Tuesday 21st May 2019

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘botswana’

This diamond’s huge, but is it worth much?

April 25th, 2019

by Greg Klein | April 25, 2019

Thanks partly to new processing gear that’s less likely to break up the stones, Lucara Diamond TSX:LUC keeps pulling record-setting rocks out of its Karowe mine in Botswana. Now the company might have beat its previous record with a 1,758-carat diamond that would be the second-largest of gem quality ever found—if it’s of gem quality.

This diamond’s huge, but is it gem quality?

“Domains of high-quality white gem” may lurk within
Karowe’s largest recovered rock. (Photo: Lucara Diamond)

It’s “been characterized as near gem of variable quality, including domains of high-quality white gem,” Lucara explains. “Further detailed analysis is ongoing.”

The all-time record for gem-quality rough remains the 3,106-carat Cullinan, a 1905 discovery in South Africa that was cut and polished into the 530.2-carat Great Star of Africa in Queen Elizabeth II’s sceptre and produced eight other gems for Britain’s Crown Jewels. Tentatively holding second place is Lucara’s 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona, which earlier this month hit the market as a 302.37-carat jewel with 66 smaller stones.

The company expects further fantastic finds, thanks to an x-ray transmission (XRT) recovery circuit commissioned in 2015 that strives to keep large stones intact. Since then Lucara produced 12 diamonds surpassing 300 carats, with the new find and the Lesedi La Rona exceeding 1,000 carats, out of total production approximating 1.4 million carats. Half of the 12 300-plus-carat rocks were gem quality, Lucara stated.

XRT notwithstanding, recovery might have separated Lesedi La Rona from a stone originally weighing in at 2,774 carats. That possibility was reported by the Gemological Institute of America last year after analysis of the 1,109-carat piece, a 373.72-carat fragment that Lucara sold separately, the 812-carat Constellation and three others weighing 374, 296 and 183 carats. The GIA’s analysis found “compelling evidence” that all five “likely originated from the same rough, with a combined weight of at least 2,774 carats.” Geological as well as recovery processes could be blamed for the break-up, Lucara responded at the time.

But the source of those recoveries should improve too “as we mine deeper in the ore body and gain access to the geologically favourable EM/PK(S) unit, the source of both of our record-breaking, plus-1,000-carat diamonds,” said CEO Eira Thomas.

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.

Graff Diamonds polishes its image with polished Lesedi La Rona

April 11th, 2019

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.

How to flog glitter to the young and affluent: A De Beers special report

September 14th, 2018

by Greg Klein | September 14, 2018

Last year’s global market for diamond-encrusted jewelry rose 2.2% to a new high of $82 billion, largely due to the planet’s most populous age groups, says the world’s largest purveyor of the bling. But as “consumer power” shifts from elderly Boomers and middle-aged Generation X to Millennials and Gen Z, manufacturers and retailers must meet a new set of consumer expectations, De Beers’ Diamond Insight Report warns.

Americans again demonstrated the largest demand for diamond jewelry, splurging $43 billion, up 4.2% from the previous year’s $41 billion extravagance in a market that’s expected to show steady growth.

How to flog glitter to the young and affluent: A De Beers special report

(Photo: Matt Crabb/Anglo American)

Looking at diamonds’ pre-jewelry market, rough sales to cutting and polishing facilities rose 2% to $16.6 billion. De Beers claimed 34% of the total, down from its 2016 portion of 37%. Alrosa’s share came to 25%, compared with 27% the previous year. This year’s H1 sales to cutting centres, however, have surpassed the same period in 2017.

Last year’s global production climbed 15% in value to $17.5 billion and 14% in volume to 164 million carats. De Beers took credit for the largest increase of 6.1 million carats, followed by Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO with 3.7 million and Alrosa with 2.3 million carats. The top three diamond mining countries remained Russia, Botswana and Canada.

