Antwerp Creating Value Together
Antwerp Creating Value Together
Creating value together. Connecting Antwerp’s savoir-faire with the power of technology to create a modern, sustainable ecosystem for the natural diamond trade. Ushering in a bold new era of price transparency, rough diamond utilization and product ingenuity.
HB Antwerp aims at nothing less than turning the diamond supply chain upside down, starting with the customer. By using the latest technologies, we are able to introduce simplicity and transparency into an historically complex supply chain. By sharing information, we are able to conduct our activities in a closed loop called Signum, located entirely in Antwerp. Backed by the latest innovations and tracked with blockchain, we are able to make the supply chain 100% transparent from diamond mine to market, whilst significantly reducing its carbon footprint.
HB Antwerp was founded at the beginning of 2020 by five partners with a great deal of experience in the diamond sector. Starting from the pain points of this traditional industry – in particular its reputation for opacity and secrecy – HB Antwerp offers a solution that introduces simplicity and clarity into a historically complex supply chain.
From the very beginning, we recognized that achieving the type of transparency needed to restore consumer confidence in the diamond industry and its product would require a new, ambitious strategy. Only by focusing on technology and traceability, we would obtain the desired transparency.
Further, it was clear that the only way to guarantee that our vision could not be compromised was to acquire our rough diamonds directly from the mine and execute the manufacturing process entirely in Antwerp. In doing so, HB Antwerp found a way to succeed where many companies have failed: we have created the conditions for realizing a diamond’s journey from mine to finger in a 100% transparent and sustainable way, resulting in the most transparent and evidenced-based diamond in the world: a signum diamond.
Very quickly, big names like Louis Vuitton saw the added value of this way of working. Forming a partnership with HB Antwerp and Canadian diamond producer Lucara Diamond Corp., which owns and operates the world-class Karowe mine in Botswana, Louis Vuitton in 2020 brought two exceptional rough diamonds directly to the consumer: the Sewelo, a black-coated diamond weighing 1,758 carats (the second largest diamond ever recovered), and the Sethunya, an exceptional white diamond weighing 549 carats.
By eliminating superfluous intermediaries and fully committing to cooperation and transparency, the partners forming this unique collaboration have ensured that the consumer finally gets to hear the whole story of her or his Signum-diamond: from the discovery of the rough stone in the mine to the beautifully polished diamond jewel one shows off to the world.
Technology brings the polishing process back to Antwerp
HB Antwerp brings rough diamonds directly from the mine to Antwerp for analysis, planning and polishing in its own, high-tech production facility. The polished Signum-diamonds only leave Antwerp once they are ready to be delivered to a jeweller who transforms the beautiful stones into a jewel.
The key that unlocks the potential of Antwerp’s newest diamond manufacturer is innovation. When it comes to analyzing, measuring, weighing, sawing, cutting, lasering and polishing diamonds, HB Antwerp uses the most advanced, cutting-edge technology, most of which was developed in-house. This enables us to conduct the entire processing process from rough to polished diamond in HB Antwerp’s high-tech production line.
The real game-changer in this production line is the Fenix – the only fully-automated diamond polishing robot in the world. The technological breakthroughs integrated in the Fenix, which were fully developed in the City of Antwerp, enables it to cut a diamond 10 to 30 times faster than by a traditional diamond polisher. By automating a process that has largely been done by hand since the 15th century, the Fenix makes it possible for the high-tech production line of HB Antwerp to compete with the speed and the cost of a factory that requires hundreds of traditional diamond polishers to perform the same work.
Thanks to HB Antwerp, and after decades of seemingly irreversible decline, we are proud to say that the diamond industry in Antwerp is growing again for the first time since the 1970s. In 2020, just its first year of production, HB Antwerp manufactured $50 million worth of diamonds in Antwerp. We expect this number to easily triple over the next two years.
Fair trade diamonds
Innovative technology also enables HB Antwerp to track and trace the entire process from mine to finger. This is crucial for today’s luxury consumers who are much younger on average than they were only five years ago, and are more often female. Millennials and certainly Gen Z are typically more self-confident and informed about the world than prior generations. They demand answers to their questions and attach importance to fair trade. They want to know under what circumstances products were made, what the ecological impact was, the working conditions in which they were produced, and they want to know this about all consumer goods … whether it’s chocolate or diamonds.
