The World's Biggest Diamond Museum Has Reopened, And It's Stunning

The International Trading Room in DIVA
The International Trading Room in DIVA | © DIVA / Sven Coubergs
Photo of Ester Meerman
17 May 2018

Each day, around 220 million dollars worth of diamonds pass through Antwerp’s Diamond Quarter. The district has a turnover of 54 billion dollars a year, making it one of the top-grossing areas in the world. For a city that prides itself on being the diamond capital of the world, it was rather curious Antwerp didn’t have a diamond museum for several years. This wrong has now been righted and tourists can learn all about the city’s rich diamond history at the newly opened DIVA Museum.

DIVA is not an abbreviation, but refers to the Italian word diva, which means goddess and is commonly used to describe successful female opera stars and women who are difficult to please. The stereotypical diva usually wears diamonds.

The International Trading room teaches visitors how to tell a real diamond from a fake one. | © DIVA / Sven Coubergs

The DIVA Museum’s collection holds over 600 objects. Most objects on display were not simply chosen for their monetary value, DIVA spokeswoman Suzanne de Lange explains to Culture Trip. ‘Of course, most jewellery has high value, but we wanted to emphasise the cultural importance of these pieces over their price. Diamonds are a big part of Antwerp’s history and still play a very important role in today’s local economy and culture. The museum honours and explains that heritage’.

This piece of jewellery in the shape of a snake can be used as a bracelet or a necklace. | © Dominique Provost

In size, DIVA certainly makes up for Antwerp not having had a diamond museum for so long. With 1,200 square metres of exhibition space and 5,617 square metres of total space – including a gift shop, administration and event halls – DIVA is the biggest diamond museum in the world.

The DIVA museum is right in the centre of Antwerp. | © DIVA / Frederik Beyens

Its tours revolve around six themed rooms. There is a life-size replica of a diamond vault, which explains the various certificates and checks involved in deciding the value of a diamond and making sure it isn’t fake. Visitors also learn about several types of diamond crimes and what is being done to prevent them.

A life-size vault is one of the six themed rooms in DIVA. | © DIVA / Sven Coubergs

In the Atelier, guests learn all there is to know about diamond processing and silversmithing and in the International Trading Room, the history of diamond trade in Antwerp is told. Several animated short films featuring important historical figures and their roles in the Antwerp diamond trade are shown.

This peacock shaped brooch is a technical masterpiece, with pearls, sapphire, emerald, ruby and diamonds. | © White Light

More local history is on display in the Dining Room, where etiquette rules and luxury consumption among Antwerp’s noble families is explained. The Wunderkammer holds some of the more exotic pieces in the DIVA collection and details where they are from and how they made it to Antwerp. Finally, in the Boudoir Room, some of the most exquisite pieces of the collection are shown. Of course, the museum shop is run by a jeweller.

The Wunderkammer holds a collection of silverware, jewellery, precious stones and exotic curiosities like coconuts, shells and coral. | © DIVA / Sven Coubergs

The new museum is a replacement for both the previous Diamond Museum in Antwerp and the Sterckshof Silver Museum in the Antwerp’s district of Deurne. The former Diamond Museum opened in 1972 and moved to a different location in 1988 and again, in 2002. In 2012, it was shut down to make space for the expansion of the Koningin Elisabethzaal, a concert hall that is home to the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra. The top pieces from the former Diamond Museum, therefore, found a temporary home in the Museum aan de Stroom.

The Dining room sheds light on the use of silver and the different lifestyles of rich and poor. | © DIVA / Sven Coubergs

The Silver Museum in Deurne opened in 1992 and was housed in a castle called Sterckshof. By 2014, it was in desperate need of renovations, but because the Sterckshof is classified as a protected monument, the necessary construction was not allowed and the museum was forced to close down.

A visitor using an interactive display at DIVA. | © DIVA / Sven Coubergs

During DIVA’s opening weekend, a new world record was set for diamond cutting. Over a period of 57 hours, five diamond cutters took turns in continuously cutting a stone. The number 57 wasn’t chosen randomly: a diamond has 57 facets.

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