Idar-Oberstein’s Intergem ’98:The World’s Best Gem Cutting on Display

In the face of economic calamity in Asia and competition from low-cost Far Eastern cutters, the German gem-cutting industry based in Idar-Oberstein has diminished greatly in size – but not in prominence. Nestled in the Nahe River valley 90 minutes southwest of Frankfurt, the two villages are home to the world’s largest concentration of master gem cutters, who continue a local tradition of meticulous craftsmanship extending back to the 1400s. Last fall’s Intergem ’98 show was evidence that Idar-Oberstein is still very much a driving force in gem cutting. Close scrutiny of the hundreds of gems displayed there revealed three factors that set German cutters apart from all the rest: polish, proportion, and design. Every gem is polished to perfection, proportioned in the most desirable outlines, and cut with no apparent “windowing.” Using the finest material available from around
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