>>>The most glittering thousand metres in the world

The most glittering thousand metres in the world

If every diamond sold anywhere in the world has visited Antwerp, why not follow their example?
84% of the global production of rough diamonds is concentrated in one square kilometre: the one that covers Antwerp Central Station between Hoveniersstraat and Rijfstraat. This is a lucrative trade that includes 1,500 jewellers, 350 workshops and schools where people can learn how to polish them. The area has been named ‘the diamond district’. 40% of industrial diamonds and 50% of polished diamonds are sold in Antwerp. In total, the diamond industry contributes around 40 billion dollars to the economy. Over half of the cut diamonds that are distributed globally come from this Belgian city, located on the banks of the River Scheldt 50 kilometres from Brussels.
Diamond is the hardest material in the world and can only be cut by another diamond or a special laser.

“Diamonds love Antwerp”

As well as the name of an official app, this is also the slogan of the Antwerp World Diamond Centre, which is the organisation responsible for representing the sector’s interests and maintaining and improving its image with the public. It does this work via the Diamond Office, which is where all the diamonds that enter or leave the Belgian city pass through.

Marilyn Monroe called them “a girl’s best friend”, and Antwerp elevates them to an art form. For ten years the Diamond Museum was exclusively devoted to this gemstone, and after its closure, the MAS Museum (Museum aan de Stroom) has carried on its work. Today, its red walls house a pavilion that narrates the story of diamonds and their economic importance to the region.
Dealers and collectors rub shoulders with couples in search of engagement rings at DiamondLand, the largest diamond showroom in the city. It’s located in the Jewish quarter, 150 metres from the station. DiamondLand rewards those who spend more than €2,500 on a purchase by giving them one night’s accommodation in a five-star hotel. Buying a diamond in the city where Cartier shops is a privilege that is not available to many, but in Antwerp you can also go ‘just to look’. The quality of diamonds is measured in ‘the four Cs’: colour, clarity, carat and cut. This is explained in detail on the guided tours that are offered free of charge at this diamond Disneyland. The showroom allows people to see up close the meticulous work of diamond cutters. The cutting of a small diamond can take a couple of hours, but if it’s large or complex then it will take months.
The diamond industry represents 8% of Belgium’s exports.
Louis runs a small family jeweller’s in the Central Station neighbourhood. Not all jewellers can boast of holding the ‘Antwerp’s Most Brilliant’ certificate as he does, since an inspection confirmed that he fulfils all the 30 requirement criteria. He works every day to keep the ‘Cut in Antwerp’ international mark of quality. He always tells his customers that the first engagement ring was given by Archduke Maximilian of Hapsburg to Mary of Burgundy. Since then, every ring in Antwerp has created its own story.
Antwerp Central Station is nicknamed the ‘temple of marble’.
Photo: Pabellon del diamante ©Artur Eranosian

Related articles

Christchurch: the improvised city

Five years ago an earthquake devastated New Zealand's second largest city. But there's something it didn't destroy: the fighting character...

The most sought-after resorts on the Algarve

See southern Portugal at its most exclusive: villas with private pool, Michelin-starred restaurants and terrace bars with views over the...

The best places in the world for your wedding photos

The setting may make the difference between a conventional wedding and an extraordinary one. Most likely both will be unforgettable,...

Watergate Hotel, in the company of spies

Nearly 50 years after the fall of Nixon, the hotel that witnessed one of the biggest political conspiracies in American...