Jewellery, silversmithing and diamonds
DIVA, Antwerp Home of Diamonds, the new international diamond museum with a heart beating for silversmithing in Antwerp, takes you on an emotional, interactive journey that explores the different aspects of silversmithing, jewellery and of course first and foremost diamonds. It is an introduction to the fascinating history of silversmithing in Antwerp and to the craftsmanship, trade and consumption of luxury products in our diamond centre of the world.
DIVA is the new name for Antwerp’s amalgamated Silver Museum and Diamond Museum. The emphasis is on diamonds, for the city-on-the-Scheldt’s economy has revolved around diamonds for centuries. At the same the museum is so much more than diamonds. Thanks in no small part to the exceptional collection of silverware from the former Silver Museum, it is the bridge to the world in which diamonds are truly at home, the world of glamour and luxury, the world of jewellers and silversmiths.
Exceptional silver collection
DIVA's silver collection is impressive to say the least. Deriving from the former Silver Museum in Sterckshof Castle in Deurne, the collection consists of some 1,400 silver artefacts, reflecting half a millennium of Belgian silversmithing. Best represented in the collection is silver from Antwerp, and in particular from the time of the ancien régime (the system of government prior to the French Revolution in 1789). The collection is particularly well endowed with tableware, but it also boasts items of guild and ecclesiastical silver, toilet accessories, and even a collection of curiosities. The collection tells the story of opulent Antwerp, Flanders and Belgium.
Location steeped in history
Behind Antwerp Town Hall, where DIVA is located, traces are still to be found of a neighbourhood where for more than 500 years silversmiths lived, worked and sold their products. It has been a vibrant commercial hub particularly since Antwerp’s Golden Age. Buildings sport names like ‘De Gulden Sterre’ (The Golden Star) where goldsmith Jacob van der Vijlen ‘served’ two shops in 1497, and ‘Den Luipaert’ (The Leopard) which housed the workshops of countless gold and silversmiths. Not far away are the houses where artists Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1690) and Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678) were born. Hofstraat is home to ‘Den Rhyn’ (The Rhine) behind which is a sixteenth-century building with enclosed courtyard, the site of Antwerp’s first commodity exchange which was connected to ‘the silversmiths’ guildhall’. Also close by, on the corner of de Grote and de Kleine Koraalberg, is the building which was named ‘Den Coraeltack’ (Coral House) in 1579. It was the preserve of jewellers and merchants specialized in precious stones. Finally, located close to Zilversmidstraat since 1307 are the living quarters of silversmiths, chasers and embossers.
These historic extracts contextualize the museum and unearth a treasure trove of stories which provide a framework for objects from its collection and for its products. The DIVA Atelier, an ultra-modern atelier for silversmithing workshops and master-classes located on the DIVA site, also links up with this dazzling history.