Our Amsterdam Canal tour on Saturday ended on the docks of the Gassan Diamond Factory. Here we learned a lot about the diamond trade and the history of the diamond business in Amsterdam.
When the people of the Netherlands finally received their independence from Catholic Spain their new country became a haven for people from other European countries who were being persecuted for their religion. In the 1600s many Sephardic Jews from Portugal fled that country and settled in Amsterdam. A lot of them were involved in the diamond trade with India and also with the cutting and polishing of diamonds. And soon Amsterdam became the Diamond Capital of the World. This position was increased when diamonds were discovered in Africa in the 19th century.
In 1940 Germany took over Amsterdam and deported more than 100,000 Jews, thereby shutting down the diamond industry. After the war business picked up again but by then a number of other cities such as New York in the US and Antwerp in Belgium had delved into the Diamond trade and Amsterdam no longer basks in the diamond glory days. But there are still a lot of diamonds being bought and sold in the city today and there are a number of factories who still open their doors for tourists.
The Gassan tour included a lecture on the different kinds of diamonds and a demonstration on how they are cut and polished. There also were exhibits on some of the most famous diamonds in the world including those that can be found among the crown jewels of England.
Now I have to admit that I was only mildly interested in the subject of diamonds and would not have chosen to come to Gassan if I had a choice. We were told that we could walk or find another means of transportation back to our ship but our bus back to the ship would not be leaving for an hour or so. So we stayed. My wife, always the shopper, was more than mildly interested, though, and was happy to find out that the tour ended (naturally) at the entrance to the company’s store. And when we climbed on the bus she had a bright pink bag full of sparkling stuff.