Idar-Oberstein is a city in the Rhineland-Palatinate region of Germany and is in is at a narrows, between rocky cliffs and the banks of the Nahe. Since every square meter of land is at a premium here, the river has been covered over in the town. As a result, since 1986, the Nahe flows underneath the town for several kilometers.
The world famous Felsenkirche (1482-1484), the construction of which is traced to a story of fratricide, is built upon a vertical rock wall high above the old town. It gives the town a unique atmosphere. The steep steps leading up to the Felsenkirche are climbed by countless visitors from all over the world every year. Their efforts are more than rewarded by a view of the impressive artwork. Examples are the gothic winged altar of 1410 and a beautiful Stumm organ from the year 1756. The setting of the old and the new castles high above the Felsenkirche, give the visitor a feel for how proudly enthroned above their town the lords of Dhaun and Oberstein castles were, in the middle ages. Deceptively small when viewed from town Felsenkirche is capable of holding up to 500 people at a time.
The town is also well known for its agate cutting. Originally, the agate cutters worked on semiprecious stones from the region (commercial mining 1375-1875) in their small cutting shops along the streams which flowed from the Idarwald and Hochwald into the Nahe. Today, the gems are imported from all over the world. With time, agate cutting evolved into a large jewelry industry dealing with precious stones and pearls as well. Idar-Oberstein became an international center for the jewelry industry. The Deutsches Edelsteinmuseum (Precious Stone Museum) exhibits various types of stones from around the world in both their raw and finished forms.