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Diamonds love Antwerp

February 1, 2014

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The story of Antwerp as the diamond central of the world is a long and fascinating one, too long to be able to tell it in full, but too amazing to not tell it at all. .

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Diamonds came from India

For millions of years, diamonds haven been amongst the favourite precious stones of the human race. Western civilizations were the first to discover these gems. India was the first vast producer and gave to the world the most beautiful diamonds such as; Koh-i-noor, which translated, means “Mountain Light”, which weighed in, uncut, at 78,5 carats. The name of the diamond comes from Greek, meaning “invincible” or “unbreakable”. The Hebrew name is “Yiahaom”:”can not be broken”.In the past it was known to have all kinds of strange powers. The diamond arrived in Europe in the third century, before our time, and perhaps in consequence to the trips made by Alejandro Magno, which led to an enormous exchange between the ports of the Red Sea and the Malabar Coast in India. 

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Probably not until the arrival of the first Europeans to India, at the dawn of the XVI century, did relations flourish between Europe and East Asia. One of the main routes in the diamond trade passed through Venice.

Antwerp became the most important republic market in the western world. It enjoyed the monopoly of the diamond trade route, to all main cities in the south of Germany until its final destination, Bruges. This city, being the last stage of the trade route, became a thriving center for diamond cutting and the city’s reputation in this field has continued to increase. Even though Bruges maintained its dominance until the end of the XIV century, it began to decline throughout a fifty year period due to the siltation of Zwin.We may not know when the first diamond was discovered, but we do know that since ancient times until the XVIII century, all of the world`s diamonds came from India.

Antwerp became the world diamond center

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The diamond trade, on a par with many other economic activities of Bruges, moved progressively to the city of Antwerp, which provided better and more modern facilities for the communications and trade .In the sixteenth century, Antwerp was a flourishing city and expansion at this time, it already played a decisive role in the development of the techniques for working the diamond, for example, it is significant that Francis I not to resort to the trains cutters of diamonds from Paris, but make their orders to the artisans of Antwerp.

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Antwerp was at that time the commercial heart of Europe; approximately 40% of world trade was passing through its port.

 

Diamond business had naturally a privileged place. However, Amsterdam began to grow fast . The decline of Antwerp was not given overnight and, in spite of such internal fights as the conflict between the New Corporation  Diamond Cutters and rich merchants, the prestige of the city remained apparently intact until the mid XVII and the diamond trade itself continued to flourish.

Amsterdam’s Diamond Age

 Toward the end of the seventeenth century, Amsterdam came into play, and it was a privileged city that offered freedom both religious and civil and, until the  eighteenth century, came to exercise almost a monopoly not only of the diamond industry, but also of the diamond trade

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From then on, Amsterdam supply  to Antwerp rough diamonds and,  the Dutch city reserved the best stones for their own  cutters of diamonds, Antwerp was forced to work with lower quality diamonds.

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Far from being discouraged, the artisans of Antwerp took advantage of these difficult years and figured out how to convert small and dificult stones  in gems neatly worked.

2013-06-06-diamantecarbon 650 Large-scale mining

 In 1866, it was discovered the first diamond in South Africa; this discovery, followed a few years later by the  Kimberley mines and the birth of the fabulous  Kimberley era, as well as the surge of the now famous mining company, De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd. , gave rise to a prospecting and a large-scale mining that gave to Europe huge supplies of rough diamonds..

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This massive flow of rough stones, followed by discoveries in South Africa contributed decisively to the city of Antwerp was defined as the world’s leading center of the diamond

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After a few months, this large influx provided jobs for thousands of artisans and the rapid revival of the stature of diamonds in Antwerp, which was being stimulated by a constantly growing demand for precious stones.

Antwerp,The World’s Diamond Centre after the Second World War

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In an attempt to save as many as possible of the existing reserves of diamonds from the hands of the Germans, the 500 dealers in England moved the diamonds there. In agreement with the British Government, an organization known as the Correspondence Office for the Diamond Industry was created in order to register the diamonds and keep them safe throughout the war. Thanks to this organization, large amounts of diamonds were returned to their owners once the city was liberated and the diamond industry of Antwerp focused on taking off again when the war came to an end

 

It is therefore, a centuries-old tradition that has given the diamond traders of Antwerp their incomparable experience. However, to ensure that Antwerp could maintain its reputation, it became necessary to create a central administration which would be responsible for this and which all the traders found indispensable; no one would have been able to do it on their own. This final stage represented the creation of the Hoge Raad voor Diamant, or Diamond High Council.

judio1Antwerp is the diamond centre of the world, as 85% of trade is performed here,and of course this can be seen whilst wandering the streets adjacent to Central Station where there are shops and the Diamond Museum, in addition to the existence of around 350 workshops and several schools which teach the art of polishing and finishing off diamonds

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