Graff Acquires the Lesedi la Rona
Today it was announced that the enormous Lesedi la Rona rough diamond has found a new home at Graff Diamonds.
The second-largest rough diamond ever discovered, the 1,109-carat stone is truly remarkable. Type IIa, the most chemically pure, with exceptional clarity.
The rough was discovered at the Karowe mine in Botswana two years ago, and its name means ‘our light’ in the local Tswana language. Lucara Diamond Corporation, the owner of the mine, made the unusual decision to offer the rough at public auction through Sotheby’s last year. The idea was that such a rare gift from the earth may attract a wider circle than the typical industry gem cutters - the same folks that spend six or seven figures on a rare piece of art. The tennis ball-sized stone received the same presentation, tour, and press coverage as a Francis Bacon, or indeed an exceptional cut diamond, however the outcome was not as expected.
At the June 2016 sale in London, bidding topped out at $61 million during the live auction, which feel short of the $70 million reserve, and it went unsold. Many wondered if it was in fact too big to sell and would be cut up and polished.
Now, Graff has announced its acquisition through a private sale for a reported $53 million. The company in fact already owns a 374-carat piece of the original rough that broke off during extraction, so this is a reunion of sorts.
The intent is to polish the stone, as founder Laurence Graff said in a statement: "Our highly skilled team of master craftsmen will draw on many years of experience of crafting the most important diamonds, working night and day to ensure that we do justice to this remarkable gift from Mother Nature. 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."
Cutters who examined the rough speculated it could yield up to a 400-carat flawless gem, however nothing is guaranteed in the transformational process. This is the risk of buying roughs and why it is difficult to determine a price. If the stone cracks in half in the hands of the cutter, its value is diminished considerably.
The largest rough ever recovered in history is the legendary 3,107-carat Cullinan Diamond that was mined in 1905 in South Africa. It was cut into nine stones that are now part of the British crown jewels.
It will likely be several years before the next version of the Lesedi la Rona is revealed. In the meantime, as mining and extraction technology progresses, there may be more extra-large roughs recovered - one never knows!