Where: Antwerp, Belgium
What’s in store: A three-square block district jammed full of traders, cutters, and retailers making this the world’s diamond center
Bag a bargain: Head to Diamond Land – a giant showroom of white jewels and tour its factory
A Glittering History
Diamonds have been processed in Flanders since the fifteenth century when the Portuguese discovered a direct route from India (then the world’s primary producer) and the rough stones were brought to Bruges from Lisbon and Venice to be crafted. With the silting up of the river in Bruges, Antwerp became the new center of trade and has never looked back. More than 85 percent of the world’s rough diamonds, 50 percent of its cut-diamonds and 40 percent of industrial diamonds are traded in Antwerp, making it the world’s undisputed diamond center.
Tour the Diamond District
The diamond district is a three-square block area housing brokerages, cutters, cleaners, and grading houses. It’s a fascinating place to wander round. You’ll see Hasidic Jewish men with their black hats (Antwerp is known as the Jerusalem of Europe and the diamond trade has been inextricably bound to the fortunes of its Jewish population) stroll past Armani clad Indian businessmen (Gujaratis have displaced them now as the biggest players in the business, claiming a 65% share of revenues). Couriers pass with briefcases chained to their wrists and cameras record every move (it’s the most secure area of Belgium after the inner sanctum of the capital building).
For your best introduction to the processing of diamonds and the history of the trade, go to the interactive Diamond Museum. If you want to buy diamonds you may well enjoy a trip toDiamond Land, the biggest diamond show room in Antwerp (1000 square meters). Here you can get a tour of its factory where we can see cleaving, sawing, bruting, polishing and the international rules for grading diamonds, treating subjects like carat, colour, cut, and clarity.
Koningin Astridplein 19-23
Telephone: 00 32 (0)3 202 4890
Admission, 6 euros (£4).
Krochmal and Lieber Diamonds
Telephone: 00 32 3233 2169
For information on the diamond industry, visit the excellent Krochmal and Lieber Diamonds website.
By Kate Griffiths