Diamonds and Antwerp, a partnership that began in the 15th century
The year 1477 marks the beginning of Antwerp's precious diamond tradition, when future German Emperor Maximilian I gave a diamond ring to his future wife, Mary of Burgundy. The first traces of the diamond trade in Antwerp date back half a millennium, to the arrival of the first rough diamonds from India.
François I, King of France's preference for the Antwerp cutters, whose expertise, attention to detail and quality of selections he valued, increased Antwerp's prestige in the field of precious stones. But it was from 1885, with the discovery of diamond mines in Kimberley, South Africa, that trade in the precious ore really began to soar. It was at this time that the first streams of diamonds poured onto the tables of the Flora café in Antwerp, the location par excellence for the gathering of all the diamond merchants who wanted to consult each other about the sale of rough and polished diamonds. The specialists quickly began to feel cramped in the back room of the café. So in 1893, they founded the Diamond Club. From there, from the four corners of the planet, diamonds converged on this small exchange where large cut stones were traded; the district became increasingly important for the global trading and flow of diamonds.
Today, the diamond district near Antwerp railway station is home to 1,700 diamond companies, 4,500 diamond dealers and more than 10,000 inhabitants. It is the leading stock exchange for cut diamonds in the world, with 70% of diamonds originating there and exchanges amounting to 37 billion dollars a year.