Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2018 list features Antwerp as one of its top 10 city destinations. Visit Antwerp's Alderman, Koen Kennis, said “This award really is great recognition for Antwerp. We very much appreciate the extra boost this will have for inspiring visits to our city." Tom Hall, Lonely Planet’s Editorial Director, added: “While visitors to Antwerp will find all the classic Belgian experiences of cobbled lanes, gorgeous architecture, chocolate and beer, the city also boasts a thriving creative scene and cool cafes, restaurants and bars. With a packed schedule of events planned for 2018, there’s never been a better time to visit this cosmopolitan city.”
2018 will see the reintroduction of diamonds to the city’s tourism offering. For almost 500 years, Antwerp has been the heart of the world’s diamond trade, first becoming the Diamond Capital in 1447. Over 80% of all rough diamonds and 50% of all cut diamonds find their way to the city and in 2016, 202 million carats of rough and cut diamonds were traded in Antwerp. It is claimed that every diamond in the world passes through Antwerp at least once.
DIVA Antwerp – Home of Diamonds
Due to open in May 2018, DIVA will be the city’s newest diamond museum, located on the main road from the port to the city centre, and will provide a new and unique experience showcasing the BrilliAntwerp story.
Guests will be led throughout the museum by their very own DIVA butler. With the help of DIVA, visitors can look beyond the glittering surface to see the background works to better understand the diamond industry.
There are six rooms in the museum, including:
- Wunderkammer – Home to unusual and contemporary objects
- Construction – Learn how silverware and diamonds are cut and worked by master craftsmen
- International diamond trading – Learn how diamonds move across the world through various trade routes
- Silver – Antwerp is also well known for its silver trade and how the rich used it for everyday items
- Strongroom – Learn about the dark criminal side of the diamond industry and be challenged before you can leave!
- Jewellery Boudoir – Take in the beauty and splendour of some of Antwerp’s most beautiful pieces of jewellery
When: The full museum will open in May 2018. Open from 10:00 – 18:00 daily.
Where: Suikerrui 17-19, 2000 Antwerp
More information: See the DIVA Antwerp website
A timeline of Antwerp’s Diamond Trade
1447 – First recorded trade of diamonds in Antwerp; a city magistrate also issued an edict stating that fake diamonds would not be permitted for trade within the city.
1515 – First documented diamond cutter was registered in the city.
1582 – The first diamond cutters guild was created, the Diamantsnijdernatie – translating to the ‘diamond cutting nation’.
1585 – Antwerp was captured by the Portuguese and many of the Protestant diamond traders and cutters left or were sent into exile. Many found their way to Amsterdam where the diamond market followed.
1648 – The Peace of Munster between the Netherlands and Spain ended the 80-year war, however, within the agreement, it was stated that the River Scheldt would be closed to navigation, which further damaged both the diamond trade and the commercial centre of Antwerp.
1866 – After years of dwindling diamond stocks which led to many abandoning the skills in Antwerp, massive quantities of rough diamonds were sourced in South Africa, leading to a huge increase in the need for skilled workers. Soon, the city flourished again.
1893 – Diamond dealers within Antwerp worked together to create the Diamantclub van Antwerpen (Antwerp’s Diamond Club) and moved into the building near to the newly created railway station.
1939-1945 – When the Germans invaded and subsequently occupied Antwerp in 1940, they effectively closed the port and the River Scheldt and the supply of rough diamonds entering the city was non-existent. Many of the city’s Jewish diamond traders did not survive and at the end of the war, of the 27,000 diamond workers who had once worked in Antwerp, only 3,500 remained in the city.
1947 – After the war, varying centres of diamond trade opened across the world and Antwerp, as the centre of the European trade, became the headquarters of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses.
Top Tips for Buying a Diamond
If you’re looking to purchase a piece of jewellery from Antwerp there are a few points to bear in mind. Visit Antwerp has a great guide on buying diamonds, but here are a few top tips.
The four C’s:
- Carat – Weight of the diamond
- Colour – Scaling the colour from completely clear to coloured
- Clarity – The number of flaws or impurities in the diamond
- Cut – Looking at how the diamond was cut and moulded into its final shape
Research in advance
It is worth doing some research on what type of diamond you would like before you head to the diamond district. There are numerous shops within the diamond district which all offer hundreds of different varieties of jewellery. It always worth researching what you’re looking for beforehand, so you can do some window shopping on arrival to find exactly what you’re looking for.
Purity – Kimberly Process
Antwerp itself is very proud to proclaim that it only trades in conflict-free diamonds and since the approval of the Kimberly Process, Antwerp is renowned as a global moral leader in transparency and compliance. So you can shop safe in the knowledge that the diamonds on display are ethically sourced.
In most of the shops, it is expected that there will be some back and forth over price, so don’t worry about standing your ground if you think the price is too high. The negotiation process in Antwerp is a slower and more delicate process than in your average market, so do be prepared to take some time and try not to insult!
2018 Cruises to Antwerp
Departing from London Tilbury, Sunday 28 October 2018 for 5 nights on board Columbus
Departing from London Tilbury, Wednesday 13 December 2018 for 2 nights on board Magellan
Departing from Bristol Port, Monday 22 October 2018 for 6 nights on board Magellan
Departing from London Tilbury, Thursday 8 March 2018 for 6 nights on board Astoria