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Antwerp, Belgium: Rock City

Words by Courtney Kellar

While some individual’s dream honeymoon involves a sandy beach and frozen beverage (umbrella included), I rather see romance as exploring a historic European city with an umbrella of the rainy variety. I recently traveled to Antwerp, Belgium on a mission to discover diamonds…lots and lots of diamonds. While this classified as a research trip for work (lucky me), I fell in love with more than the sparkling priceless commodities the city is known for. 

Located an hour’s drive outside of Belgium’s capital city of Brussels, Antwerp has all the makings of a romantic fantasy: historic European charm, world-class shopping and mouth-watering cuisine. Frankly, you can’t go wrong with a destination known for its chocolate, waffles, frites and beer. Luckily, charming Antwerp is pedestrian-friendly and you can stroll from one side of the city to the other in roughly 30 minutes – allowing you to walk off all those recently consumed calories.

At one point in history, Antwerp was the second largest city in Europe – surpassed only by Paris. The comparisons don’t end there with charming cafés like Del Rey Chocolates and mesmerizing architecture like the Antwerpen-Centraal, deemed one of the finest train stations in the world. For a convenient place to rest your head, the Hilton Antwerp Old Town is located in a gorgeous former grand bazar right in the middle of the city.

To explore more of Belgium, day trips to nearby Ghent or Bruges are wonderful options. Ghent offers a rare look inside Medieval Europe with its historic architecture and meandering canals. The Saint Bavo Cathedral is the centerpiece of the city and home to the infamous Ghent Altarpiece. 

If you’re looking for a romantic honeymoon destination outside of the norm, Antwerp’s cobblestoned streets and spiraling architecture will quickly capture your imagination. 

Diamond Hunting in Belgium

After a recent, all-access look inside Antwerp’s diamond industry, we came away informed, inspired and itching to shop. Diamonds inspire love and symbolize commitment and, after learning about what it takes to get these precious stones from the recesses of the earth and on to your ring finger, it’s easy to see why. Our generous hosts, Tolkowsky and Kay Jewelers, taught us five lesser-known facts about the iconic diamond. 

  1. According to HRD Antwerp, a professional diamond certification company, the amount of pressure necessary to create a diamond is equivalent to resting the Eiffel Tower on your fingertip.
  2. Antwerp's Tolkowsky family has been in the diamond industry for seven generations, but it was Marcel Tolkowsky who revolutionized the industry. He established the precise proportions needed to maximize a diamond’s brilliance and dispersion of light. Thus, the Ideal Cut was born.
  3. The U.S. is the #1 consuming market of diamonds – making up roughly 40%. In terms of what’s popular, the round brilliant is first, princess cut second and cushion cut third.
  4. Of the 4Cs of diamonds (cut, clarity, carat and color), it’s the cut that is the most important according to Master Diamond Cutter Jean Paul Tolkowsky. This is the only aspect which is determined by craftsmanship and for which the high quality can be seen clearly with the naked eye.
  5. The world’s largest, D flawless diamond is the Centenary Diamond polished by Gabi Tolkowsky and coming in at 273.85 carats. Known as the leading Master Diamond Cutter in the world, Gabi also created the Golden Jubilee, the largest facetted diamond in the world at 545.67 carats. 

Both round Ideal Cut and princess Ideal Cut Tolkowsky diamonds are sold exclusively with Kay Jewelers in the U.S.. For five more fun facts about diamonds and the Tolkowsky brand, visit destinationido.com/tolkowsky.

Photos courtesy of (in order of appearance): Courtney Cox (1st, 2nd, 3rd & 5th) and Kay.com (4th).

This article first appeared in Destination I Do's Fall/Winter 2015 issue. You can order a copy here.

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