Idar-Oberstein with its almost 30,000 inhabitants is located in the German federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The city lies on the southern edge of the Hunsrück on both sides of the Nahe River. Idar-Oberstein’s most iconic building is the Felsenkirche, a cliffhanging chapel which was built in 1482. The city is also famous for its green surroundings. The characteristic landscape with its large areas of “untouched” wilderness invites long walks and wine tastings. This is why the Hunsrück and the national park regions are popular recreation areas.
The most important reason why Idar-Oberstein became world-famous is thanks to its local jewelry and gemstone industry. This unique business which is all about the sparkling treasures has existed for hundreds of years and has functioned as the economic motor of the region for many decades.
The base for the development of this industry lies in favorable natural occurrences of agate, jasper, amethyst and rock crystal, but also sandstone for the wheels and the river for power to work the wheels. In the process of mining in the workshops, many new professions such as the agate cutter and polisher evolved. Due to growing gemstone trade centered around Idar-Oberstein, goldsmiths too were able to benefit from better job and salary opportunities and opened workshops in the region.
In the middle of the 18th century, the local agate deposits were beginning to be exhausted and many experts left the region. However, a completely new chapter began when some emigrants started to ship Brazilian agate to Idar-Oberstein. By 1834, the first supply of Brazilian agate had reached Idar and Oberstein, after 1840, there was regular gemstone trade between Brazil and the German gemstone region. During the upcoming centuries, foreign gemstone trade flourished and Idar-Oberstein has found its place in specializing in processing high-quality stones and mainly exclusive orders. In the middle of the 19. century, Idar-Oberstein had emerged to the most important gemstone and jewelry center in Germany.
Today, Idar-Oberstein is still one of the world’s most popular trading centers for gemstones, along with Antwerp and Amsterdam, which are best known for their expertise in the diamond trading business. Many gemstone related companies in Idar-Oberstein were established in the flourishing times of the late 19. and beginning 20. century. Some of them remained important players in the industry until today. One of them is company Carl Friedrich Arnoldi founded it 1919, from which the company HC Arnoldi has emerged. The traditional local gemstone cutting companies have been supplying renowned and celebrated jewelry houses ever since, like Cartier, Tiffany and Co. or Van Cleef & Arpels, just to name a few.
Despite the constantly growing demand for gemstones, the production process itself has hardly changed over the last 50 years. Some companies have been developing and applying technical innovations for production, but most of the cutting and polishing remains handicraft.
Digital transformation however influences the way business is done. It challenges, for example, traditional sales strategies. Online shopping has become user-friendly and smooth, thus our reality has become as digital, as it is physical or virtual.
GEMHYPE.COM represents such an aspect of the ongoing digital transformation and hopes to bring new impulses to the local traditional gemstone companies.
A city worthwhile visiting
Gemstones are an essential part of Idar-Oberstein. They have shaped the history of the city and will continue to influence its future. Once a year, the international flair of the gemstone business becomes particularly apparent during the annual Intergem trade fair. The local trade fair is an important event for the gemstone industry, it is a special time and occasion for the companies to present themselves in their original environment.
Worthwhile visits during a trip to Idar-Oberstein are the Gemstone Museum or the former gemstone mine Steinkaulenberg to discover the gemstone mining history of Idar-Oberstein.
There are also regularly held diamond and goldsmith markets where local gemstone cutters demonstrate their skills to interested visitors.
One last attraction is a local dish, the “Spießbraten”. It is pork or beef steak which is barbecued on a swinging grill or skewer over beech wood coals and open fire. It is a proudly cherished local specialty which relates- who would have guessed?- to Idar-Oberstein’s gemstone heritage as well. It stems from gemstone dealers who had returned from Brazil and created their own barbecue technique following the Gaucho's style back in Germany.
Idar-Oberstein is worthwhile visiting especially for gemstone lovers for an in-dept insight, but also for lovers of lots of nature and Spießbraten.