Botswana’s rare diamonds excel on world stage

  • Karowe discovery, ‘Constellation’ sets world record for rough gem stones
  • But ‘Lesedi La Rona’ set to beat the new record in June in London


A diamond discovered at the Karowe Mine in north western Botswana, was sold last week, by Canada’s Lucara Diamonds for P690 million ($63 million) a new world record for a rough gem. The Karowe Mine is based on the AK6 kimberlite pipe, which is part of the Orapa Kimberlite Field in Botswana, lying on the northern edge of the Central Kalahari Karoo Basin.
The 813 carat diamond, named “The Constellation” was found in November last year at the company’s Karowe mine, the same operation where Lucara also unearthed the famous ‘Lesedi La Rona’, which will go under Sotheby’s hammer on June 29.
Dubai-based Nemesis International bought The Constellation, but Lucara has retained a 10 percent interest in the gem, which would allow it to profit from further transactions after the diamond is polished and cut.
But the record will not hold for long as another Botswana discovery, the 1,111 carat Lesedi La Rona, the second biggest stone ever to be mined in history, anywhere in the world, is set to fetch an even higher price.
The diamond, which rivals a tennis ball in size, is beaten only by the 3,106-carat Cullinan diamond found in South Africa in 1905 which was cut into nine separate stones, many of which are in the British Crown Jewels.
Soon after the discovery of Lesedi La Rona, the Chief Operating Officer at Lucara, Paul Day, said that the diamond will most likely sell at a premium as it carries historical significance, together with its own diamond value, revving up hopes of fetching over $100 million (P1,1 billion). However recent estimates put the selling price at around $70 million. Day said that type 2A diamonds are very rare, with only 2 percent of diamonds ever making this grade adding that, “such diamonds are usually sold to collectors, who often remain anonymous.” Day was also upbeat that Karowe will soon become the record holder for the biggest diamond ever discovered, a Cullinan beater, banking on new technologies such as Karowe’s x-ray technology which helps to keep the diamonds intact as they are mined from the pit.
William Lamb, President and CEO of Lucara, delighted, commented in a company statement that:  “The sale of the 813 carat diamondis the highest price ever achieved for a rough diamond, breaking all records. This achievement solidifies our reputation in the jewellery industry as one of the most  important sources of diamonds of the very highest quality. We look forward to the next stage of Lucara’s development with the sale of the spectacular 1,109 carat, Lesedi La Rona diamond which will take place at Sotheby’s London on June 29, 2016.”
Karowe was sold by De Beers to Lucara five years ago for a bargain P490 million.
“This mine, in comparison to the 7 hectare pit at Orapa and the very rich Jwaneng mine was considered too small to mine by De Beers,” said Paul Day, adding that “small amounts of work were undertaken by Debswana between 1986 and 1998 with no conclusive results.”  Day said that Lucara felt there was value to be extracted from Karowe and went to do further prospecting. The Mine has produced many gem quality type 2A diamonds of over 200 carats since production.
Lucara acquired a 70 percent stake in the AK6 project from De Beers Prospecting Botswana in December 2009, and Lucara acquired African Diamonds in December 2010 to hold 100 percent of the asset. The mine was constructed between 2010 and 2012 and commissioning and first diamond sales started in 2012