Is Bigger Better?

Posted by Ron Hansen on 15th Aug 2017

In the world of diamonds, the case for size can usually be made with large, high-quality gems - the bigger the better, or more to the point, the bigger the more valuable. But such was not the case for Lesedi la Rona. Extracted from the Karowe Mine in South Africa a couple of years ago, the Lesedi la Rona is the second largest diamond ever found in the earth. Yet, this magnificent gem, estimated around three billion years old, for all of its mass and beauty could not be sold at a time when other diamonds have been setting record highs. Here's the story.

Lesedi la Rona was discovered by a Canadian company, Lucara Diamond, just north of Gaborone in Botswana. A local native gave the diamond its name, which in Tswana means "The Light" and for good reason - this gem possessed extraordinary luminescence, clarity and transparency. It's classified as a Type IIa Ha diamond - a rare gem category which represents less than 3% of all high quality diamonds. Above all, it tipped the scales at 1,111 carats, which roughly equates to the size of a baseball. 

Only the Cullinan Diamond, mined in 1906, exceeded it in size at a whopping 3,106 carats - the largest diamond in mining history. That stone was cut into nine magnificent gems, one of which became the Great Star of Africa, while the other eight joined the Crown Jewels of Great Britain. However, cutting the Lesedi la Roma into smaller gems was not in the original plan, but selling it at a record high price was.

The chosen seller of this great gem was the legendary auctioneer, Sotheby's, in a stand-alone auction. Experts projected the Lesedi la Rona to fetch between $70 million and $100 million. After all, the Constellation, an 813 carat diamond - 6th largest in the world, sold for $63 million in May of last year. The record sale, however, wasn't meant to be. 

Brought to public auction just one month following the sale of the Constellation, the bidding began at $50 million and within 15 minutes the highest bid was reached at $61 million - not even as high as the much smaller Constellation and at a much lower price required for Sotheby's to make a profit. The attempted sale of the second largest diamond on record, in other words, was an epic fail. Why? Some believe that the stand-alone type of auction wasn't the appropriate forum; a one-on-one negotiation with an interested party may have produced a better result. Others believe that the diamond was simply too large to be sold as a rough diamond at auction, siting a size threshold of 1,000 carats as the practical maximum. To this date, the stone remains unsold.

Upper Photo: Luxurious Magazine 

Lower Photo: Sotheby's