Located at the southwestern edge of Germany, Idar-Oberstein is the historic gemstone-cutting center of Europe. The origins of the industry go back at least 500 years. The industry was originally based on local deposits of agate, jasper, rock crystal, and amethyst but beginning in the 19th century, all kinds of rough gemstones began to be imported from around the world. The industry grew very rapidly from the middle of the 19th century. A great deal of this success was based on the manufacture of agate beads, "African money", for export to Africa and the Middle East.

This website tells you a bit about the importance of african orders for Idar-Oberstein products as well as about international competition for the african trade bead market with the far away town of Cambay in India, and new sources for rough materials in far away Brazil. You will also learn where to look for "African money" today. It is still being produced and used, although on a rather small scale, but nevertheless. Old trade routes and connections are still in use today and produce business and livelihood for people from four continents.

2003 volker@steinkunst.com