Heritage

The Antwerp Diamond Heritage

Since 1447, Antwerp has been synonymous with quality diamonds and superior craftsmanship. Already then, the world's leading diamond centre secured a well regulated market that won the absolute confidence of traders and consumers.

The Antwerp Diamond Heritage reveals the creative dynamism behind the diamond industry; unravelling the mysteries and beauty of the diamond, all of which has the makings of a compelling story.

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The Rise of Antwerp

The Rise of Antwerp

Thanks to its harbour, Antwerp was a place of unlimited opportunity. The diamond industry, established in the 15th century expanded considerably due to strong commercial relations with its neighbours. The Antwerp World Diamond Centre was born!

A Living Testament

The very first document concerning the Antwerp diamond trade is the decree against the sale of false stones of 1447 an official warning that "no one within the city of Antwerp was to buy, sell, pawn or pass on any false stones imitating diamonds, rubies, emerald or sapphires, ..."

Already in that time, Antwerp had secured a well regulated market which won the absolute confidence of diamond traders and consumers.

A Living Testament
Crafting the Master Cut

Crafting the Master Cut

Lodewijck van Bercken, a mid-15th century diamond polisher, was said to have discovered the process of working one diamond with the aid of another and was thus credited with the invention of polishing.

He was instructed by Charles the Bold to work three diamonds: the first was the famous Sancy, worn by the Sovereign. The second, a brilliant invented for Pope Sixtus IV and the third, a triangular diamond mounted in a ring that was later presented as a token of appreciation to the French King, Louis XI.

Antwerp World Diamond Centre

With a booming trade in the diamond industry, masters hailed from all parts of Europe to learn the fine art of polishing in Antwerp. It soon became clear to the diamond processors that there had to be a quality control in order to guarantee its high standard of diamond polishing.

This decree successfully implemented in 1585, dictated that everyone who polishes diamonds had to swear and promise to abide by all rules of the flourishing diamond trade:

"I hereby swear from now on I shall be faithful and obedient to the Superintendents and Seniro members of the Guild I shall respect the privileges Ordinances."

Thus, consumer confidence was already a top priority in the 16th century in Antwerp.

Antwerp World Diamond Centre
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Rubens & Diamonds

Rubens & Diamonds

Antwerp inspires. This prosperous city has in the past decades produced many of world's most famous old masters, such as Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens and many more.

Rubens had also a lifelong affair with diamonds. His treasure trove of diamonds suggested that he had more than a passing interest in all that glitters.

Some of his private collection of diamonds and precious stones were worn by his second wife, Helene Fourment on her wedding day in 1630.

The Art of Polishing

As technology progressed, the diamond polishing techniques evolved.

An example of an Antwerp polishing workshop around mid-17th century depicts a hand cutter rubbing two diamonds against each other while the polisher stands near the scaif and applies oil to his brush. A third worker operates the mill.

These 17th century techniques used in the Antwerp workshops still form the basis of today's diamond polishing factories.

The Art of Polishing
Mastering the Craft

Mastering the Craft

By the end of the 18th century, Antwerp enjoyed great fame as a polishing centre.

This magnificent gilt silver monstrance set with diamonds and rock crystal is a fine witness of the exquisite craftsmanship of Antwerp diamond polishers in the 18th century.

The monstrance was ordered by a church warden from Spain who had the diamonds polished and set in Antwerp.

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