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If you are passionate about rockhounding, some tools can really be helpful to elevate your hobby to the next level. Using some tools and supplies can help you find and identify the geological treasures.
The recommended dichroscopes, hand lens, and UV lamps for rockhounding include (Amazon links):
- Dichroscope: TEKCOPLUS heavy-duty new calcite dichroscope
- Hand Lens: Wesley’s 30x-60x LED Illuminated Jewelers Loupe
- UV Light: Escolite UV Flashlight Black Light
This article will provide you an insight into rockhounding tools such as dichroscopes, hand lens, UV lamp, and relevant recommendations about them.
If you are interested in checking out the best dichroscopes, hand lens and UV lams for rockhounding you can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).
Dichroscopes for Rockhounding
Dichroscope is a pocket-sized, gemological tool that can help you identify gems or differentiate between similar-looking gemstones. If you are looking for a specific rock or mineral specimen, this tool can come in really handy.
How Does a Dichroscope Work?
You may already know that you need light to see colors. Color is basically our perception of different wavelengths of visible light. When light shines an object, some light is absorbed, and others are reflected. We see the color formed by these reflected lights.
Although some stones, such as diamond, garnet or spinel, and diamond single refractive and therefore exhibit only one color. Most gemstones are ‘pleochroic’, which means ‘more colors’, hence they display different colors at different directions of their crystals.
Our human eyes cannot differentiate most of these colors unless they are clearly distinctive. This is where the dichroscope comes into use. The dichroscope works on the principle of ‘plane-polarized light’, where the vibrations of the light wave assume a definite form.
Let’s take an example of ruby stone. Although we see the gemstone as red, it is actually double refractive. Its color is made of a dark red and a light pink color. If you inspect a ruby stone through a dichroscope, you will be able to see the distinct dark red and lighter pink.
Why is this useful? The dichroscope helps you to differentiate apparently similar looking stones, for instance, a ruby vs a red spinel! Unlike the ruby, the red spinel is a single refractive, hence it will display only a single red color. Check out this cool video that demonstrates the use of a dichroscope.
Which Type of Dichroscope is Better?
There are two types of dichroscopes:
- Calcite type
- Polarizing type
The calcite type consists of two glass prisms and a calcite rhomb. This calcite rhomb can separate polarized slow and fast ray emerging from the stone. Therefore you can see two small windows at the viewing end, where the individual colors are displayed.
The polarizing type uses a polarizing filter. One popular brand is the London dichroscope. Although this kind of dichroscopes are economical, they have some downsides compared to the calcite ones:
- You can see only one pleochroic color at a time, hence it becomes difficult to recognize a subtle change in colors.
- Stones or mineral rocks with weak pleochroism is hard to identify, as the result is less clear than calcite dichroscopes.
- In order to overcome the limitations, two polarizing filters, oriented at 90° to each other, would be required.
Thus, a calcite dichroscope is often preferred for better performance in rockhounding.
TIP: You can also try to use other technical equipment when you rockhounding. I wrote two articles about the Geiger counter and Metal detector. They both can help you find beautiful rocks. Check out the articles here:
How to Pick and Use a Geiger Counter for Rockhounding
How to Actually Find Gems with a Metal Detector? It is Easy!
Recommendation for Dichroscope
If you are looking for an excellent dichroscope within budget, my recommendation would be the TEKCOPLUS heavy-duty new calcite dichroscope (Amazon link). It has some great features, which definitely makes it a value for money!
The set includes a calcite dichroscope with a free stylish synthetic leather Case in a packaging box.
Below are its specifications and features:
- This dichroscope has a metal body, which makes it durable, reliable, and suitable for heavy-duty use.
- It weighs 0.05 kg, which makes is pretty lightweight to handle as well as portable.
- Efficiently detects whether a stone is dichroic or pleochroic, by clearly orientating for axis and color.
Hand Lens for Rockhounding
A hand lens, also called jewelers loupe, is another essential tool for a rock collector. This is basically a kind of magnifying glass that can be very helpful to examine a rock, mineral sample, or any other geological specimen.
With a hand lens, it becomes really convenient to observe details in a tiny crystal rock that you cannot see with naked eyes. Having a close look at the size and shape of grains, texture, angels, etc. can help you identify small fossils, crystals, and much more.
