gem optics prerequisites


Sutra Gems - Rex Guo

The alphabet of science is mathematics. Math is required to truly understand gem optics. Gem optics works in 3D and it is dynamic. Geometry is the starting point. Vectors are the tools to navigate geometry. Light rays are represented using 3D vectors. Reflection and refraction operate on vectors. Once you get to colour, you will need to get into polarisation, which is the foundation of pleochroism. Very soon you'll want to predict colour, then you'll need to start looking at light as energy, and the mathematics that describes light as electro-magnetic waves is very different from the geometric optics that textbooks teach you about refraction. Below is a list of resources that covers the absolute fundamentals needed to start your journey into gem optics.

Khan Academy has free math curriculum on several of the necessary topics from algebra, geometry to trigonometry:

Brilliant also offers excellent and similar content but in a more polished way so it is not free:

What is Geometric Optics?

What is Ray Tracing?

Online interactive tool to play with light:

Look under Simulations menu for more.

Reflection and Refraction in Real Life:

With the mathematical tools of algebra and geometry covered above, you'll be able to calculate on paper the angles of the rays seen in the real life video in the last link and this will form the initial understanding of what happens to light in a gemstone.