Located at the southwestern edge of Germany, Idar-Oberstein is the historic stone-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 article not only discusses the history of the industry, but also provides in-depth information concerning the techniques and tools used in beadmaking and drilling.
The Society of Bead Researchers is a non-profit scientific-educational corporation founded in 1981 to foster historical, archaeological, and material cultural research on beads and beadwork of all materials and periods, and to expedite the dissemination of the resultant knowledge. Membership is open to all persons involved in the study of beads, as well as those interested in keeping abreast of current trends in bead research.
Frazier, Si; Frazier, Ann; and Lehrer, Glenn
"A History of Gem Beadmaking in Idar-Oberstein."
BEADS: Journal of the Society of Bead Researchers
10: 35-47. Available at: