Antwerp Automates Diamond Polishing Process
The Scientific and Technological Research Center for Diamonds (WTOCD) is the collective research centre of the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), the umbrella organisation for the Antwerp diamond industry. The WTOCD has developed FENIX, a revolutionary technology that fully automates the diamond polishing process. This technology fundamentally transforms that process, which has not changed since the 15th century.
In 1456, Lodewijck Van Bercken, a 15th-century jeweller and diamond cutter in Antwerp, discovered that diamond could be polished with diamond. Since then, all diamonds— regardless how small—have largely been polished by hand. This is a time-consuming and labour-intensive process, which has been employed in Antwerp with declining frequency due to the comparatively high wages paid to labourers.
After more than ten years of research, the WTOCD has succeeded in developing a technology that fully automates the polishing process. As a result, diamond can be polished 10 to 20 times faster than by hand. Thanks to this technology, a stone that would typically consume an entire day can now be polished in one-and-a-half hours.
Ari Epstein, CEO of the AWDC, said, “This discovery fundamentally changes the diamond polishing process. Today’s wages simply make it too expensive to conduct this labour-intensive job in our country. FENIX puts an end to this, and can therefore be a real game-changer for the Antwerp diamond industry.”
In addition to being fast, FENIX is also extremely accurate and revolutionary in the way it polishes diamonds. Yves Kerremans, CEO of the WTOCD, added, “Each diamond has a specific grain, a crystal orientation that has to be taken into account during the polishing process. This grain is in part the reason that diamond polishing is such a labour-intensive process. FENIX is the first technology that makes grain independent polishing possible, and which furthermore increases the speed of the polishing process by a factor of 10 to 20.”
FENIX is currently undergoing thorough testing by Antwerp diamond companies. Starting in September, the first machines utilising this technology invented in Antwerp will become operational.