Forecasts see this year’s global production slipping “due largely to Alrosa’s suspension of operations at the Mir mine and Rio Tinto’s guided fall in production at its operations. Looking further ahead, production is expected to continue falling as new projects and expansions fail to replace lost output from closing mines. By 2025, several large mines will reach the end of their life, while only a few new projects are in the pipeline.”

With the younger consumers’ desire for qualities that diamonds can perfectly embody—including love, connections, authenticity, uniqueness and positive social impact—the most exciting times for the diamond industry are still ahead of us if we can seize the opportunities.—Bruce Cleaver,
De Beers Group CEO

Much of the report focuses on Millennials and Gen Zedders, and why they matter more than those doddering old Boomers and clapped out Gen Exers. Not only are the newcomers more numerous than their predecessors (64% of the planet’s 7.39 billion potential customers) but they’ll soon have more money to splash around. Additionally “they represent more than two-thirds of total diamond jewellery demand value in the four largest diamond-consuming countries,” the U.S., China, India and Japan.

But don’t mistake these affluent upstarts for status-conscious materialists with more money than values, the report emphasizes. Those who would sell to them must recognize four key traits: “Love is meaningful to them in many ways; they are digital natives; they value authenticity, individuality and self-expression; they are engaged with society and social issues.” Indeed, crass marketing’s passé as enlightened purveyors appeal to young adults’ desire for “love, connections, authenticity, uniqueness and positive social impact.”

Still, differences persist between the two groups. Millennials multi-task across two screens and think in 3D. Gen Zedders do that stuff across five screens and in 4D. Now-focused, idealistic and expectant Millennials contrast with future-focused, pragmatic and persistent Gen Z. The divide continues, pitting Millennials’ Harry Potter/armchair activist lifestyle and their team orientation versus Gen Z’s Hunger Games/active volunteer approach credited with collective consciousness.

De Beers doesn’t divulge the methodology for its detailed but seemingly subjective analysis. Buried in the report, however, might be one of the most important traits for a marketing pitch to consider.

Millennials boast an attention span reaching all of 12 seconds, 50% higher than Gen Z’s eight-second feat of endurance.

Related: Could synthetics bring death to diamond mining? Or a kind of reincarnation?

Ashes to ashes, carbon to…

August 20th, 2018

Could synthetics bring death to diamond mining? Or a kind of reincarnation?

by Greg Klein

Somehow a real diamond got mixed up with the fakes.

This summer the Gemological Institute of America reported its highest-ever single swoop of synthetic diamonds masquerading as naturals—1,101 artificial stones out of a parcel of 1,102. Efforts to pass off synthetic melee (variously given as under 0.15 or 0.2 carats) have increased exponentially since the GIA offered its detection service in 2016, the organization stated. But while synthetics have improved substantially in quality, their chief risk to the diamond trade appears to be not false pretenses but positive consumer response. Customers willingly buy the man-made versions, attracted by lower prices as well as claims of ethical superiority that challenge the allure of a naturally created wonder.

And in a high-tech society, the lab-created substitutes can inspire a sense of wonder too. They’re created by one of two methods. Expressed simply, the high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) process dissolves graphite or another form of carbon through a metal alloy to bond with tiny seed diamonds and grow atomically into gem-sized diamonds. In another process, chemical vapor deposition (CVD) precipitates carbon through a mix of hydrogen and methane gases to grow onto the seed diamonds. Colour might appear as the stones grow or might be applied post-growth. The lab rough then undergoes cutting and polishing.

Could synthetics bring death to diamond mining? Or a kind of reincarnation?

Among the larger faceted synthetics seen so far by the GIA, one came to over five carats from the CVD process. Another weighed over 10 carats, originating from an HPHT rough surpassing 32 carats.

Although initially dismissed, then denigrated and denounced by diamonds’ Ancien Régime, synthetics have grabbed enough market share to attract De Beers. Last May the former one-company cartel announced its entry into the synthetic jewel market, although with a condescension that had observers speculating on the real motives. Manipulating De Beers’ legendary slogan “a diamond is forever,” CEO Bruce Cleaver described the company’s new Lightbox brand as “affordable fashion jewelry that may not be forever, but is perfect for right now.”

