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Antwerp Diamond Industry Celebrates ‘100 Years Brilliant’

It held a street festival to pay tribute to the brilliant.

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(PRESS RELEASE) 100 years ago, Antwerp engineer Marcel Tolkowsky was the first person to scientifically determine the perfect way to cut a brilliant diamond. This is not an anniversary the Antwerp diamond industry could let pass by without notice. The Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) held a street festival to pay tribute to the most iconic and successful diamond cut in history: the brilliant.

Antwerp is home to the largest, oldest and most transparent diamond trade centre in the world. Since 1447, the date of the first documented reference to a diamond trade in Antwerp, the city has rightfully laid claim to the title of the world’s diamond capital. It therefore comes as no surprise that the most successful diamond cut of all time was created in this city.

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Exactly one hundred years ago, Marcel Tolkowsky, a member of a famous family of Jewish diamond polishers, was the first to scientifically determine the perfect way to cut a diamond: 57 facets precisely positioned in such a way as to achieve the maximum brilliance. The ‘brilliant’ cut quickly conquered the world, and even today remains the most iconic and successful diamond cut globally. The brilliant may rightfully be considered as the most successful invention Belgium has ever produced.
The Antwerp diamond industry celebrated this anniversary today with a street festival in the diamond district. During this celebration, the AWDC also launched a unique project: “100 Years Brilliant”.

“The industry arranged to have 57 well-known (and not-so-well-known) residents of Antwerp polish a single diamond: one person for each facet of a brilliant,” explains Ari Epstein, CEO AWDC. “In this way, ‘t Steentje – which is how the diamond industry is referred to in the local vernacular – will represent the multicultural character and diversity of the Antwerp diamond industry. Once the stone is finished, it will be exhibited in the DIVA diamond museum.”

The first facet of the stone was polished by Constantinus ‘Stan’ Hunselmans, who shares his year of birth with the brilliant. “I celebrated my 100th birthday on January 14, and it is an honor that I was chosen to polish the first facet. It went really well. If I were a little bit younger, I might have considered a career switch,” he said, laughing.

Minister Philippe De Backer was invited to polish a facet, as were Erik Michiels and Jo De Backer, the respective CEOs of Bentley Antwerp and NIKO – two companies that are also celebrating their 100th anniversary, and therefore originated in the same year as the brilliant.

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Suske & Wiske also took a turn polishing ‘t Steentje: “As Antwerp comic-book heroes, we were very pleased to receive this invitation. It was a unique experience to polish a facet of this dazzling diamond, guided by master polisher Gabriel Tolkowsky,” the comic-book characters said.

Jean-Marie Pfaff, Antwerp’s Alderman for the Diamond Trade Ludo Van Campenhout and ‘professional Antwerpian’ Tanguy Ottomer were just a few of the many guests invited to polish a piece of history.

The leading lady of Belgian fashion, Anne Chapelle, was also on hand for the occasion: “Just like Antwerp lives and breathes fashion, it radiates diamonds,” she said. “Both of these sectors have put Antwerp on the map for years, and their talent and expertise will ensure they do so for years to come. I am therefore a proud ambassadress of ‘t Steentje in Antwerp, and I feel very honored to have been able to polish a facet here today.”

The diamond will continue being polished in the coming weeks, and all the residents of Antwerp will also have the opportunity to experience what it feels like to polish a diamond. On Saturday, 1 June, a pop-up polishing studio will be set up at the DIVA Museum, and on Sunday 2 June, you are invited to polish a facet on the Steenhouwersvest.

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