National Geographic : 1968 Apr
Like cannoneers handling golden shot, porters hustle cheeses for weighing at the famous market of Alkmaar. In a centuries-old Friday ritual, farmers and buyers bargain over spherical Edam cheeses and flattened Gouda wheels. When a handclasp seals a purchase, impeccably dressed porters in suspender harnesses (below) hook onto cheese-piled barrows that often exceed 300 pounds. Hat and barrow colors identify companies of the antique Guild of Cheese Carriers; flags add a festive touch to market day. Edams shipped abroad traditionally wear a protective rind of red wax. many persons work in industry as in agricul ture and fishing combined. Of all the city's industries, one of the oldest remains probably the most glamorous. Dia mond cutting and setting, established in Am sterdam in the late 1500's, is an attraction for tourists as well as a business, though not now as large as it once was. Removal of so many Jewish craftsmen by the Germans during World War II brought that about. But the industry carries on and visitors from through out the world still come to watch veteran polishers at work and admire the finished diamonds flashing and gleaming as if full of concentrated sunshine (page 551). "Nearly all diamonds are slightly imper fect," said the attractive young woman who escorted me through a diamond-cutter's shop. "You must examine them carefully with a magnifying glass in a north light. Look 556 for the 'three C's'-color, clarity, and cut." I reminded her of a fourth C, even more important-cash. She smiled. The wartime blow to the diamond industry has been more than compensated for by the considerable increase in the nation's clothing trade, which gives employment to 75,000, many of them in the small family firms the Hollander loves. The colorful fashion displays in the shops along Amsterdam's Kalverstraat and in the big department stores in all Hol land's cities are mainly Dutch in origin. Knowledgeable buyers come from through out Europe (and also America) to see what Amsterdam's designers are offering. "It is difficult nowadays," youthful Dr. Went Zwerver, economic adviser to a trade association, told me in his office on Van Eeghenstraat. "One of the difficulties is the dominance of youth in shaping fashions.