Researchers in Antwerp have developed fully automated polishing technology that, they claim, will make the production process 10 to 20 times faster.
The new equipment, Fenix, will take an hour and a half to carry out work that currently takes manufacturers a full day, the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) said Monday. The Scientific and Technological Research Center for Diamonds (WTOCD), a unit of the Belgian trade organization, developed the machine over 10 years.
Diamond polishing has barely progressed since the 15th century, when Lodewijk van Bercken, a jeweler in Antwerp, discovered that one diamond was capable of polishing another one, the AWDC said. Even today, most of the work is done by hand, making it difficult for the diamond hub to sustain a manufacturing sector due to high labor costs, the group explained.
“This discovery fundamentally changes the diamond-polishing process,” said Ari Epstein, CEO of the AWDC. “Today’s wages simply make it too expensive to conduct this labor-intensive job in our country. Fenix puts an end to this, and can therefore be a real game changer for the Antwerp diamond industry.”
Fenix is also more accurate than manual polishing, as it takes into account each diamond’s specific grain and crystal orientation, said Yves Kerremans, CEO of WTOCD.
Various Antwerp-based diamond companies are testing the technology, which will be available to the public in September.