But De Beers simply admitted defeat, countered synthetic manufacturer Diamond Foundry. The San Francisco-based outfit portrays synthetics—which adherents also call cultured or cultivated stones—as the future of diamonds. Insisting that each of its products is unique, Diamond Foundry quotes a GIA director who describes synthetics as “real diamonds. They have the same optical, chemical, thermal and physical features.”

Additionally, the company’s marketing boldly counters De Beers’ sentimentality with a “morally pure” image free of “brute-force industrial mining.” And what other carbon-based product can be “100% carbon-neutral”? That’s a distinction Diamond Foundry claims due to solar power credits for its environmentally correct factory.

The company also boasts celebrity support, both through investment and publicity, from Leonardo DiCaprio. To the muddle-headed, his starring role in the 2006 movie Blood Diamond gives him even greater authority than run-of-the-Hollywood-mill activists.

In 2016 DiCaprio’s efforts drew a rebuke from industry player and spokesperson Martin Rapaport, who said the actor’s campaign:

… threatens the lives and livelihood of millions of artisanal diggers in Africa. One and a half million diggers support an additional seven million people by digging for diamonds. These diggers are among the poorest people in the world, earning as little as one dollar per day…. What will happen to the millions of poor diggers and their families if you succeed in convincing a new generation of millennial diamond consumers that it is more ethical to buy your synthetic diamonds than their natural diamonds? Will you feed these people? Will you provide them with an alternate livelihood?

Rapaport invited DiCaprio to discuss ways of improving the lives of artisanal miners. But earlier that year, Diamond Foundry offered to build a factory in Botswana, the diamond-mining country whose government is De Beers’ biggest partner, or to set up in any other interested African nation.

Ironically Rapaport noted that continent’s jurisdictional risk when De Beers unveiled its Lightbox line. He pointed out that “a future in synthetics makes them less reliant on natural diamonds and puts them in a better negotiation position should they have ‘Africa problems.’”

But a marketing approach that combines the sentimentality of natural diamonds with the ethical posturing of synthetics comes from the memorial diamond industry. Using the carbon content of hair or deceased’s cremated ashes, several companies will use HPHT to transform the remains into gems with a size, cut, colour and setting determined by the customer. Memorial stones challenge not only the usual synthetics and traditional naturals but also, through relatively low costs, the funeral industry.

Could that become diamonds’ strongest association—no longer marriage and subsequent new life, but death? If so, memorial diamonds might ironically co-opt the “forever” image created by De Beers.

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

Lucara Diamond scoops up $53 million for world’s largest uncut rough

September 25th, 2017

by Greg Klein | September 25, 2017

The second-largest gem-quality diamond ever found now advances to “its next stage of evolution,” as Graff Diamonds takes on the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona. A company that modestly credits itself with fashioning “the most fabulous jewels in the world” plunked down $53 million for the product of Lucara Diamond’s (TSX:LUC) Karowe mine in Botswana, an ongoing source of record-sized rocks.

Lucara Diamond scoops up $53 million for world’s largest uncut rough

The Lesedi La Rona “will dictate how it
wants to be cut,” said buyer Laurence Graff.
(Photo: Donald Bowers/Getty Images for Sotheby’s)

Curiously, Lucara president/CEO William Lamb called the price “an improvement on the highest bid received at the Sotheby’s auction in June 2016.” That was when his company rejected a reported $61-million bid, hoping to haul in $70 million or more. Presumably the discrepancy results from what would have been the gavel-swinger’s piece of the action. As is usually the case for rough sales, the Graff transaction took place sans auction. By press time Lamb hadn’t responded to a ResourceClips.com inquiry.

Graff had previously paid the miner $17.5 million for a 373.72-carat shard that broke off Lesedi during the recovery process. With improved technology, Lucara and other companies hope to avoid such damage, making super-sized stones less uncommon.

