I recently had the pleasure of visiting Antwerp, Belgium, the city which handles 80 percent of the world's rough diamonds after they are mined and over 50 percent of the world's precious-stone-quality diamonds. If you're interested in diamonds, the 500 year old traditions in Antwerp are a must-see. You'll want to visit the diamond district, which is a relatively small area (only about a square kilometer), but packs a plethora of jewelry stores and diamond dealers, many at terrific prices -- even with the exchange rate being as unfavorable as it is.
If you're new to diamonds and concerned you might be swindled, you've still come to the right place; it's easy to do your research and learn the A to Z (or, rather, the D to Z) of diamonds in Antwerp. The first stop I would recommend is DiamondLand, an internationally renowned diamond dealer and diamond information center. Free tours are available daily at 11:00 AM, except Sundays, and include a lesson in where diamonds are mined, how they are made, the quality terminology and an opportunity to see a real diamond cutter at work. Secondly, for an even more in-depth look at the diamond industry and its worldwide impact, The Diamond Museum (open daily except Wednesdays) is just a short walk from there. Be sure and get the audio guide; you won't get much information without it.
With no further ado, here are 10 Things You Probably Don't Know About Diamonds, which I picked up in Antwerp:
1. Diamonds cut before 1950 are shaped differently from most diamonds cut since then (today). The "Antwerp Cut" was developed in the 50s; they found a shallower geometry which distributes more light (more sparkle). See the gallery for a diagram.
2. You can be a real diamond miner for a day in Canada. There are two mines in Canada, Diavik and Ekati. They are extremely difficult to get to, but if you visit, you can pick up diamonds, and they'll pay you for what you find.
3. If you do this at any other diamond mine, you will probably be shot. At least that's what my tour guide said.