Gender Revolution in Diamond Polishing

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Nov 3, 2002
Gender Revolution in Diamond Polishing

Without a degree in psychology it is only possible to speculate about why something is done the way it is, or draw only from one’s own experience. The amount of social science research that has to be done to be conclusive and operantly accurate about human behavior renders all of our opinions just that: opinions. Hence it is mere idle speculation that one could offer about why the field of diamond cutting has been dominated by the male gender and the distaff side has been relegated historically to minor roles in the adamantine trade.

Doubtless there is no dearth of those opinions. In spite of the multifarious cadre of opinion about the reason behind the matter of the historical absence of female diamond polishers or any similar matters, it is historically accurate that there have been few women grinding crystallized carbon on the spinning scaifes of the world. Diamond polishing has truly been the dominion of the male of our species.

As you may or may not know, the first giant leap forward in the evolution of diamond polishing since Tolkowsky in 1919, was the 1984 breakthrough in diamond cutting brought about by the invention of the revolutionary device known as the FireScope®. (For a brief historical background reading about this, please go to this link:

Here you will find how the FireScope® came to change the way diamonds were viewed, cut, marketed and, finally, professionally graded forever)

Mr. Taruhiro Tamura was the first individual in the world to apply the newest reflective image technology built into the FireScope® toward the concept that we designated "Three-dimensional symmetry". We now refer to it as optical symmetry. No matter what you call it, it took a RADICALLY new attitude toward diamond polishing to create the first breakthrough in the new way to produce diamonds with optical symmetry.

Tamura was Japanese. His bent was exotic in the diamond milieu, one replete with all the trappings of Western psychology, especially fine-tuned to the production protocols of the Industrial Revolution. Tamura’s thinking about diamonds and how they should be shaped and finished elevated diamond cutting from a routine of the scientific application of mathematical formulae and technological wizardry to a fine art. The EightStar® achievement Tamura pioneered was a vast departure from what preceded it. Tamura’s Asian consciousness eclipsed the Western thinking of the day that allowed for inferior cutting to be considered "Perfect enough", as the owner of one of the most prestigious firms in America once claimed to Tamura that his diamonds were.

In fact, Tamura was so taken aback by the translation of those words into Japanese that he had to regain his composure before he could respond. In his way of thinking, "perfect" and "enough" did not juxtapose linguistically. Those words could not be side-by-side in the same sentence without seeming paradoxical to a culture steeped in the ways of the Zen master. His response was quite fitting and immediately attracted attention to the void left by the paradox of the juxtaposition of the two words. He asked: "What if your doctor told you your wife were pregnant enough?"

With that he decided, after requesting that various companies help him cut his idealized diamond, which theretofore did not exist, to open his own diamond polishing enterprise in Yotsuya, the financial center of Tokyo where he had originally headquartered his titanic Sony distributorship. His first act in the new enterprise of diamonds was to seek a master diamond polisher. With a kind of blind luck he was able to attract to his undertaking a man, Mr. Kiyoshi Higuchi, who would turn out to be the most important diamond polisher ever to touch an adamantine crystal to its humbling, spinning, crushed-diamond-powder-incrusted wheel. The character of Higuchi made it possible for what has come to be known as the great revolution in diamond cutting to occur at all. Without his Zen-like powers of concentration and centeredness, it would never have been possible to have created the EightStar® breakthrough that he did.

Tamura recognized the special nature of Higuchi, his humility and willingness to overcome the most objectionable obstacles, even if those obstacles were based in the deepest realms of the self. In his book, Tamura wrote about the extreme difficulty of making the enormous EightStar® breakthrough and the quirks of character in diamond polishers that had for so many centuries afforded a heavily inertia-laden status-quo.