The Lesedi sale amounts to $47,777 per carat, but falls short of a record for rough. In May 2016 Lucara got $63.11 million, or $77,649 per carat, for the 812.77-carat Constellation, another Karowe monster.

“The stone will tell us its story,” Laurence Graff said of his latest purchase. “It will dictate how it wants to be cut and we will take the utmost care to respect its exceptional properties.”

They’ll have to. Given the unique qualities of each stone, cutting and polishing can present heart-stopping challenges. But, since the time South Africa’s 3,106.75-carat Cullinan diamond was subdivided into nine components of Britain’s Crown Jewels, technology has improved the ability to both understand a rock’s properties and reshape it into brilliant bling.

But “why would you want to polish it?” Lamb reportedly had asked previously. According to a July 2017 Reuters story, he argued, “The stone in the rough form contains untold potential…. As soon as you polish it into one solution, everything else is gone.”

Lesedi has not only raised Karowe’s profile but influenced proposed legislation that would allow Botswana to purchase exceptionally large or unusual diamonds from its mines. Earlier this month Lucara stated its support for the plan, emphasizing that prices would reflect market values.

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

Of diamonds and dynasties

August 4th, 2017

A new marketing approach accompanies Alrosa’s new emphasis on polished stones

by Greg Klein

A new marketing approach accompanies Alrosa’s new emphasis on polished stones

The Dynasty Collection celebrates Alrosa’s revival of Russian jewelry craftsmanship.
(Photo: Alrosa)

 

Legendary diamonds have long been associated with imperial dynasties. Now, just as a new book promises to revive interest in the multi-empire story of the fabled Koh-i-Noor gem, Alrosa has unveiled a suite of five stones commemorating great families of old Russia. In doing so, the mining giant marks a new emphasis not just on extracting exceptional stones, but cutting and polishing them too. The company says it will use state-of-the-art techniques to revive traditions dating back to Peter I.

A near-second to De Beers as the world’s largest diamond miner by value, Alrosa’s overall strategy might be to broaden diamonds’ appeal beyond the maybe one (or two, or sometimes profligately multiple) life events that call for an engagement ring.

A new marketing approach accompanies Alrosa’s new emphasis on polished stones

(Photo: Alrosa)

The company’s new quintet started as a single 179-carat rough with a name that evokes grandeur, but also tragic decline and a horrific ending: The Romanovs. One and a half years in the making, the polished collection’s centrepiece is The Dynasty, a 51.38-carat traditional round brilliant-cut stone “unprecedented in the history of Russia” as the most expensive and purest of all large diamonds cut in the country.

The set’s other four gems recall wealthy dynasties “that played a crucial role in the development of Russian jewelry”: The Sheremetevs (16.67 carats), The Orlovs (5.05 carats), The Vorontsovs (1.73 carats) and The Yusupovs (1.39 carats).

The collection goes on sale online—take that Christie’s, Sotheby’s and U.S. sanctions—in November.

But there’s no association stronger than actual ownership, and in that regard the Koh-i-Noor might be the most esteemed of all diamonds. In a soon-to-be published book of the same name, authors William Dalrymple and Anita Anand track “the history of the world’s most infamous diamond.”

Here’s a rock that gained prominence in northern India’s 17th century Mughal dynasty, was pillaged by 18th century Persians and retrieved from the corpse of their assassinated ruler by Ahmad Shah, who wore the jewel himself while building the Durrani Empire of Afghanistan. His successors lost the gem, along with considerable territory, to Sikh emperor Ranjit Singh. The authors credit this early 19th century ruler with boosting the diamond’s prestige to an unprecedented level. Following his death and the Sikhs’ defeat at British hands, the victors ordered that the Koh-i-Noor “shall be surrendered by the Maharajah of Lahore to the Queen of England.”

Along with Cullinan I and Cullinan II, the world’s largest top-quality polished stones, the Koh-i-Noor takes its place in the Crown Jewels. Both India and Pakistan want it back.

