Image: HB Antwerp logo

The diamond company HB Antwerp wants to train and recruit eighty diamond polishers in the next two years. For this purpose it is setting up its own training center.

HB Antwerp is located in the diamond district. It employs 85 people and cuts diamonds for the luxury brand Louis Vuitton, among others.

We are going to train those people ourselves,” says spokesperson Margaux Donckier. “There is a diamond cutting training course in Antwerp, but it is organized at irregular times. It only happens when different companies want to recruit diamond polishers in the same period. We can’t wait for that, so we are starting our own training center. We will start in September. A basic training course lasts twelve weeks each time.

No degree required

Anyone can apply. A degree is not required. “There is, however, a rigorous selection test, which tests technical skills and mathematical understanding,” says Margaux Donckier. “In the first series, we will train eight people. We want to organize the training three times a year. Starting in 2023, sixteen candidates will be admitted per session. Those who pass will automatically be offered a job with us.

Simon Rubbrecht has already completed a twelve-week series of classes. He took part in the general training course organized jointly by several companies. “Next week I start working at HB Antwerp,” says Simon. “That is first for six months through individual professional training. If that goes well, I will be hired permanently. I’ve known the diamond sector for several years, but as a security guard for Securitas. I did the surveillance in the diamond district. Due to corona, this was no longer necessary because people were working from home. So I ended up as a security guard in a supermarket and then in the port. But I wanted to do something else. When I heard that a training course for diamond polishers was being organized, I immediately signed up,” Simon says.

Give sparkle to diamond

The Hoboken (Antwerp) native does not regret his choice. “I had never held a diamond before this training. But in the past three months I have learned an awful lot,” says Simon. “For example, I looked at a diamond with a microscope and learned what it looks like inside and how it is cut. As a polisher, I have to brilliantize a diamond. This gives it more sparkle. There is a lot of precision work involved. Everything has to be finished nicely symmetrically. You have to have a good eye and a lot of patience. Actually, I’m tinkering all the time, which is what I like to do.

Competing with India

Why is HB Antwerp suddenly recruiting so many polishers? “Because we are growing strongly,” says Margaux Donckier. “Today, most rough diamonds are cut in India, because the labor costs are lower there. Our sophisticated polishing machines now allow us to compete with India. To operate those polishing machines, we need polishers. Moreover, Asian and American customers, for example, attach great importance to the fact that a diamond is completely made in Antwerp. Just like watches for a certain audience have to come from Switzerland and shoes from Italy.

HB Antwerp is also going to train some diamond planners. These are people who determine how many diamonds can be extracted from a particular stone. “For these positions we are mainly aiming at engineers and people with a technical background,” says Margaux Donckier.

The company will also organize courses for jewelers, so they can better answer their customers’ questions about diamonds.

Praise from Mayor De Wever

Antwerp Mayor Bart De Wever (N-VA) is delighted with the HB Antwerp training center. “The influx of the few training courses in diamonds that were left in Antwerp is drying up. It was an ending story. HB Antwerp is reversing that trend,” he says.

In 1914, Gazet van Antwerpen wrote in an article that it is better to know a craft than to go into business. I think this is still true today. Good artisans like diamond polishers always find work.