"From time to time I would notice something that needed to be made correct. Or, to be more exact, I would intuit that something was wrong. For me, the EightStar® diamond was a kind of magical forest, and what I was trying to do was to perfect, one by one, each and every tree in that forest. I even ordered a change in the normal polishing order that cutters took for granted. It was when we began running into difficulties that no amount of effort could put right that I realized what the problem was. It was the cutter's idiosyncrasies.
"I had always enjoyed sitting in front of Kiyoshi and watching him work. I loved to listen to the sound of the polishing, and I was fascinated by the intense concentration he brought to the job at hand. Over and over again he would apply the stone to the polishing disk, hold it there for a few seconds, then pull it away and check the result. I was especially fond of the way he would examine the stone at these times. There was something completely selfless in that steady gaze, a combination of penetrating sharpness and an endless profundity that seemed to draw you in.
"The sound of the diamond in contact with the polishing disk -- that also seemed to contain a kind of message. You could tell from the sound being made whether the diamond was being polished correctly or not.
"The procedure of pressing the stone against the disk, pulling it away, then examining it had to be repeated over and over again, anywhere up to 3,000 times or more before the stone was finished. And not one lapse of concentration could be allowed in all that time.
"Sitting in front of him and watching, I noticed that from time to time he would go back and make a fine adjustment somewhere or other -- something you should avoid doing wherever possible. The habits of years of cutting were coming through. Without being aware of what he was doing, he was trying to avoid the hard crystalline formations mentioned earlier. It was this that was making all the difference between success and failure. If we were going to produce the perfect diamond, he would somehow have to break this habit.
"It is a tribute to Kiyoshi's character that he accepted my advice and did just that. It was a sign of the deep bond of trust that had grown up between us. If there had been even a trace of inflexibility or stubbornness within him, the EightStar® diamond would never have been completed. It is to his sincerity and receptiveness that the EightStar® diamond owes its very existence.
"What we had learned was not to be bound by established polishing practice. What was needed was a pure, burning desire to give form to beauty -- that and nothing more. To pursue determinedly the path you think right, to bend the hardest substance in the universe to an even harder will and determination, and, finally, to produce the exquisite shape and form of the EightStar® diamond." (END OF QUOTE FROM BOOK)

The concept of not being bound by established polishing practice was amplified as it became necessary to employ more cutters to help with what, in short order, had become an enormous backlog of orders on the waiting list that had formed as EightStar® had become dubbed "The new world standard for cutting of the round brilliant diamond". When I met Tamura and opened our American factory, there were 5000 people waiting to get EightStar® diamonds.

What Tamura did to bury the dilemma of established polishing practices, in the face of the need for unheard of concentration requirements, patience never before considered necessary, the mental pressures of not being able to err with any of the approximately 3000 steps to making an EightStar® diamond, was to hire women.

One could posit that the diamond cutting process initiated by Higuchi requires something akin to a maternal desire to protect the sacred design of the pattern representing a perfect universe that emerges in the EightStar® diamond, our now-famous pattern of an eight-rayed star. Is it, then, a stretch of rationality to further postulate that Tamura’s success story is attributable to those human qualities that incline toward the Yin more than the Yang?

By definition, Yin is the more passive, cool, soft, gentle factor. Yang is the more active and loud. D. H. Lawrence’s literature is often analyzed in college classes in the light of people of one gender possessing features and qualities of the opposite gender and the most "centered" human the one who possesses the best balance of both gender features. The Asian perspective explains this as the unity of opposites. Yin and Yang cannot exist in the absence of each other. Perhaps this explains why Higuchi, with a soul filled with all human qualities was the one selected by the universe to bring to the world the greatest amount of beauty a diamond could give.

The Yin characteristics culturally and historically reinforced in females were deliberately chosen by Tamura as he began to expand his enterprise.

It has been my experience as well, after twelve years of EightStar® diamond polishing here in America, that those cutters who have remained in our tutelage and tenure have personalities that are the Yin/Yang combination of the best human traits of patience, perseverance, consciousness, meticulousness and a kind of maternal nurturing nature. My wife, Alison, has come to be the most important woman diamond cutter in the Western world due to her proclivity toward this preponderance of the most virtuous human qualities and her untiring devotion to excellence. It is, of course, mere idle speculation that the distaff nature of humanity yields a calmer, more focused diamond polisher. And I can only support this theory with my own experience. Yet it seems true nonetheless. Over the years I have found Tamura’s sociogender formula workable.
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