The book’s publicist promises a saga of “greed, murder, torture, colonialism and appropriation.” But extracting the stones can come at a terrible cost too, and one doesn’t have to delve into history to realize that. Just days after Alrosa unveiled The Dynasty collection, the company reported nine miners missing after a flood at the Mir diamond mine in the far eastern Republic of Sakha.

A steady source of plus-sized rough, Sakha mines gave up gems of nearly 110 carats and 75 carats just last month and, last year, a 207.29-carat stone. The Romanovs was found there in 2015.

A new marketing approach accompanies Alrosa’s new emphasis on polished stones

The Tenner, a £10 flea market
find, sold for $848,000.
(Photo: Sotheby’s)

Size and weight aren’t everything, however, as the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona continues to demonstrate. Lucara Diamond TSX:LUC has yet to find a buyer after rejecting a $61-million bid last year for the “tennis ball-sized” Botswana diamond, the largest ever found after South Africa’s 3,106-carat Cullinan that’s since been subdivided and relocated to the Crown Jewels with the Koh-i-Noor. Last May Lucara did sell a piece of its original stone, estimated to have been about 1,500 carats, when cutter Graff Diamonds paid $17.5 million for a 373.72-carat shard that broke off during the mine recovery process.

Another super-sized non-seller is the 709-carat rough found by an artisanal miner in Sierra Leone. He entrusted it to the government, which rejected a $7.8-million bid that failed to meet the stone’s valuation.

But sometimes there’s amazing value to be found among the dross. Thirty years or so after a Brit paid 10 quid for a piece of second-hand “costume jewelry,” the owner got around to asking Sotheby’s for an appraisal. The verdict? “A genuine cushion-shaped diamond weighing 26.29 carats with an attractive colour grade of I and impressive clarity grade of VVS2.”

In dollar terms, that meant a price estimated up to about $450,000. In June the hammer came down on $848,000.

See an infographic about legendary diamonds.

World’s largest rough diamond fails to meet Lucara’s price expectations

June 29th, 2016

by Greg Klein | June 29, 2016

Dissatisfied with a reported $61-million bid, Lucara Diamond TSX:LUC declined to sell its 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona stone. The company had hoped Sotheby’s June 29 London event would pull in $70 million or more.

The stone’s currently the largest gem-quality diamond in captivity and history’s second largest after the 3,106.75-carat Cullinan diamond. Found in 1905, Cullinan was cut and polished into nine gems for the Crown jewels and royal sceptre. Lucara took the unusual step of delegating the Lesedi La Rona sales job to an auctioneer, not standard procedure for rough. But a heavy promotional campaign failed to find a sufficiently astronomical price.

World’s largest rough diamond fails to meet Lucara’s price expectations

Despite its record size, as well as exceptional quality and
transparency, the Lesedi La Rona drew disappointing bids.
(Photo: Donald Bowers/Getty Images for Sotheby’s)

Yet the miner’s expectations might have been understandable. In May Lucara sold its 812.77-carat Constellation for $63.11 million, or $77,649 per carat, “the highest price ever achieved for a rough diamond,” the company stated. Lucara kept a 10% interest in Constellation’s sale after being cut and polished.

Exceptional cut-and-polished prices in recent months included the Blue Moon of Josephine which went for $48.4 million last March, then considered “a new record price for any gemstone and per carat.” Just one day earlier the same buyer paid $28.5 million for the 16.08-carat Sweet Josephine.

In April, however, Sotheby’s rejected a top bid of $22 million for the 9.54-carat Shirley Temple Blue diamond, having hoped for $25 million to $35 million.

Lucara’s recent record finds came from its Karowe mine in Botswana, aided by an improved recovery circuit. The two Josephines came from South Africa’s Cullinan mine, now operated by Petra Diamonds. That company’s most recent large find weighs in at 121.26 carats. It’s currently on tender.

Earlier this month ALROSA announced one of Russia’s biggest finds, a 241.21-carat rough that followed the previous month’s 207.29-carat stone, each from a different pipe at Yakutia in Siberia.

