Amsterdam is arguably the most glorious city in the Netherlands. Some people know it only as the capital and most populous city in Holland, but there is much more to see and do in this city for adventure lovers and outdoor freaks.
Amsterdam is famous for its majestic canals, some of which you can explore on foot. Indeed, there are so many canals here that the city was christened, The Venice of the North. The city's beautiful houses speak to its rich heritage of architectural excellence. Amsterdam is also one of the oldest cities in Europe, whose long history began in the 13th century. However, the town's development started near the end of the 12th century around the Amstel River. Amsterdam derives its current name from this river, though it might have been known as Amstelledamme back then.
Amsterdam is also known for its flexible drug laws and is one of the only cities in the world where you can check into any coffee shop and order a package of weed.
The Venice of the North is a renowned tourist haven. It boasts numerous recreational parks that offer welcome relief from the bustling city life, a notable example being the Vondel Park. Tourists can also explore the city's enchanting sandy beaches and historic water canals. Most of these have earned their listings at the UNESCO World Heritage Site. But to truly unravel the history of Amsterdam, you would need to check into the Amsterdam City Archives. Also known as the Stadsarchief, this archive is a treasure trove of knowledge and information on Amsterdam's history and significant milestones.
It does not matter whether you are visiting Amsterdam for the first time. You will never miss its vibrant nightlife. The Amsterdam Red Light District ranks among the busiest pleasure districts in Europe. It is an excellent place if you are craving a trip into the ecstatic land of sensual stimulation.
However, your trip to Amsterdam would not be complete without visiting some of its great shopping centers. Places like The Magna Plaza, De Bijenkorf, and the Waterlooplein Flea Market have one thing in common. Such centers offer a fun-filled shopping experience. You can find just about anything, from groceries to souvenirs and even jewelry. But when it comes to jewelry shopping, the stakes are never the same. You will be required to be extra vigilant during your shopping ventures, especially if the jewelry in question is diamonds.
Amsterdam is one of the best cities in the world to shop for diamonds due to its rich history of the diamond trade, coupled with favorable jewelry retail practices. This post shall uncover the secret behind Amsterdam's success as a diamond city. You will also learn about how to get the best bargains when buying diamonds in Amsterdam.
History of Amsterdam as a Diamond District
The Belgium city of Antwerp is the undisputed world's diamond capital. However, you cannot discuss diamonds without mentioning Amsterdam. Amsterdam plays a significant role in the global diamond industry. The city has one of the richest histories in diamond mining and trade.
For centuries, Amsterdam was regarded as the diamond city of the world. One of the factors that earned the town that tag was its strategic location. Amsterdam's convenient location bolstered trade in the region significantly. Central to this was the Dutch East India Company. Also known as the VerenigdeOostindischeCompagnie, this is a company that was founded on March 20, 1602, by one Johan van Oldenbarnevelt. Its primary mission was to explore the riches in the Dutch colonies and invest them back home.
The Dutch East India Company primarily served Eurasia and the Greater India areas. At the time, India was a famous diamond-mining country, which is why diamonds were some of the wealth that the VOC ships brought to Holland. Besides diamonds, VOC ships brought spices obtained from the South Sea Islands.
The efforts of the VerenigdeOostindischeCompagnie were very instrumental in the growth of the Holland diamond industry. It is from such exploits that Amsterdam gradually developed into a global diamond exchange center.
At some point, diamond mining activities in India declined, thanks to the diamond discovery in Brazil. However, the Amsterdam diamond trade was not affected at all because even the Brazilian diamonds were, for the most part, sold through India. Therefore, the Dutch East India Company could still source them during its frequent voyages to India.
The availability of labor is another factor attributed to the rise of Amsterdam's diamond industry. Amsterdam was a major stop-over for African slaves en route to the Americas. Enterprising jewelry merchants retained some of these slaves as a source of cheap labor. A few years before this, Holland had offered free passage to thousands of Jews. The Jews were fleeing Spain in the wake of the 1492 Alhambra Decree edict. Sixteen years later, Jews were also expelled from Portugal. Holland witnessed such a massive influx of Jews that it became known as Jerusalem of the North. Incidentally, nearly all the Jews settled in Amsterdam.
When they flew into Holland, these Jews maintained business ties with their friends in Portugal. In 1725, the Dutch successfully negotiated a business contract with the Portuguese Crown. According to this contract, the Dutch would buy all the diamonds that had been recently discovered in Brazil. With the availability of raw materials and human resources, the diamond business in Holland flourished.
But on December 31, 1799, VOC ceased its operations. As such, it became difficult to sustain the lucrative diamond trade. And when Henry Hope made a trade agreement with Portuguese rulers in Brazil, London became the new diamond city. But for the most part, London was the center of trade for rough diamonds. Amsterdam remained a diamond cutting and trading center.
