If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, then Antwerp is the friendliest city there is – seeing how it is the world’s most important diamond cutting center.

The de facto ‘diamond capital’ earns this sparkly moniker by handling roughly 80% of all rough diamonds, 50% of all cut diamonds and over 50% of all rough, cut and industrial diamonds combined. Sixteen billion dollars worth of polished diamonds pass through the exchange each year. They also have the largest selection in the world and, therefore, are able to offer the lowest prices – often 30-70% lower prices than you’ll find at home (making it the perfect place to celebrate an exciting anniversary, birthday or other fun milestone… do you really need a reason?!).

Antwerp’s diamond dealers are renowned for their meticulous artistry and each stone sold here is guaranteed conflict-free in compliance with UN resolutions – each invoice must state this clearly. Antwerp has been at the center of the diamond trade since the 1400s and the city takes pride in its dazzling heritage and artistry. In addition to diamond jewelry, you can also find other unique designs with different stones if that is your preference.

As always, buyer beware – you’ll want to know what you’re purchasing to make sure you’re getting the diamond you’re paying for. Familiarize yourself with the ‘four c’s’ – cut, clarity, carats and color. The diamond district is centered around the street called “Pelikaanstraat.” The District is closed on Saturdays.

Of course, Belgium has long been a center of fashion too, dating back to its Golden Age in the 1500s. Renowned for lace making, dyes, weaving and tapestry work, Antwerp has been at the forefront of style for centuries. Flemish painters who called Antwerp home include Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony von Dijck, whose work detailed the fashions of the time, influencing their contemporaries and providing historical insights into Flemish fashions. Antwerp then fell off the fashion map for some time until the 1980s, when the ‘Antwerp 6’ drove over to London’s Fashion Week and staged their slick, counterculture designs. The world took notice and Antwerp (and Belgium) were back on every fashionista’s map.

The six designers now have labels sold in countries all over the world, including the US, with boutiques right in Antwerp. It’s worth a trip to shop – or even stroll through and window shop -- in any of their stores. Or check out some boutiques of the Antwerp designers who’ve come after. Recognizable names such as Peter Pilotto (who’s dressed everyone from Michelle Obama to Kerry Washington and Sandra Bullock). Stores aren’t open every day so you may want to find out their hours ahead of time if there’s particular boutiques you’re hoping to make in in to. Most shops are open every first Sunday of the month.

Even if you choose not to take a stroll through the fashion district, you won’t be able to help but soak up at least some of the city’s style as you wander through the city on any of AmaWaterways’ walking tours.

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