Antwerp is considered the capital of the diamond industry. In the Diamantkwartier (the “Diamond Quarter”) there are around 1500 companies and 4 diamond trading exchanges. Cutting and trading diamonds is a 500-year-old tradition in Antwerp, and nowadays the city is also known for its famous quality label, CUT IN ANTWERP, one of the major international guarantees in the gem cutting industry.
In the XVI century Antwerp became the most important commercial republic in the Western world. It had the monopoly on diamonds and acted like an intermediary between the biggest Southern German towns and the final market destination: Bruges.
Even though Bruges had maintained a prominent position until the end of the XIV century, its economy had started to slow down due to the progressive silting of the river Zwin, which had connected Bruges to the North Sea since 1134.
Therefore, together with other businesses, the core of the diamond trade gradually moved from Bruges to Antwerp, which could offer better trading services. At the end of the XVII century, the same happened with Amsterdam, which benefited from religious freedom and advanced civil rights.
One of the main characteristics of Antwerp is the presence of a large Jewish community, mostly concentrated in the Diamond Quarter which, as a matter of fact, is vastly controlled by Jewish and Indian merchants.
In Antwerp, more than 80% of the Jewish businesses revolves around the diamond trade.
Antwerp is not only famous as the Queen of Diamonds or t stad (“The city”). It’s the most beautiful city in the country. Or, as its citizens say, the center… because everything else is just parking.
Are they arrogant? No, they are just proud of their capital, and rightfully so.
It’s impossible to resist the allure of Antwerp’s architecture. The magnificent Central Station, famous buildings such as the MAS, medieval palaces like the Town Hall, the beautiful buildings surrounding the main square., the new Port House by Zaha Hadid, the contemporary building of the courthouse and Antwerp’s Art Nouveau masterpieces.
But Antwerp is also a famous shopping destination in the Flanders. And it’s not surprising, since it was already one of the richest cities in Europe in the XVI century.
In the XVII century, among its most prominent citizens we can find two masters of the Flemish Baroque painting: Pieter Paul Rubens and Antoon van Dyck.
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