Tue, 29 Aug 2006

Can diamond-cutting be considered Art?

Coming
back from holidays, and trying to catch up with Pricescope, I saw a lot
of discussion and agreement about diamond-cutting being an art, and
hence diamond cutters to be artists. At first, I felt like I had to
disagree with this notion.

I consider ourselves not to be
artists, but craftsmen, designers if you want, but not artists. After
all, when we start working on a rough diamond, we are not driven by
emotions, which we want to express. Our main aim is to make or save
money, by trying to cut the diamond, which we can easily sell for the
highest amount.

But how about Shakespeare then, who had to make
sure that people came to see his plays, or he would be without a
living? Or Toulouse-Lautrec, whose paintings were used as
advertisements?

Thinking about it, I slowly discovered that
first, there is no clear definition of ‘Art’, and second, that many
romantic notions about ‘Art’ do not apply.

The ancient Greeks
regarded ‘Art’ as an activity, based on knowledge and governed by
rules, and as such considered the following activities as the seven
liberal arts: Grammar, Rhetoric, Dialectic, Arithmetic, Geometry,
Astronomy, and Music. Well, I can very well see diamond-cutting as an
application of geometry, and to some extent of arithmetic.

In
the early Middle Ages, ‘Art’ was considered a teachable activity, and
an artist was actually a craftsman. Hey, I can relate to that position
too.

In those days, painting for instance was not considered an
art, and I must say that I am not amazed, since painters were not
considered to know about mathematical perspective, optics and geometry
until the Renaissance. In this period, activities like painting,
sculpture and architecture bloomed, and only then, did they reach
acceptance as ‘Art’.

Think about Rubens, whose paintings were
produced in a factory-environment, mostly commissioned by rich patrons,
and whose students grew up to become famous artists themselves, like
Jordaens and Van Dyck. Is there an analogy with the cutting of diamonds
in a factory-environment, while we all are students of Tolkowsky?

And
of course, every artist had his muses. Maybe, ours are girls like
belle, Mara, aljdewey, and others, whose eternal gratitude we are vying
to obtain by producing the most symmetrical diamonds. OK, I might be
slightly exaggerating right now.

Basically, my point is that
there needs not be a dichotomy between diamond-cutting being an art,
and our eternal concentration on mathematical detail. For the ancients,
it was already clear that art is based upon knowledge and rules. In the
same way, the fact that most diamond cutters are constrained by
economic situations was also true for many great artists of the past.
In some areas of diamond cutting, there is more leeway for personal
expression, but in most fields, this is limited.

In this way, I
do agree that diamond-cutting is to some extent an art-form. I do hope,
however, that we will get recognition before we die.