In row upon row of glossy mahogany and glass cabinets loose diamonds are sprinkled inside display cabinets, overlooked by elegantly pared-down stud earrings and a lattice brooch that has the grandiose appeal of a family heirloom. This is Diamondland, inside Gassan Diamonds’ factory.
Diamondland, on Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat, is just one section of the 19th-century diamond-polishing factory which has been re-invigorated by the Gassan family. Overlooking one of Amsterdam’s most picturesque canals, this is also the home of Gassan Diamonds’ flagship store, where its own gems sit alongside those of Chopard, Gucci, Longines, Swarovski and Omega.
While the big-name houses of Paris may lay claim to dominating the jewellery world, Gassan Diamonds has been putting Amsterdam on the international jewellery map for over half a century since Samuel Gassan set up his diamond business in 1945. The first registered diamond polisher was in Amsterdam - as records from 1586 prove – and the art of polishing, perfecting and honing precious stones into the Amsterdam Cut has passed down through generations of diamond polishers.
It was into this world that Gassan charged headlong, using the city’s bustling canals to import and export rough and polished diamonds alongside coloured stones. The business thrived and the grand factory building that is now the headquarters of Gassan Diamonds was acquired, taking pride of place in the centre of the city.
What set Gassan apart from his contemporaries was that he understood the public’s fascination with the mystery and allure of diamonds: he took the unheard-of decision to throw open the doors of Gassan Diamonds’ factory and to allow tourists and enthusiasts alike to watch the polishers at work, explore the workrooms, observe the diamonds in their raw form and ask questions.
Today, educational tours are a key part of the experience at Gassan Diamonds. The factory in Amsterdam also offers the chance to glimpse behind the scenes of the ‘laboratory’, where diamonds are tested for degrees of purity. The importance of family heritage pervades Gassan Diamonds: the business is now overseen by Samuel’s grandson, Benno Leeser, and the factory has a Grandfather’s Room devoted to the man who founded what is now an international brand.
As with Samuel’s innovative mission to welcome visitors into his factory, the company has striven to break new ground in the jewellery arena. It was the first, in 1967, to open a tax-free diamond store in Amsterdam airport, foreseeing that the time-poor, cash-rich traveller would appreciate having luxury at his or her fingertips while jetting city to city; it went on to launch in airports across the globe.
Gassan Diamonds, Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat 173-175, 1011 LN, Amsterdam, +31 (0)20 622 5333