We publish courtesy of Israeli Diamond Industry Portal Blog
Author: Roe Kalb
The Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Museum at the Israel Diamond Institute invites you to attend a special exhibition of gemstones on loan from Germany’s famed gemstone center Idar-Oberstein. Join us, and see the most extensive collection of gemstones in the world. What could be a better way to start the New Year?
Dignitaries from Israel and abroad will be in attendance, including Mr. Dieter Hahn, chairman of the Idar-Oberstein Gemstone Museum; Industry, Trade, and Labor Minister Fuad Ben Eliezer; Israel Diamond Institute Chairman and International Diamond Manufacturers Association President Moti Ganz; and Israel Diamond Exchange President and WFDB President Avi Paz.
What makes the Idar-Oberstein collection so special? The towns of Idar and Oberstein belonged to the barons of Daun-Oberstein (who later became the Count of Falkenstein) until 1670. In 1865, both Idar and Oberstein were chartered as cities, and finally in 1933, they united (along with the smaller towns of Algenrodt and Tiefenstein) to form the modern town of Idar-Oberstein.
Idar-Oberstein is known as a gemstone center; until the 18th century, the area was a source for agate and jasper. Low-cost labor and energy helped the gemstone industry flourish. The Nahe River provided free water power for the mills that powered the cutting and polishing machines.
When resources dried up, the area’s industry fell into decline until the 19th century, when a way was found to provide new material to Idar. Large amounts of agates were discovered in Brazil, and German traders were able to ship the agate nodules back as ballast on empty vessels that had dropped off cargo in Brazil. The cheap agates were transported to Idar-Oberstein and a new way to develop industry was found. Using locals’ technological knowledge of chemical dyes, the gemstone industry grew bigger than ever at the turn of the 20th century.
You can still tour a functional gem mine, the Steinkaulenberg, daily in March-November. An hour-long guided tour, the only one of its kind in Europe, will give you a special appreciation of agates, amethysts, jasper, and smoke quartzes in their original environment, volcanic basalt.
The German Gemstone Museum nearby is also worth a visit for its extensive collection of artfully crafted sculptures, engraved treasures, and some 10,000 raw and polished gemstones — the most comprehensive collection of its kind.
Nowadays, of course, the local gem market is dominated by imported stones from Brazil and Africa. Shop around and you are sure to uncover some wonderful deals and the perfect souvenir from your visit to gemstone country.
After gemstones and jewelry, the Felsenkirche, “Church of the Rock,” and two ruined medieval castles are perched on the hills above the town and are the chief tourist attractions in the city, along with the area’s stunning natural beauty and lively night life.
Idar-Oberstein has another claim to fame – actor Bruce Willis was born there to a German mother and an American father who was serving at a US military base located near the city.