Diamond district in Antwerp
Did you know that 70% of the world's diamonds come from Antwerp? More specifically from a district close to the station, a triangle formed by the Hoveniersstraat, the Rijfstraat and the Schupstraat. Although the neighbourhood dates back to the 15th century, the first diamond flows did not start until 1886, in Café Flora, where the diamond dealers met to exchange and sell rough and cut stones. In 1904, the Diamond Bourse was established.
Both world wars have, of course, slowed down the activity in the diamond sector of the City on the Scheldt, due to the decline in international trade. Even more so in '40-'45, with the mass deportation of the local residents from 1940 onwards, and in 1942, when the occupying forces embezzled the diamond stocks in the city. Despite these ups and downs, the industry has reclaimed its share. After 1945, the Jewish community of Antwerp dominated the industry, allowing the port city to grow into a leading diamond centre. There used to be up to 25,000 Jews working in the diamond workshops. Their numbers have shrunk sharply, because the Indian population has been on the rise since the 1960s. Twenty-five years later, the latter managed to claim the lion's share of the diamond trade.
In 2003, the neighbourhood was shocked by the ‘heist of the century’, when 100 million euros were seized. This, along with the fear of attacks, justifies the two thousand security cameras that scan the buildings inside and out. Antwerp's diamond district today faces competition from Tel Aviv and Bombay, due to the many production relocations in the sector. Yet Antwerp remains the world's largest diamond centre, with an annual turnover of 37 billion dollars.