TULIPS, CYCLES, CLOGS AND… DIAMONDS?
Amsterdam isn’t just famous for its canals and flowers. From the 16th century, it has been an international centre for the diamond trade. Here’s how to come home with a lasting souvenir of your trip.
The leafy streets and serene canals of Amsterdam conceal a turbulent history. The diamond trade began as a result of persecuted and traumatised Jews fleeing the Catholic countries of Southern Europe in the early 17th century.
Permitted to settle in this more liberal, primarily Protestant city, the Portuguese jewellers brought with them their diamond cutting and polishing skills, and set up their businesses to provide the opulent courts of Europe with their lordly bling. Amsterdam became the point from which nearly all the diamonds of Europe were distributed.
"Amsterdam became the point from which nearly all the diamonds of Europe were distributed..."
The profession boomed- some struck it rich, while others developed tuberculosis from breathing in a constant, fine mist of diamond dust. The later discovery of diamonds in South Africa – colonised by the Dutch- cemented Amsterdam’s importance in the diamond trade. Now, international diamond traders still meet in the city, gazing into briefcases that radiate icy light like Hollywood villains - and diamonds are still sold here.
The Diamond Museum, created by the Coster Diamonds trading firm, explores the history of the city’s diamond trade, and it’s still possible to tour the factories of diamond firms Gassan or Coster- the very firm which cut the legendary 5000 year old Koh-i-noor diamond –and then buy your own (perhaps somewhat smaller) version.
"When it comes to buying diamonds, there isn't really such a thing as a bargain..."
If you do decide to make a purchase, here’s what you should know:
Diamond expert Anthony Hayes, of Hertfordshire-based Anthony Hayes jewellery, is the fourth generation of jewellers in his family, and has been working with diamonds since 1986. He says:
DON’T BAG A BARGAIN
When it comes to buying diamonds, there isn't really such a thing as a bargain but prices will vary slightly from shop to shop. Be wary if someone tries to sell you a 'bargain'.
LOOK FOR THE 4Cs
To avoid being ripped off you have to try and find a retailer you feel you can trust. All diamonds these days are monitored by The Kimberly Process which ensures they are ethically sourced. Look for the 4 Cs to guide you.
They are Cut, colour, clarity and carat. Certificates are available with some stones to help prove their quality but if you can trust the retailer you are dealing with, this shouldn't really be necessary.
CUT IS KEY
In my opinion the most important part of buying a diamond is the cut. The cut should be a symmetrical cut to give the diamond the maximum sparkle. Obviously colour, clarity and carat are also important but these are all personal choice.
BIGGER IS BETTER
Diamonds generally hold their prices and more than not will increase in value. Obviously the bigger and better the stone the rarer it is and so the more the value will increase.
IT’S QUALITY OR SIZE
The most important criteria to ensure you are buying a piece of jewellery you can treasure will vary from person to person.*Everyone has a budget and you will have to decide if you want to spend that budget on the size of the stone rather than quality or quality rather than size. If you can remember that generally you have to compromise then you will always find a piece of jewellery to treasure.
Images courtesy of Loudbird PR and Amsterdam Diamond Museum.