However, the dynamic diamond merchants in Amsterdam did not take these developments lightly. Therefore, they embarked on a mission to restore the city's glory as a diamond center. In November 1894, an iconic organization, the General Dutch Diamond Manufacturers Union, was established. The organization sought to unite diamond artisans. A year later, diamond employers also created their body – the General Jewelers Union.
Fortunately, the city began to regain its lost reputation as a global diamond hub. Four years later, Amsterdam saw the establishment of the first diamond exchange center, but these restorative efforts did not ultimately serve to regain the city's lost glory. The competition for diamond trade by other cities set in first and furious, and upon the silting of The Zwin, much of the diamond trade moved to Antwerp. However, Amsterdam still enjoys a reputation as one of the world's most charming diamond cities.
Why Buy Diamonds in Amsterdam?
As we have already mentioned, Amsterdam enjoys a rich history in the diamond trade, which is one reason why you might want to go shopping for diamonds there. Therein, you will find some of the most skilled diamond cutters. Many of these are Jews that fled Spain and Portugal in the late fifteenth century. Since time immemorial, Jews have always had a deep connection with diamonds. Indeed, a considerable chunk of the Amsterdam Jewish population works in the city's diamond industry. If you are looking for elegantly-cut and perfectly polished diamonds, this city is the place to look.
Amsterdam experienced tremendous milestones during its heydays as a diamond hub. Many iconic diamonds owe their identities to this city, a notable mention being the Koh-i-Noor which holds the record among the world's largest cut diamonds. The 105.6-carat diamond is believed to have originated in the Indian Kollur mine. At the time, its carat weight was higher; however, the weight reduced as the diamond changed hands. After the 1849 British annexation of Punjab, the diamond was ceded to Queen Victoria. Koh-i-Noor is presently available at the Tower of London in the UK. Cullinan is another famous diamond that was cut in Amsterdam.
One of the most famous cuts, the Asscher cut, also traces its roots to Amsterdam. The Asscher cut was developed by Joseph Asscher, who went on to patent the term. The cut became an instant craze in the 1920s and 1930s. Then, it was associated with higher social classes, and even though other cuts came about as time went by, it remains one of the most favorite diamond cuts. Most people especially prefer the Asscher cut as it makes a diamond look reasonably small. Therefore, you can increase the carat weight without significantly affecting a diamond's optical size.
As you can see, Amsterdam enjoys an eventful history in the diamond trade, implying that shopping for diamonds in this glorious city enables you to relive these critical milestones.
The city of Amsterdam is home to about a dozen diamond factories. Therefore, you are assured of variety whenever you go shopping for diamonds here, and variety translates to relative affordability. In addition to a vast range of diamonds, these factories also offer numerous guided tours, which, in most cases, are free. On these tours, you will learn more about what the diamond cutting process entails and understand how stones are graded and the factors that determine their final price.
Lastly, Amsterdam boasts numerous stores and facilities that have immortalized its rich heritage in diamonds; one such is the Amsterdam Diamond Museum. The Amsterdam Diamond Museum is locally known as the Diamant Museum, nestled between the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. Coster Diamonds created the museum in 1840. Herein, you will learn about how diamonds were geologically created and how humans became passionate about the stone. You will also explore how diamonds gained recognition as a symbol of wealth, beauty, and power.
Your visit to the Diamant Museum begins by watching a short film introducing you to the basics of diamonds for Amsterdam. Afterward, you can proceed to explore everything there is to know about diamonds, from some of the world's most iconic diamonds cut in Amsterdam to historical crowns decorated with stones. You will also discover how diamond inspires glamor in the fashion and entertainment industries. Interestingly, the tours are both a learning and a thrill-filled experience.
Popular Diamond Factories in Amsterdam
Also known as the Royal Coster Diamonds, this is the world's oldest diamond polishing factory still in operation. The factory was established in 1840 by Moses Elias Coster in Waterlooplein, Amsterdam. In 1970, the company moved its location to the Paulus Potterstraat. Coster Diamonds is also the brains behind the Diamond Museum of Amsterdam. The company set up this museum in 2007 to display its exquisite diamond products. Some of the diamonds the factory has handled include the Koh-i-Noor. Besides, the factory also re-polished the Dresden Green Diamond, currently held at the Dresden Castle.
Coster Diamonds has also polished the world's smallest diamond. The 0.0000743 carat stone is available on display within the factory. The company offers free guided tours to their clients, available in over 25 languages. During these tours, you will uncover how diamond cutting and polishing work. Afterward, you can sample the different kinds of diamonds available in the factory's showrooms. Coster Diamonds has numerous private sales rooms for buyers looking for a bit of discretion.
Gassan Diamonds is located at NieuweUilenburgerstraat 173-175 - 1011LN Amsterdam. Like Coster Diamonds, Gassan Diamonds is a factory and a showroom, all rolled into one. You can sample not only loose diamonds but also a wide assortment of diamond jewelry. The factory was established in 1945, right after the end of World War 2. The founder, Samuel Gassan, started a company that traded in both raw and cut diamonds.
