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Lesedi La Rona: Diamonds are forever

The world’s second-largest rough diamond has been sold for $53m to Graff Diamonds
posted onSeptember 27, 2017
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London-based Graff Diamonds bought the Lesedi La Rona, the largest gem-quality rough diamond to be discovered in more than a century and the second-largest ever. The largest was the 3,106-carat Cullinan Diamond, discovered near Pretoria, South Africa in 1905 which was cut into various polished diamonds and is owned by the British monarchy.

The seller of Lesedi La Rona, Vancouver-based Lucara Diamond Corporation, announced it sold the diamond, for $53 million, or $47,777 per carat. The precious stone, went up for auction at Sotheby’s last year but failed to meet its $70 million reserve price. Lucara said the price of $53 million, was an improvement on the highest bid received at Sotheby's.

The stone was first formed between 2.5 to three billion years ago and is roughly the size of a tennis ball. It was found in Botswana in 2015 and its name means “our light” in Botswana's Tswana language.

Laurence Graff of Graff Diamonds.
Laurence Graff of Graff Diamonds

"The stone will tell us its story. It will dictate how it wants to be cut, and we will take the utmost care to respect its exceptional properties,” said the new owner, Laurence Graff of Graff Diamonds.

Graff also bought a 373.7-carat rough diamond that had broken off the Lesedi La Rona during extraction for $17.5m in May this year.Graff described the new purchase as enabling a "poignant reunion" of the two pieces.

The most expensive rough diamond ever sold is the 813 carat Constellation diamond sold for the record setting price of $63 million in 2016. It was sold by Lukara to a Dubai-based firm. The Constellation and Lesedi la Rona were both found in the same mine in Botswana, which is owned by Lukara.

The Botswana government this month proposed an amendment to its Precious and Semi-Precious Stones Act to give the government of one of the world’s largest diamond-producing countries the right to buy diamonds that are unusually large or have unusual features.

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Diamonds through the ages

Diamonds have been around for thousands of centuries and are believed to have been first discovered in India, approximately 3000 years ago. The word is from the ancient Greek ἀδάμας – adámas "unbreakable".

In 327 BC, Alexander the Great, King of the ancient Greek state Macedon, brings the first diamonds from India to Europe. In 296 BC, a Sanskrit manuscript called the 'Arthasastra', or 'the Lesson of Profit' mentions a diamond. In 1074, the first instance of diamonds being used for jewelry occurs when a Hungarian queen’s crown is decorated with diamonds. In 1375, the Point Cut was developed which follows the natural shape of a raw diamond, reducing waste in the diamond cutting process. In 1520, the Rose cut was created to resemble an opening rose-bud. In 1681, the Peruzzi Cut is created by a Venetian diamond polisher. Compared to previous popular cuts, the Peruzzi Cut nearly doubles the number of crown facets from 17 to 33, significantly increasing a diamond’s brilliance. These are also referred to as 'Old Mine cuts' or Cushion cuts. In 1837, the Tiffany Diamond Company was founded by Charles Lewis Tiffany.

Four characteristics, known informally as the four Cs, are now commonly used as the basic descriptors of diamonds: these are carat (its weight), cut (quality of the cut is graded according to proportions, symmetry and polish), color (how close to white or colorless; for fancy diamonds how intense is its hue), and clarity (how free is it from inclusions).