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Graff Diamonds polishes its image with polished Lesedi La Rona

by Greg Klein | April 11, 2019

The company loves to proclaim its pre-eminent technology and expertise, but for this achievement the big boss overruled all that. Despite an initial analysis that said it couldn’t be done, Laurence Graff insisted on a 300-plus-carat polished jewel out of a 1,109-carat rough. Along with 66 smaller stones, that’s what he got. At 302.37 carats the Graff Lesedi La Rona “is the largest, highest-colour, highest-clarity diamond ever certified by the GIA, and the world’s largest square emerald cut diamond,” the company announced.

On paying $53 million in 2017 for the product of Lucara Diamond’s (TSX:LUC) Karowe mine in Botswana, Graff attributed unusual powers to the piece. “The stone will tell us its story,” he said. “It will dictate how it wants to be cut and we will take the utmost care to respect its exceptional properties.”

Graff Diamonds polishes its image with polished Lesedi La Rona

The Graff Lesedi La Rona:
As for the price, pikers need not inquire.
(Photo: Graff Diamonds)

In the end, it was Graff himself who did the dictating, at least where finished weight was concerned. By doing so, he overruled conclusions determined through a custom-built scanner with new imaging software specifically acquired to assess the stone, the largest gem-quality diamond found in a century. But Graff’s new technology enabled staff to chart the stone’s imperfections and plan the largest, highest-clarity jewels possible.

A master craftsman, also a classically trained musician, “used his highly attuned musician’s ear to listen for the smooth progression of the laser” as he cut the first incisions. A team of gemologists and master polishers toiled for over 18 months to produce this “masterpiece of technical audacity and diamond artistry.”

Having lost over two-thirds of the rough’s weight, cutting and polishing produced 66 additional diamonds, ranging from less than one carat to more than 26 carats.

Among gem-quality rough diamonds, Lesedi La Rona ranked second only to the 3,106.75-carat Cullinan diamond, a 1905 discovery from South Africa. That stone produced nine polished gems, eight of them set into Britain’s Crown jewels. The ninth, considered the world’s largest top-quality polished diamond, is the 530.2-carat Great Star of Africa in Queen Elizabeth II’s sceptre.

The Cullinan mine currently operates under Petra Diamonds, which two weeks ago uncovered a 425.1-carat gem-quality diamond at the site.

Graff Diamonds credits itself with having “cut and polished the majority of the 20 largest diamonds discovered this century.” One that Graff missed, however, was the Lesotho Legend, a 910-carat 2018 discovery from Gem Diamonds’ Letseng mine in Lesotho and the fifth-largest gem-quality rough on record. Two months later Antwerp-based Samir Gems bought the stone for $40 million.

In 2017 Graff paid Lucara $17.5 million for a 373.72-carat fragment that broke off of Lesedi La Rona during mine recovery.

But if Graff’s publicist neglected to add “mystery” to Lesedi La Rona’s ineffable polished qualities, that word would apply to the price. The amount wasn’t disclosed.

See an infographic: Six of the world’s most famous diamonds.

Read about Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond.

Read Resource Clips visits the diamond industry in Belgium and the Netherlands.

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