The magnifying glass was invented in Europe around 1250. Today, more than 750 years later, magnifying glasses come in hundreds of styles and sizes, from lightweight acrylic models for home use to magnifying lenses set in high-powered microscopes for scientific research. Magnifying glasses also help people with visions problems, and assist professionals like jewelers and photographers with their work.

Vision Aids

Magnifying glasses are often used to help people with vision problems. Eyeglasses are a form of magnifying glasses, which correct problems ranging from near-sightedness and far-sightedness to astigmatism. People with macular degeneration, or eye problems caused by glaucoma or diabetes, often use hand-held magnifying glasses to read books, newspapers and other documents with fine print. Magnifying glasses mounted in reading devices that can magnify print from three to 10 times its normal size are also useful for people who have eye diseases like rod and cone deficiencies or retinitis pigmentosa.

Scientific and Medical Tools

Magnifying glasses can be mounted on stands to form microscopes, which scientists like chemists and biologists use to perform research. Microscopes are also used in medical research, and in medical labs for testing blood and other bodily fluids and tissues. Microscopes can magnify objects thousands of times, making it possible to see organisms and elements of different types of matter that cannot be seen by the naked eye. Some microscopes are fitted with cameras that record these magnified images.

Professional Tools

Microscopes are used by professionals like jewelers and photographers in their work. Jewelers evaluate gemstones with devices called loupes, which consist of three different magnifying lenses mounted in a plastic cylinder. Loupes allow jewelers to see imperfections and impurities that can affect the value of diamonds, emeralds and other precious stones. Photographers also use loupes to edit and evaluate photographs. Using a loupe, a photographer can see the grain of a photograph, which lets her know how sharp it will look when magnified. Camera lenses are also forms of magnifying glasses, which can make faraway objects large in photographs.

Home and Hobby Aids

Many people use magnifying glasses at home for hobbies, crafts and other daily activities. Coin collectors use magnifying glasses to detect the wear of a coin, which helps determine its value. Stamp collectors use magnifying glasses to check the condition and authenticity of stamps. Hands-free magnifying glasses, which are connected to a stand, are useful for needlepoint and other sewing and knitting work. Magnifying glasses are also useful for reading details on maps and for reading fine print on legal documents.