Idar-Oberstein Aims to Stay a Cut Above

"The knowledge of gemstones and their behavior is an essential key to the future of Idar-Oberstein." It's a deceptively simple statement by master cutter Gerhard Becker, whose family business, Friedrich A. Becker, has cut gemstones in the region since the 1500s. It also underscores the German philosophy of steinkenner, or "gem-knower," that has kept Idar-Oberstein strong for centuries in spite of growing competition abroad. But is Becker pondering the future as though it might be in question? Few people would have questioned the future of Idar-Oberstein's centuries-old gem cutting industry some 20 years ago. Now, however, serious questions about the industry's vitality are being asked by many gem-cutting families and government officials. The self-analysis has been brewing for the past decade, particularly as Idar-Oberstein's almost monopolistic hold on the secrets of fine gemstone cut

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