Delightful treats for kaisers and tsars

For many, the name of the town is full of promise: Idar-Oberstein. It has been famous as a centre for precious stones and jewellery for centuries. Even now, the town's streets are lined with jewellery makers and retailers. It stretches out along the valley of the Idar and Nahe rivers, under the tree-covered slopes at the southern edge of the Hunsrück-Hochwald National Park.

Beautiful finds are made into jewellery in Idar-Oberstein, and some of the precious stones adorning kings and rulers have passed through the hands of the experts here. The valuable stones have ever symbolised richness and power, which is why kings and kaisers used them to decorate their crowns and insignia.

These precious gems started out in the hot lava flows deep underground. When they force their way to the surface in a volcanic area such as the Nahe region, minerals are formed in the hollow chambers as they cool. This is also how the agates were formed, and they started a tradition in Idar-Oberstein which now spans more than 500 years.

They were found here as long ago as the 14th century, initially above ground, but later on gem hunters had to dig down in tunnels to find them. You can see how deep they had to go in the Steinkaulenberg Gemstone Mine. Visitors here can immerse themselves in the labyrinth produced in the hunt for precious stones. It is a unique experience, as the mineral mine at Steinkaulenberg is the only one in Germany open to visitors.

Crown in the German Gemstone Museum in Idar-Oberstein, Nahe

A crown with gemstones in the German Gemstone Museum in Idar-Oberstein, Nahe

The Mineral Museum in Idar-Oberstein features precious stones mined locally, alongside gems and crystals from all over the world. The region was rich not only in agates but also in water. As a result, lots of small businesses grew up using water power to drive their cutting, grinding and polishing machines. They processed raw precious stones such as agates, jaspers and amethysts. The historic ‘Weiherschleife’ or grinding workshop in Idar-Oberstein shows visitors the conditions in which this all happened, and how impressive the results could be despite the primitive polishing equipment.

The specialist stone polishers, cutters and engravers helped preserve the tradition and maintain Idar-Oberstein’s position as a leading centre for precious stones until today, even though the sources in the mountains around were exhausted and sealed at the end of the 19th century. At that time, many people moved away from Idar-Oberstein, with some of them making it to South America, where they discovered massive agate deposits. They sent the stones home because they knew the people there were experts who could cut them to perfection

Making jewels in the historic "Weiherschleife" in Idar-Oberstein, Nahe

A man making jewels in the historic "Weiherschleife" in Idar-Oberstein, Nahe

The place became home not only to precious stone dealers and craftsmen, but also to many jewellery makers. Many of the valuable pieces sold by luxury brands in cities all over the world were made in this little town on the Nahe. Visitors to the German Gemstone Museum can also get a glimpse of what these companies do. There are samples of the work done by local gemstone polishers, engravers and setters. There are sparkling gems and glistening jewels everywhere, and alongside their own designs, the experts have made replicas, including the imperial crown and beautiful cameos, which are reliefs engraved onto discs of agate or other precious stones. The experts in Idar-Oberstein even created beautiful figures for Peter Carl Fabergé, the famous court jeweller for the tsars in St Petersburg.

The German Gemstone Museum in Idar-Oberstein, Nahe

The German Gemstone Museum in Idar-Oberstein, Nahe

Exhibits in the German Gemstone Museum in Idar-Oberstein, Nahe

Exhibits in the German Gemstone Museum in Idar-Oberstein, Nahe

More leisure tips for culture lovers in the Nahe region:

More information about holidays at the Nahe

Find out everything you need to know on events, attractions and other destinations in the Nahe valley at the Naheland-Touristik GmbH.

Romantic Cities: Trip to Idar-Oberstein

Discover Idar-Oberstein: There is a long tradition of glittering jewellery in this little town on the Nahe. You can go on a treasure hunt for precious stones or try out the famous spit roasts.

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