Gassan Diamonds employs staff who speak multiple languages and are always happy to take you through breathtaking tours of the factory's history. You will learn about the origin of diamonds and the cutting process and have the rare privilege of viewing the GASSAN 121. GASSAN 121 is an iconic diamond famous for its many dimensions. The additional facets account for its beauty and brilliance. Though it originally came in 57 aspects, GASSAN 121 has since been developed into 121 facets.
As a jewelry retailer, Gassan is the preeminent leader in the fields of Haute Horlogerie and Haute Joaillerie. You will find their shops on the ground floor, where they feature an extensive range of diamond jewelry. The company primarily works with high-end brands, which speaks to the elegance and prestigious nature of their jewelry. Gassan is open every day from 09:00 to 17:00. To have a splendid experience while touring the company, remember to secure an appointment first.
Here is another factory that enjoys a colorful history as a diamond polisher. Amstel Diamonds offers both vintage and contemporary diamond designs. The company also promises a lifetime warranty on their treated diamonds. Plus, you get a 7-day viewing period.
Amstel is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm, and on Sunday from 10 am - 5 pm. Customer service here is exceptional. The company will take you through a journey of discovery before you can find your preferred diamonds.
The Royal Asscher Diamond Company
The Asscher dynasty owns the Royal Asscher Diamond Company. The company's history goes back to 1854 when the Asscher family of diamond experts founded it. The famous Asscher cut, designed and commissioned by Joseph Asscher, gave this company quite some spotlight during the 1920s and 30s.
However, the company was already a household name years before that. As a significant diamond cutter, its role was cemented back in 1908, when King Edward VII of Great Britain commissioned Asscher to cleave Cullinan. Cullinan was a 3,106-carat, which to date remains one of the largest diamond finds.
Joseph Asscher was able to cut up to nine pieces from Cullinan. The largest of these cuts is a 530.20-carat Cullinan I, also known as the Great Star of Africa. The second-largest is the 317.4-carat Cullinan II, commonly referred to as the Second Star of Africa. These two diamonds form part of the UK Crown Jewels. Seven other diamonds, weighing 208.29 carats in total, are under Queen Elizabeth II's private ownership.
Royal Asscher is presently one of the most successful diamond companies in the world. Besides Amsterdam, the company has jewelry stores in Japan and China.
The Diamond Stock Exchange
The Diamond Stock Exchange, locally known as De AmsterdamseDiamantbeurs, was established in 1870. It is the oldest diamond exchange center in the world. De AmsterdamseDiamantbeurs is not primarily a diamond cutting factory, nor is it a jewelry vendor. Instead, it is more like a regulatory body that enforces the rules of the diamond trade.
The Diamond Exchange faced invasions during the Second World War. Most traders were forced to flee Holland, and those that remained had their merchandise confiscated. However, it eventually survived those onslaughts, and operations resumed as usual. On January 1, 2019, the Bourse moved to Amstelveen, a short distance from Amsterdam.
Besides the diamond factories discussed here, which also double up as jewelry outlets, Amsterdam is home to many other renowned diamond vendors. Examples include Cartier, located at PC Hooftstraat 132-134, 1071 CE Amsterdam and Zazare Diamonds, at Weteringschans 89, 1017 RZ Amsterdam. Another reputable merchant is Swarovski, situated at Kalverstraat 113, 1012 PA Amsterdam. Each of these stores prides itself on providing unique pieces of diamonds. You can choose your desired setting and cut, after which it takes roughly half an hour for the jewel to be ready.
Is It Easy to Buy Diamonds in Amsterdam?
Compared to most cities globally, it is reasonably easy to buy diamonds in Amsterdam due to the presence of old diamond factories. The factories offer unique tours to their clients so that you can learn as much as possible before making your purchase. Additionally, these factories strive to maintain the best industry practices, which is in line with fostering Amsterdam's reputation as a favorite global diamond city.
Another benefit of Amsterdam diamond cutting and polishing factories is their highly-trained staff. It would be best if you remember that most companies have retained their traditional Jewish laborers. As mentioned, the diamond cutting and polishing expertise of the Jews goes back in time. Therefore, if you desire professionally-cut and meticulously-polished gems, Amsterdam is the go-to place.
After processing their diamonds, the companies subject the jewels to professional grading processes before allowing them into their showrooms. If you choose to buy diamonds from these factories, you will likely get fair bargains too. As you may have gathered, the companies mainly offer their gems at wholesale prices. The same applies to most diamond vendors in the city. But for small-scale independent merchants, you should exercise due diligence when purchasing diamonds. Ensure that their diamonds are ethically obtained and professionally-graded.
Amsterdam may have gone through rough times in a bid to maintain its image as a global diamond hub, though for the most part, the city remains an ideal diamond trading center. Through its numerous diamond factories, you can seamlessly shop for diamonds as you also learn. The best part is that you can have the stone customized to your needs right on your watch.