Gassan Diamonds

Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat 173
J.W. Meijer
Bedrijven, Commercieel

The old diamond-cutting factory of the Boas brothers on Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat was built during the so-called Kaapse Tijd (Cape Period) (1870-1880). This was the heyday of Amsterdam’s diamond industry, following the discovery of large quantities of diamonds in the river Vaal in South Africa. When the Boas factory on Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat was built it was immediately the city’s largest diamond-cutting factory, with 357 diamond cutters, 122 menders, 142 apprentices and 52 errand boys.

The diamond-cutting factory, which employed a great many Jewish people, was located in the city’s old Jewish neighbourhood. The complex was built to a design by the architect and mechanical engineer J.W. Meijer. The main building was a 73 metre long and 12 metre wide factory hall, the largest and most advanced in Europe. It was built in a sober neo-classical style, which is particularly evident in the triangular pediments on the cornice. In the raised middle section in the inner courtyard, next to the main entrance, was the engine room with two steam engines. These drove the diamond-cutting machines by means of a system of leather bands. A striking feature is the large number of window panes in the façade, which was necessary in order to provide daylight for the diamond cutters.

Following the collapse of the diamond industry at the end of the twenties, many diamond workers moved to Antwerp. During the Second World War, the factory was seized by the German occupiers. It was only at the end of the twentieth century that the building regained its original function when Samuel Gassan moved in with his company Gassan Diamonds. Although diamonds are still cut here, today the emphasis is on the sale of diamonds, mainly to foreign tourists. (ARCAM/TB)

More information: