Rough! Second-Biggest Diamond Ever Discovered Doesn’t Sell at Auction



The decision to sell a piece of rough outside of normal trade channels was considered something of a gamble

Despite bidding reaching a heady $61 million, the 1,109 ct. Lesedi la Rona—the second-largest uncut diamond ever found—didn’t meet its reserve and failed to sell at the Sotheby’s June 29 auction in London.

Its estimate was more than $70 million. Following several record-breaking diamond sales at auction, the chief operating officer of miner Lucara suggested its price could exceed $80 million and some even suggested it might top $100 million.

The decision to sell a rough diamond outside of normal trade channels—presumably to attract collectors—was considered something of a gamble and generated much media coverage.   

“A 1,000 ct. stone that is D color is special and deserves to be treated differently than the normal goods that we sell,” William Lamb, CEO of Lucara, told JCK in March after the decision was announced.

The type IIa diamond—originally reported to be 1,111 cts.—was found in November 2015 in the Karowe mine in Botswana. It has been described as slightly smaller than a tennis ball. The name was chosen from a nationwide competition in Botswana; it means “our light” in the Tswana language.

In a statement, Lucara said it will retain the stone, but did not specify its next move.

Lamb did not return a request for comment, but told theVancouver Sun that “we needed to assess whether there was a market where people who spend a hundred million dollars on a Picasso will actually see the value in a rough diamond.”

Sotheby’s said in a statement: “Every aspect of tonight’s auction was unprecedented: No one alive today has ever seen a gem-quality rough diamond of this incredible scale; no rough diamond of importance has ever before been offered before at public auction; and no diamond—polished or rough—has ever been estimated at this price level. It has been a privilege to present the Lesedi la Rona around the world this spring, and the unique opportunity excited collectors throughout this process.”

(Photo courtesy of Lucara)

JCK News Director