The day dawned with overcast skies and evidence of rain last night. We had our usual breakfast and headed out about 9:30 a.m. for a 20-minute walk to Royal Coster Diamonds - no rain to dampen our spirits. Amsterdam has a long heritage of diamond trade and industry – the city has been a major diamond centre since Sephardic Jews introduced the diamond cutting industry in the late 16th century. They came to the area to escape religious persecution in Spain. Royal Coster Diamonds was founded in 1840 and claims to be the oldest still-operating diamond polishing factory in the world. So far there have been no challengers. The company has handled a few historical masterpieces, such as re-polishing the famed Koh i Noor diamond mounted in the Crown of Queen Mary and the Dresden Green Diamond, held in the New Green Vault at Dresden Castle.
We had booked a tour - to our astonishment, our tour consisted of just the two of us. It was ably led by Josef, himself a career diamond man. We learned about how diamonds were created and where they are found. (Over the past 30 years, Canada has become a major world diamond producer, producing 23 million carats in 2017, valued at $2.6 billion USD.) We learned how diamonds are rated on the four C’s - colour, cut, clarity and carats. Josef described the various cuts of diamonds, especially the Royal 201-facet cut created by Costers. We were able to watch artisans polishing diamonds - a process done using high speed and other diamonds. A diamond polishing/cutting apprenticeship is only 7-10 years if you are considering a career change. He then took us into a special room and showed us unset diamonds and let us examine them under a loupe (eyeglass). Especially lovely was a heart-shaped diamond - one of the most difficult shapes to cut. We toured the show room of fabulous jewelry. Such beautiful items - deciding how to set each diamond is an art unto itself. We also had tickets for the Diamond Museum next door. There, we learned more about mining techniques and about the history of the diamond industry and saw replicas of famous crowns and tiaras. What a cool way to spend a morning.
How's this for a bit of Girl Power? Between 1991 and 1994 Pauline Willemse, a diamond polisher at Royal Coster Diamonds, polished the smallest diamond in the world. This is a brilliant cut stone with 57 facets, weighing 0.0000743 carats (0.01486 mg). 0.16–0.17 mm in diameter and with a height of 0.11 mm.
We packed up after lunch at Chez Anne’s AirBnB and trundled down to the tram stop. The tram dropped us off at the Central Train Station about 20 minutes later. We were proud of ourselves for not wimping out and taking a taxi. From there, it was a 10-minute walk to the pier where our home for the next two weeks was docked - the Scenic Pearl. (I’ll get a picture when we are docked tomorrow in Antwerp.) This is our third cruise with Scenic. We did the Tulips and Windmills cruise in 2015 and the Jewels of Europe cruise in 2016. In a delightful bit of serendipity, our cruise director for this cruise is Andreea, who was our cruise director for the 2016 cruise on this same ship. She gave us a huge hug and welcomed us aboard. (Shannon Crane - we both agreed that Andreea is your doppelgänger!)
We have unpacked and are enjoying some downtime - we haven’t had a lot of it since leaving Grimsby on Friday afternoon. Harry, our butler, has just been to visit. Service is the watchword on Scenic cruises. Good chance to get this writeup done. We have a briefing at 6:00 p.m., dinner at 7:00 p.m. and we sail at 7:30 p.m. Tomorrow, we are doing a tour of Bruges in Belgium, a medieval city famous for its lace making. We have been to Bruges before - its many enchanting characteristics demand a second visit, and perhaps another small lace purchase.
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