Diamond cutting was initially a home industry. The industrialisation led to an increase in scale in the 19th century. The first diamond-cutting factories were driven by horsepower. The upkeep of the horses was expensive. Steam-generated energy was a good alternative. The diamond industry was one of the first industries to switch to steam.
The former diamond cutter building has been used since 1964 by the University of Amsterdam.
The oldest diamond factory
In order to spread the financial risk, 51 jewellers decided to work together in 1845 in the form of the Diamantslijperij Maatschappij (Diamond-cutting company). A new factory was built on the Nieuwe Achtergracht (canal). It is the oldest factory in the city that was built for that specific purpose. The company did not employ any staff, but rather rented out cutting tables per daily shift. It maintained a monopoly on diamond cutting for decades.
The competition increased after 1870. The Diamantslijperij Maatschappij expanded and continued to be one of the largest diamond-cutting factories. New factory buildings were erected along the canal. The entrance gate gave access to the inner courtyard. In 1895, the factory had 613 cutting tables, 430 sawing machines and 10 cutters’ workshops.
University of Amsterdam
The factory continued to exist until 1964, despite the fact that operations ceased during the Second World War. Many of the Jewish diamond-workers were hauled off and killed and no new diamond-cutters presented themselves. The University of Amsterdam put the buildings to use as lecture halls. The heart of the activities centre CREA can be found here today.