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Friday, 22 October 2010
One of the coolest things we saw in Amsterdam was the workshop at Coster Diamonds.
This wasn't something on my "must see" list before we arrived - but then, I may have mentioned that I tend to have very short "must see" lists. I prefer to nosy around, relax, and play things by ear.
In any case, we were passing through Amsterdam's museum quarter when we saw a big sign advertising free entry to the workshop - and we already had a Netherlands Museum Card which would give us access to the Diamond Museum next door. An afternoon of sparkly fun beckoned.
Coster Diamonds is a real, working diamond workshop. They're set up for tourists, of course, and apparently they do employ guides - but the guy who stopped his work to talk us through the process was a man in his seventies who'd been working in the diamond industry since he was apprenticed at 14. Incredible stuff. He showed us the different facets and angles, explained the order of cutting and grinding to make the classic "brilliant cut" shape, and gave us an overview of the different grades of diamonds (something I learnt a little bit about when we were shopping for my engagement ring). It was great fun to watch the diamond polishers at work - they must have great eyesight and fantastic co-ordination. I just know that if you let me near a grinding machine with a precious diamond... well, at least diamond particles are still useful for sandpaper!
After a good look around the workshop we went out through the shop (which starts with insanely expensive jewellery and finishes with tourist tat for a couple of Euros) and to the museum next door. If you don't have the museum card, I'd probably skip the museum, simply because the workshop is free, and was much more interesting (to me) thanks to its practical focus. But you'd be a bit crazy to visit the Netherlands and not buy a museum card, in which case, the museum's exhibit on famous diamond thefts is worth climbing a couple of flights of stairs for.