The Rio Grande Guide to Buying a Jeweler's Workbench Part Four: Bench Lighting

Get enlightened about the best lighting setup for your workbench and jewelry studio.

Last edited: 9/1/2020
A jeweler uses a Smith Little Torch in her well-lit studio

Part Four: Lighting Your Jeweler’s Workbench

"It doesn’t matter what you’re working on,” John Sartin says. "You need good lighting, period.” Without the right combination of lighting, you’ll risk straining your eyes, neck and back while awkwardly hovering over your work—not to mention, you could lose valuable materials that will inevitably fall to the floor and roll into dark corners. To ensure a properly lit jeweler’s workshop, think about your lighting scheme in three distinct layers:

Overhead Lighting

A good overhead room light is a basic necessity. Rio Grande's Jewelry Tech Team says you’ll discover how important ambient lighting is when (not if, but when) your polishing motor grabs a ring from your hands and throws it across the room, or a gem bounces off of your bench and onto the floor. If you do jewelry work from home in a dim space like a garage, make sure to add the same overhead lighting you’d find in any other room of your house.

A stocked bench with a task light mounted to its side rail

Bench Lighting

Next up is jewelry bench lighting. Be careful not to use a regular desk lamp for this purpose—desk lamps usually have a base that takes up premium jewelry worktop space, and they’re prone to tipping over during vigorous jewelry work like forming, sawing or filing. Instead, the best task light for your jewelry workstation should have some combination of these features:

  • A secure mounting. Task lamps that can be screwed directly into your bench offer the most stability. A clamp-style mounting is another option, but pay close attention to its maximum jaw width—some can’t open wide enough to accommodate a bench’s side rails, which means you’ll have to sacrifice security and access to your work by clamping it to the front of your bench top. Another good choice is an "under-cabinet” work light, which can be mounted directly under the bench top, illuminating your layout and catch drawers; to the ceiling above your bench; or vertically to a wall.
  • A CFL or LED light bulb. CFL and LED light bulbs won’t heat up like incandescent light bulbs, keeping jewelers’ working conditions safe and comfortable. Choosing bright-white or color-corrected daylight bulbs will cast less shadow and make it easier to see solder lines. You’ll also be able to see the "true” colors of your gems and fabrication metals (a range of 4500k to 5000k will be truest to daylight and offer the best color rendering), a necessity when making important design decisions.
  • A wide spread of light. Most jeweler’s task lamps feature a long light bar that disperses a wide spread of light across the surface of the jewelry bench setup. (This is another area where regular desk lights get outshined.)
  • Maneuverability. Your light should adapt to you, not the other way around, so seek out articulated task lighting that rotates from side to side and adjusts up and down.

A jeweler works on a piece while looking through a magnifying lamp

Focused Lighting

Depending on the task, you may find that you need more intense directional light or lighted magnification. Unlike overhead and bench lighting, focused lighting is limited to a small area and floods every crevice of your close-in work with light. If you find yourself craning your neck to get a better view of your piece, consider mounting a magnifying lamp to your bench.

More Rio Grande Bench Guides

Read a glossary of jeweler's bench terms, explore the types of benches that are best for your work and get bench set-up tips from working jewelers in Part One, Part Two and Part Three of our Rio Grande Guide to Buying a Jeweler's Workbench.