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

Sotheby’s imagines the Lesedi La Rona diamond outshining the legendary gems cut from the Cullinan stone

May 25th, 2016

…Read more

$58.25-million Oppenheimer Blue diamond sets new record polished price

May 18th, 2016

by Greg Klein | May 18, 2016

The gemnomaniacal super-rich continue to smash sales records as Christie’s pulled in $58.25 million for “the largest vivid blue diamond ever to come to auction.” The 14.62-carat Oppenheimer Blue easily surpassed the $48.4-million Blue Moon of Josephine, declared by Sotheby’s in November to be “a new record price for any gemstone and per carat.” Christie’s also beat its own pre-sale expectations of $38.9 million to $46.1 million for the Oppie. With more than 280 lots on the block, the May 18 event totalled $150.11 million.

$58.25-million Oppenheimer Blue diamond sets new record polished price

Rarity, beauty and the provenance of a former De Beers
boss all contributed to the Oppenheimer Blue’s historic price. (Photo: Christie’s)

Although relieved of some bragging rights, Sotheby’s didn’t do too badly either. The previous day, and also in Geneva, Christie’s rival got $32 million for the 15.38-carat Unique Pink, setting a record for a stone of its type, which in turn helped set “a new world record for any jewelry sale” with total auction proceeds of $175.1 million.

But for all the extraordinary cut-and-polished prices of recent months, Lucara Diamond TSX:LUC surpassed everyone with a 812.77-carat rough that raised $63.11 million last week. The Botswana miner hopes to get something like $70 million for a 1,109-carat rough which Sotheby’s puts on the block next month.

Humungous prices don’t, however, reflect the diamond market in general. The industry faces “a fragile recovery” following last year’s price slump, De Beers chief executive Philippe Mellier told the Financial Times. He added that “the market is not going to bounce back” as it did following the 2008 financial crisis.

But “my view is we have seen the market bottoming,” the FT quoted him, as rough and polished inventory levels are now “very close to normal and polished prices stabilized around December.”

Lucara gets $63 million for record rough diamond, expects even more next month

May 9th, 2016

by Greg Klein | May 9, 2016

The 812.77-carat sale had Lucara Diamond TSX:LUC bragging about “the highest price ever achieved for a rough diamond, breaking all records”—and the company has an even bigger stone going to auction next month. Lucara got $63.11 million, or $77,649 per carat, for the newly named Constellation, one of last November’s big finds from the Karowe mine in Botswana. The company retains a 10% interest in Constellation’s cut-and-polished profits.

Lucara gets $63 million for record rough diamond, hopes for even more next month

Sorters scrutinize some of the smaller
stones from Lucara’s Botswana operation.

Lucara’s record-breaking recovery, just days before Constellation, was the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona, from which Sotheby’s hopes to raise more than $70 million in London next month. As a gem-quality rough it ranks second in size only to the 3,106.75-carat Cullinan stone found in South Africa in 1905.

Cullinan was cut into nine polished gems, eight of them set into Britain’s Crown jewels. The ninth, the 530.2-carat Great Star of Africa, now resides in Queen Elizabeth II’s sceptre. It’s considered the world’s largest top-quality polished diamond but, Sotheby’s says, might lose that distinction to Lesedi La Rona.

But for that to happen, “a full complement of truly diamantine nerves will be required,” the auctioneer points out. “For while the art and craft of diamond-cutting—a meditative skill often passed down through generations—has radically improved since the Cullinan was cut, it is still through man’s ingenuity that the full beauty and light of a gem is revealed.”

Constellation bagged considerably more than the extraordinary cut-and-polished sales of recent months, including the $48.4-million Blue Moon of Josephine.

At a special tender of Karowe rough last month, Lucara flogged 10 diamonds totalling 1,525 carats for $51.3 million.

Last year Lucara attributed its historic finds partly to Karowe’s new XRT recovery circuit. The company planned to spend $15 million to $18 million to integrate an additional recovery process for exceptionally large gems.

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