Rough Diamonds Season 1 Review, Ending and Filming Locations Explained – A Bright Crime Drama with some Rough Edges

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: April 22, 2023 (Last updated: March 15, 2024)
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Rough Diamonds Season 1 Review and Filming Locations
Rough Diamonds (Image Credit - Netflix)


A saggy middle portion isn’t quite enough to hamstring an otherwise solid crime drama that boasts enough specificity in its setting and cultural nuance to stand out in an oversaturated market.

Even at a glance, there’s an element of novelty and specificity to Rough Diamonds  Season 1 on Netflix that definitely benefits it. It explores an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family through the prison of Antwerp, Belgium (where the vast majority of the filming locations is), the world’s diamond capital, and across eight episodes weaves a story of family, crime, and culture that is full of detail and nuance.

It’s also a bit slow, but more on that in a minute.

Rough Diamonds Season 1 Review and Plot summary

The show’s plot is kick-started by the suicide of the youngest son of the Wolfson family, a tragedy that summons his estranged brother, Noah, back home. Noah left both the country and the orthodoxy for a criminal life abroad, but his responsibilities to the family’s business and legacy begin to supersede his own personal ambitions and the differences he still has with his siblings and culture.

The show’s Israeli creators, Rotem Shamir and Yuval Yefet, have an eye for detail that immerses the viewer in a very specific place, among very specific company, and this nuance provides a captivating backdrop for a well-heeled entertainment genre – especially among streamers like Netflix. Scarcely a week goes by without another international crime drama landing on the platform, and it is perhaps the greatest advantage any of them can possess to stand out in one way or another.

In that sense, Rough Diamonds certainly stands out.

Among this, though, are much more universally understood themes of family, loss, grief, and trauma; the human relationships at the show’s core at not alien, but deeply felt and easily understood, and the central metaphor of the diamond, a symbol of great beauty and prosperity that is nonetheless backdropped by a gritty and dangerous underworld, is clear in its implications.

Even on a formal level, Rough Diamonds is solid enough, boasting impressive performances and a well-constructed overarching narrative. But it’s also inarguably poorly paced, with a droopy middle portion that it can be difficult to sit through. Judicious editing would have surely made for a better six-episode season than the eight-episode one we get.

Still, it’s easy to recommend Rough Diamonds for the reasons above; its cultural specificity, nuance, detail, and impressive construction are all points in its favor. It won’t be for everyone, of course, but nothing ever is.

For crime drama fans looking for something distinct, this, I’d argue, is it. Perseverance through the pesky middle stretch will reward a binge-watcher with a lingering payoff that should, at least in most cases and for most people, justify the investment.

Where was Rough Diamonds filmed – a breakdown of filming locations

Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerp, Belgium (Image Credit to TripSavvy)

With the series set and based in and around Antwerp and the thrust of the premise focusing on the diamond merchant business, it was always going to be critical that the show would be filmed on location.

Most of the production was filmed in Antwerp, the largest city in Belgium, but there are a few locations in and around the area we can look at.

Diamond Quarter and Square Mile

The premise of the show means that the Diamond Quarter was an important part of the story, so filming in this area was another certainty.

The Diamond Quarter has about 84% of the world’s rough diamonds passing through it, making it the largest diamond district in the world, with a turnover of 54 billion dollars. There is, of course, repeat business, with approximately 50% of the rough diamonds returned to Antwerp for cutting and polishing.


This location is a railway station that appears in the series, located at Koningin Astridplein 27. The stunning building was badly damaged in World War Two, and the effects of the damage can still be seen.

The Provincial Government Building of Antwerp

Eagle-eyed viewers will recognize this iconic building in some shots of the show. This incredible building consists of apartments, office space, and a conference center.

Bio Station Store, bus 1130, Pelikaanstraat 3

If you are a resident of the Antwerp area, you might see this location in the background of some scenes. This is basically a self-service grocery store that specializes in organically grown products.

Various Antwerp Landmarks

If you film on location, get as many landmarks in the shots as you can so everyone knows where the budget went. So in Rough Diamonds, you should be able to see the MAS Museum, Cathedral of Our Lady, Grote Markt, and Het Steen.

Rough Diamonds Season 1 Ending Explained

Rough Diamonds Season 1 (Credit – Netflix)

The events are kickstarted by the suicide of Yanki, the youngest son of the Wolfson family, leaving the Wolfson Diamonds family business in disarray and summoning his estranged brother, Noah, back to Belgium.

Noah had previously abandoned his family’s staunch orthodoxy and built a new life elsewhere. He returns with his more moderate values and also a son, Tommy.

Why did Yanki commit suicide?

We learn that Yanki was a gambling addict who killed himself to preserve his family’s honor and standing.

Noah has little problem violently dealing with the men Yanki owed, but the family situation, both professionally and personally, proves to be much more complicated than he anticipated.

The Wolfsons are in debt to the tune of millions. They’re at the mercy of an Albanian mob that they turned to out of desperation. Because the stolen diamonds they were intending to sell never arrived, their debts mounted. Noah and his mother-in-law Kerra are forced to make a deal with the Albanians.

What deal does Noah offer Jo Smets?

In a roundabout way, this brings us to Jo Smets, a prosecutor investigating the Albanian mafia and corruption in the Diamond District. Principled and dogged, she’s initially reluctant to take the deal Noah offers her to sell out the Albanians. When she’s instructed to drop the case, though, she comes around to the idea.

The deal is this. If Smets drops the charges and stops looking into his family, he’ll give her the stolen diamonds and the Albanians. However, thanks to a tipoff he’s unable to deliver either of these things, so he offers something else instead: His mother-in-law, Kerra, who received a portion of the haul back in London – certainly enough to make headlines and open a case.

With Kerra facing substantial time inside, she gives up the Belgian lawyer who had connected her to the Albanians, who is persuaded to enter witness protection in exchange for testifying. However, he’s promptly assassinated by the Albanians.

Do Noah and Gila end up together?

Yanki’s widow, Gila, was once engaged to be married to Noah, who left before the nuptials could take place. They clearly still have romantic feelings for one another, though, and Noah’s intention was to bring his business in Antwerp to an end so that he could return to London with Tommy, Gila, and her kids.

However, circumstances conspire to keep him in Belgium, again and again, until Gila eventually decides to leave for New York. Noah and Gila do not end up together.

In the end, Noah didn’t get a thing that he wanted and inadvertently got everything that he didn’t. He saves his family business, just about, but loses the remainder of his family in the process. After selling out his mother-in-law, losing Gila, and watching Tommy begin to adopt the Jewish Orthodoxy he had sworn to leave behind lest he become like his father, Noah realizes that he is in some sense at the head of the table, but in another has become exactly what he most feared to be.

What did you think of Rough Diamonds Season 1, the  filming locations, and the ending? Comment below.

Netflix, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
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