, where each image is clickable and produces a larger and alternate image for each stone. There is also a helpful search icon that allows you to search specific phrases. 
    The “more icon” takes you to a list of other helpful categories including: metal melting temperatures (both Fahrenheit and Celsius) and specific gravity information for those metals (including common base metals and other materials). Below Melting Temperature and Specific Gravity is an icon that takes you to a useful conversion chart that allows you to input a weight into any category and converts it across a variety of weight measurements. In the upper right hand corner is an icon to view the conversion formulas if you choose to convert the weights yourself. The final category below the conversions is a glossary of terms that would be useful as a refresher or a help to the novice. 
Metdia Gem is currently lacking images of a few of the rarer varieties but the app is constantly being updated and improved. When I contacted the developer, Scott B Britton, GIA Graduate Gemologist, he had this to say about the app “We are continually striving to improve the application to meet the demands of users...feedback is highly welcome and we make changes and integrate new features to the application with this feedback.” Personal support is also available to anyone who has any technical issues, and he encourages anyone to contact him directly at president@metdia.com and he will personally assist them. I would also like to encourage anyone who might wish contribute suggestions, images, or feedback to contact Mr. Britton. 
Anyone interested in gemstones and jewelry should consider purchasing the Metdia Gem app. The app packs in a wealth of information into an easy to navigate reference guide with an affordable price that is useful for both seasoned gemologists as well as gemstone and jewelry enthusiasts.

Kathleen Marino M.A, G.G., AJP, NAJA
   

Friction Ball Watch Case Back Opener From Kassoy

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The Friction Ball watch case opener from Kassoy ($4.95) is an inexpensive and easy to use tool. It measures approximately 2 inches in diameter and is made of a plastic that has a slightly sticky “grip” like feel. I had seen friction balls, but had never tried one for myself. I felt slightly silly as I stared at the squishy blue ball in the Kassoy packaging. It seemed like it was almost too simple to work. I placed the ball against the back of the screw back watch case, applied pressure while twisting the ball and the case unscrewed easily.  

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                                                                                      I like this tool for a few reasons. Firstly I am not a watch expert. I admit that my exposure to watches hasn't been that extensive and I have a healthy fear of damaging a clients watch. The friction ball is easier to use and less damaging than other watch tools, provided that the watch being worked on is a screw back. I was also able to use the ball on more than just watches. I am frequently confronted with small decorative trinket or pill cases and the ball was able to safely loosen a stuck lid on one item and able to unscrew the top off another.
After using the friction ball for myself I can see that the tool has been fairly underrated. The ball not only offers users with less watch experience a safe first choice before attempting possibly damaging methods, but i believe that it will prove to be more versatile and could be used for more than just opening watch backs. The extremely affordable cost and ease of use make the Friction Ball a welcome addition to my tool kit.

Kathleen Marino M.A, 
G.G., AJP, NAJA

Precision Measuring Loupe From Kassoy

Precision Measuring Loupe from Kassoy

Precision Measuring Loupe from Kassoy

The Precision Measuring Loupe from Kassoy ($83.95) is a specialty measuring loupe. Like a standard loupe, it features a 10x triplet lens, but it is designed to be either held in your hand or stand on a table, allowing the user the ability to look down into the well area. The quality of the precision loupe is apparent right out of the box. The loupe has a solid feel and the focus adjustment is very smooth. The lens on the bottom is durable and readable (through the loupe). It is important to note that the user will need an adequately lit area or an outside lightsource angled into the side of the loupe’s well. This is necessary in order to be able to read the scales on the lens base. 

The lens base is imprinted with four scales for measuring: rings with diameters in millimeters, a grid that measures in 0.01 inch increments, a ruler that measures in millimeter increments, and angles by 1° increments. The large opening allows items to be placed into the well and on top of the lens. The lens with the measurement gauges is not removable. The loupe measures just over 2 inches tall, and just under 2 inches in diameter.
During my time using the Precision Measuring Loupe I came to the conclusion that it is a specialty tool that works best with loose stones. However the measurement plate is removable, this makes the loupe more versatile. Jewelry may also be placed in the well, but the scales are not as useful in this position. I found that if I put the jewelry under the measuring  scale plate and looked down through it then the measuring scales were more usable. The quality of the loupe was impressive and I found the added benefit of the measurement scales to be useful. While I may not use the loupe on a daily basis, it is not an overly expensive item and I believe that it would easily find a place in my tool kit.   

Kathleen Marino M.A, G.G., AJP, NAJA

A Review of Richard D. Armstrong’s Photoatlas of Gemstone Spectra for Gemology Students

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Obtaining a spectrum on a gemstone is one of the most difficult skills to master in gem identification. Richard D. Armstrong’s Photoatlas of Gemstone Spectra for Gemology Students ($14.95 excluding shipping) seeks to aid students of gemology and gemologists in this endeavour.

The photoatlas is conveniently contained on a disc made for PC computers. The photoatlas provides the user with spectra for various stones as well as tips and techniques for using spectroscopes. Armstrong has marketed the photoatlas specifically for PC use, though files for both Mac and mobile platform are also contained on the disc if the user would like to attempt to use them. The program did not autorun on my Windows 8 PC; I had to open it manually. Once open, the the format of the photoatlas is a PDF virtual book that is very user friendly.

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There are some challenges that students and gemologists continually face with spectra. Firstly, the lab manuals only contain drawings of the absolute perfect spectra, which are rarely (I would cautiously say never) what an individual sees. Secondly, the spectroscopes available in a campus classroom setting are usually perfectly mounted scopes with a perfect lighting setup. Many students will never again work with, let alone be able to afford, such a setup. They leave the classroom with no real concept of how to use any other style of instrument. Lastly, there is an increasing number of distance education students who will not have the same hands-on opportunities as on-campus students. This disc helps fill these voids and gives valuable confidence to the student as well as the seasoned gemologist.  

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There are some challenges that students and gemologists continually face with spectra. Firstly, the lab manuals only contain drawings of the absolute perfect spectra, which are rarely (I would cautiously say never) what an individual sees. Secondly, the spectroscopes available in a campus classroom setting are usually perfectly mounted scopes with a perfect lighting setup. Many students will never again work with, let alone be able to afford, such a setup. They leave the classroom with no real concept of how to use any other style of instrument. Lastly, there is an increasing number of distance education students who will not have the same hands-on opportunities as on-campus students. This disc helps fill these voids and gives valuable confidence to the student as well as the seasoned gemologist.  

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There are some challenges that students and gemologists continually face with spectra. Firstly, the lab manuals only contain drawings of the absolute perfect spectra, which are rarely (I would cautiously say never) what an individual sees. Secondly, the spectroscopes available in a campus classroom setting are usually perfectly mounted scopes with a perfect lighting setup. Many students will never again work with, let alone be able to afford, such a setup. They leave the classroom with no real concept of how to use any other style of instrument. Lastly, there is an increasing number of distance education students who will not have the same hands-on opportunities as on-campus students. This disc helps fill these voids and gives valuable confidence to the student as well as the seasoned gemologist.  
Currently you can order the Photoatlas of Gemstone Spectra by emailing info@armstronggemology.com