HB Antwerp therefore fundamentally alters the traditional way in which diamonds are traded, eliminating all unnecessary intermediaries. So, rather than changing hands 10 to 15 times and being flown back and forth across the world before ending up at a jeweller’s, HB Antwerp’s diamonds follow a simplified trajectory. There are only three links in HB Antwerp’s supply chain: the mine, the manufacturer and the jeweller. HB Antwerp, the middle and most crucial link of this chain, handles the processing of diamonds from rough to polished, as well as the logistics and the transparent sharing of information and reporting between the various partners. This not only simplifies the trade chain, but above all makes it more sustainable, data driven and transparent.
HB Antwerp uses blockchain technology and data visualisation techniques to monitor and map all steps in the process from mine to jewel. HB Antwerp has created an ecosystem called Signum, in which the participating partners exchange information with each other, both on the side of the mines and on the side of the jewellers.
Thanks to this Signum ecosystem, jewellers working together with HB Antwerp are today the only ones who are able to tell their consumers exactly where their Signum-diamond comes from, how it was mined, when it was found, how often it flew around the world, where and by whom it was manufactured, and so on.
Proving the provenance
HB Antwerp very consciously chose the Karowe mine in Botswana as the first mine to cooperate with and develop this new way of working. Botswana is one of the most stable African countries on the African continent, both economically and politically. Moreover, the overall strength of Botswana’s economy is largely due to the trade in diamonds. The government has invested the proceeds from the diamond trade to provide its citizens with free health care and education, as well as making significant improvements to the country’s transport, energy and water infrastructure, all of which benefit the local population.
In addition, the Karowe mine is run by the listed Canadian company Lucara Diamond Corp., which is known for its high-tech methods of producing diamonds. The Karowe mine meets the strictest standards in terms of sustainability, working conditions and environmental impact, and is widely recognized as best in class throughout the industry.
All mines that wish to cooperate with HB Antwerp and tap into its value-adding methodology will be required to meet the same high compliance standards as the Karowe mine. Those that meet these standards will have no problem working in the extremely transparent way that HB Antwerp has established with its Signum ecosystem, and in fact they welcome the opportunity to show consumers where their diamonds come from. The inability to adequately demonstrate the path from mine to retail has for too long cast a shadow on the diamond industry. HB Antwerp’s short supply chain, coupled with its use of innovative ‘track & trace’ technologies, therefore represents a major step forward to creating the confidence today’s consumers demand.
Manufacturing on demand
By incorporating the most innovative technologies in this closed and transparent ecosystem called Signum, HB Antwerp is able to manufacture diamonds based on consumer demand. This methodology is radically different from the traditional way of trading diamonds, where it is not the consumer, but the diamond trader who sells the polished stones to the jeweller that decides how the rough diamond is polished.
It is thanks to its advanced planning technology that HB Antwerp is able to optimally link consumer demand to the available rough goods. Rather than polishing huge quantities of rough diamonds and then hoping to find a buyer, HB Antwerp only polishes those diamonds that have been sold with a specific polished diamond in mind, thereby eliminating excess stock and potential financial losses.
This way of doing things also ensures that consumers are brought back into contact with the original rough diamonds – the hardest mineral on earth, with billions of years of history sealed inside. No other mineral has so much to tell us about what goes on so deep beneath the earth’s crust.
Why we love Antwerp
Antwerp has been a leader in the diamond trade since 1447. This cosmopolitan town on the Scheldt gained world renown thanks to its flourishing diamond trade and its unparalleled craftsmanship in the field of diamond polishing. In 1919, it was the Antwerp polisher Marcel Tolkowsky who first invented the proportions for the ‘Ideal cut’, now known as the brilliant. To this day, this round shape with 57 facets is still the most famous and successful diamond shape in the world, its ultimate light return creating the fire, sparkle and brilliance forever associated with diamonds.
The Antwerp diamond industry’s craftsmanship, experience and expertise combined with the most transparent and ethically correct trading framework makes Antwerp the ideal place to build the sustainable and innovative story of HB Antwerp. Antwerp is perceived around the globe as a quality label when it comes to diamonds. Asian and American customers have a soft spot for “Made in Europe” products.
Founded at the beginning of 2020 with only two co-workers, in just one year HB Antwerp grew – despite the corona crisis – into a company of 80 employees. In its first year, HB Antwerp processed $50 million worth of diamonds. By 2022, the company expects to be processing $300 million worth of diamonds on an annual basis.
HB Antwerp is seen by the Belgian captains of industry as a game changer in an industry that has been struggling for years. Thanks to HB Antwerp, the diamond sector has a future in Antwerp again and the declining industry is experiencing a boom for the first time in years.