Judging Competition with Microscopes

by Glenn Klein

In the years that I have been cutting for competition, I have seen a steady trend towards harsher judging by some judges. All, or most, competitors are doing their best with the equipment that they have, and the rough gem material that they can afford. But please, LET’S NOT GET TO THE POINT WHERE MICROSCOPES ARE REQUIRED TO DETERMINE THE TROPHY WINNER!

I feel that most would agree that poor facet meets can be more speedily seen as being good or bad with a microscope…as compared to using a hand loupe. Some faceters do have a microscope mounted on their faceting machine. Must that become necessary for us all?

I, for one, do not want to spend the money required to rig up a microscope onto my Ultra-Tec machine. I feel a microscope would just be in my way.

A judge once told me that I must have thousands invested in gem rough, so why not spend a thousand or two on a microscope! Well, I would rather spend all the money on better rough, and do what I can to stop the trend towards making competitions so tough that nobody will be interested in even cutting for competition.

Look around at the Shows. You will not see many cases of faceted stones that are entered for a competition. It is my feeling that too many obstacles are put in the way of those who would like to enter. Let’s all be reasonable in what is required in order to achieve a good score.

The vast majority of competitions are judged with the use of ten power hand loupes. That is a good thing. Most of us cut our stones with the use of ten-power loupe. I see less using a fourteen power hand loupe myself, because the focal distance is so short, I cannot get enough light in between my eye and the gem. And the forty-watt light is the right amount. More wattage just blinds my eye, when looking across the facets for flaws. Since even the Australian IFC competition is judged with ten power hand loupes, that should be good enough for all lesser level contests.

I would like to see more people getting into competition. The attitude of some judges seems to be that “I got my trophy, but I am going to make it rough for someone else to get theirs”.

Sometimes the competition scores seem unrealistic. The spread of scores in the area of 90-100% is where they should be for the Master competitions, but when most of the scores are 98-100% something seems wrong somehow. I have placed third in a competition, with a score of 99.5%. I feel that a gem should never be judged as 100% perfect. Nothing that the human touches is perfect. I have never finished a stone that I would not have liked to change something, if only I could have done so.

I do not judge stones of others very often. I do not enjoy judging. The judges have a difficult task to find the cutters faults. I do not envy their job for the most part, but they should not take the easy way out by using microscopes to do the work.

We competitors work long and hard to cut the perfect stone, and the judges work hard to find our errors.

Using a monocular microscope and then coming to a major decision in just four or five minutes is not right. It is even easier for the judge, if a stereoscopic microscope is used. It is a very easy thing to find fault in the faceting when the microscope power is turned up above ten power, with the simple twist of a knob.

Pretty soon we will be competing with things being decided using fifteen, thirty, or forty power. I wish to resist the use of microscopes trend.

Sometimes the judges do not see what they think they see, with the microscope. I had a stone judged for a synthetic competition once, where the judge in just a minute or two said “there are natural inclusions in this stone!” I could not convince him otherwise, but it really was a synthetic. It was a Biron morganite. My score was drastically lowered anyway, because the judge had his own idea.

Through the years the AFMS rules are updated to the new conditions that prevail. The changes are not often done nor are they big changes. Let us hope that they are never changed to the point where microscopes become required, in order for judges to judge competition gems.


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