For example, you can inspect whether or not a rock is a quartz or calcite from the estimation of the crystal face angle on the magnified surface.
You may need a little practice to master the inspection process with a hand lens, where the lens should be at equal distance from your eye as well as the specimen. You can try moving either the lens or the object to adjust the focal point.
This video can be very helpful to learn how to use a hand lens efficiently. Once you develop this fundamental skill, you will enjoy how much detail you can see!
For basic operation, all you need is a clear lens and adequate light, preferably sunlight. Any kind of soft cotton cloth will work to clean the lens. Some people find it handy to attach the pocket hand lens on a lanyard or cord to wear around their neck in the field.
Which Hand Lens You Should Buy?
There is a wide range of hand lenses available out there, while they may vary in size, special features, quality of glasses, etc. Although the magnification power of a hand lens can range from 7x to 30x, a power of 10x or 20x can be good enough for rockhounding purposes.
Common properties that you should look for in hand lens while rockhounding are:
- Sufficient magnification
- Durable material to last
- Lightweight so that they are easy to carry
- Pocket size, with a protective case that can cover the lens
Recommendation for Hand Lens
The hand lens I recommend is Wesley’s 30x-60x LED Illuminated Jewelers Loupe (Amazon link). This hand lens not only covers all the criteria I just talked about but it is also super budget-friendly!
Let’s have a look at its features, and you will realize how much it offers with an inexpensive price:
- A lightweight magnifier that is only 1 oz and can easily slip into your pocket or purse
- Durable case made of EVA (Ethylene-Vinyl-Acetate) claimed to be unbreakable!
It also has a self-repairing zipper for longer life of the case.
- A special feature of LED illumination that helps you to see objects clearly in low light. Three LR1130 replaceable batteries are included.
- Comes with a Lanyard to secure from dropping while hiking, walking, and working.
- Option for backpack clip and beltloop attachment that allows you to attach the case to your backpack/purse, or belt loop.
- Metal folding cover that can protect the lens from derby and scratches.
- A lens cloth is also included for cleaning
This hand lens has versatile application along with rock collecting, such as:
- Geology (rock, mineral and fossil study)
- Antiques, coin and stamp collecting (checking makers marks and dates)
- Botany and gardening (identifying plant issues like pests, determining plant sex, observing harvest time, etc.
- Electronics repair (readings on circuit boards and fuses, checking broken solder joints, etc.)
- Machine shops/ clock repair/ jewelry repair etc.
BTW: Do you want to know more about rock and mineral identification? The books listed below are the best ones you can find on the internet (Amazon links):
- Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals
- Gemstone & Crystal Properties (Quick Study Home)
- Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Rocks and Minerals (National Geographic Kids)
UV lamps for Rockhounding
UV (Ultraviolet) lamp can be an excellent tool to find mineral rocks, especially fluorescent minerals. UV lights cause fluorescent minerals to glow and allows us to see the illuminated rocks in the darkness.
While all minerals can reflect light, fluorescent minerals have an intriguing physical property. When the UV light of specific wavelength hits those minerals, they temporarily absorb a small amount of light and almost instantly release the light of different wavelengths.
This change in wavelength causes them to emit a colored light which is visible to human eyes.
Recommended UV Lamp
While scientific UV-lamps can be quite costly, specifically for the filter that prevents visible lights from interfering with the observation. However, for rockhounding, you don’t need that kind to advanced systems.
I recommend the Convoy C8+ UV Light (Amazon link), which is the best UV light for rockhounding on the market.
Here are the features for this economical UV lamp:
- 7 different modes
- 395 nm wavelength UV light
- The full metal body is water, rust, and shock resistant
- Rechargeable lithium-ion batteryrd Alkaline Battery
- Can be used to find glowing rocks up to 2 meters away
Hope you found this article helpful to know about some useful rockhounding tools, and some recommended products.
TIP: Are you looking for some other rockhounding equipment like hammers, bars, or even some safety equipment? Well, you don’t need to search on Google, I wrote three other articles about the best rockhounding equipment for you, check them out now:
Recommended Rock Hammers, Picks, Chisels & Bars For Rockhounding
Best Shovels, Brushes, Sample Bags & More for Rockhounding
Recommended Safety Equipment for Rockhounding