The Koninklijke Asscher Diamant Maatschappij (Royal Asscher Diamond Company) was established in 1854, a time in which cutting rough stones to turn them into sparkling diamonds was increasingly being done with steam-powered grinding wheels. During this golden age of the Amsterdam diamond industry, numerous large factory workshops were constructed for cleaving and cutting the diamonds.

The building of I.J. Asscher diamond factory in the Tolstraat.

The world’s biggest diamonds

Shortly after the construction of the new diamond company building, the English king gave Asscher the prestigious assignment of cutting the largest diamond ever found, the Cullinan, to create the two largest diamonds in the world. They were incorporated into the British Crown Jewels: the Imperial State Crown and the Imperial Sceptre, both of which can be seen at the Tower of London.

Interior of I.J. Asscher diamond factory, ca. 1930. Photo: Vereenigde Fotobureaux N.V.

Jewish craftsmanship

During its heyday, Asscher employed 300 (predominantly Jewish) workers. They lived in the neighbourhood of the factory, to which names like Diamantstraat (Diamond Street), Saffierstraat (Sapphire Street) and Smaragdstraat (Emerald Street) still refer. Abraham Asscher was active for a large number of Jewish organizations. In 1941 the first meeting of the Joodse Raad (Jewish Council) took place in Asscher’s office on Tolstraat.

The left wing still displays the Asscher family name, 1978

New function

The Asscher company still maintains an office in the wing of the building, but diamonds are no longer cut here. On the initiative of Stichting Amsterdam Photo (Amsterdam Photo Foundation), the rest of the former factory has been redesignated as ‘Cultuurhuis Diamantslijperij’ (Diamond Company House of Culture).