Slides of diamonds by
Albert Dittmann, ca. 1820 – ca. 1900?
by Brian Stevenson
last updated May, 2015
Albert Dittmann’s microscope slides are not common, but they are unique, and deserving of description. Dittmann was a glass and diamond manufacturer/retailer in Berlin, Germany, between 1852 and ca. 1875. His diamond business involved their use for industrial applications, such as grinding, drilling, and engraving. Advertisements mention gemstones, so Dittmann’s business may have included jewelry.
Of significance to microscopy enthusiasts, during 1868 and 1869, Dittmann advertised microscope slides of diamonds (Figures 1-4). The specimens are small chips of various shapes and colors, and having varieties of defects. Presumably, these were not of sufficient quality for Dittmann’s industrial purposes.
I have not discovered much information about Albert Dittmann’s life. An 1873 business directory stated that Dittmann began his operation in 1852 (Figure 5). An 1862 Berlin address book placed his business at 12 Hoher Steinweg. The 1868 and 1869 advertisements, and an 1873 directory give his address as 25 Prinzenstrasse. During 1873 he moved to 7 Neue Ross-Strasse, and he was still recorded at that location in an 1875 business directory (Figures 6 and 7). No unambiguous records of Dittmann have been found after 1875. Some of his slides have “Berlin” crossed out, so he may have moved from that city. Judging from the year in which Albert began his diamond business, a reasonable birth date would be 1820-25. Assuming he had an average lifespan, he probably died around the turn of the century.
Figure 1. Circa 1868 microscope slides from Albert Dittmann. The slides are thicker than usual, with an indentation in the center. The specimens are dry-mounted. Some of Dittmann’s slides have the city name “Berlin” crossed out, suggesting that he later moved away from there. Presumably, the hand-drawn angular shapes and colors were added by an owner, to describe features of each specimen.
Figure 2. A diamond (?) chip, viewed between crossed polarizing filters and with a 10x objective lens.
Figure 3. Flaws in a diamond (?) chip, viewed between crossed polarizing filters and with a 10x objective lens.
Figure 4. Advertisements for microscopical preparations of diamonds and gemstones by Albert Dittmann, from 1868 (top) and 1869 (bottom).
Figure 5. An 1873 description of Dittmann’s business, indicating that he began operations in 1852.
Figure 6. An 1873 advertisement from Dittmann
Figure 7. The last identified information on Albert Dittmann, from an 1874 address book of Berlin (top) and an 1875 business directory (bottom).
Allgemeine Medizinische Zentral-Zeitung (1869) Advertisements from Albert Dittmann, Vol. 38, pages 562 and 587
Koller, Theodor (1875) Neueste Erfindungen und Erfahrungen auf den Gebieten der Praktischen Technik, Elektrotechnik, der Gewerbe, Industrie, Chemie, der Land und Hauswirthschaft, J.G. Manz, Regensburg, pages 178 and 511
Revue Contemporaine (1873) “Disons encore que M. Albert Dittmann, de Berlin, a envoyé des diamants percés, opération qui a toujours formé le désespoir des lapidaires”, Series 2, Vol. 69, page 683
Sandler, Christoph (1873) Handbuch der Leistungsfähigkeit der gesammten Industrie Deutschlands, Oesterreichs, Elsass-Lothringens und der Schweiz, Vol. 1, Verlag von Herm. Wölfert’s Buchhandlung, Leipzig, page 7 and advertisement on page 549
Über Land und Meer (1868) Advertisement from Albert Dittmann, Vol. 21, page 670
Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin (accessed April, 2015) Address directories of Berlin, http://digital.zlb.de