JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The 478ct Light of Letšeng diamond, produced from the Letšeng diamond mine in Lesotho, was sold on tender in Antwerp for $18,4-million, to Graff Diamonds’ manufacturing unit, Safdico.
The price translated to $38 400/ct, against a global average diamond price of $90/ct said London-listed Gem Diamonds, which owns 70% of the Letšeng mine, in a joint venture with the government of Lesotho.
“To the best of our knowledge this is the most valuable rough diamond ever to be sold,” said Graff Diamonds chairperson Laurence Graff, who bought a 4,5% stake in Gem Diamonds last month.
He said that Graff Diamonds expected to produce polished diamond of at least 200ct.
“This investment is indicative of our commitment to the diamond industry and our faith in the long-term value of diamonds,” he stated.
“The Light of Letšeng is one of the most significant diamonds to have been recovered in living memory. Nevertheless, it remains exceptionally pleasing that despite these difficult financial times that this diamond has been recognised for its outstanding quality and in turn has achieved significant value,” commented Gem Diamonds CEO Clifford Elphick.
This remarkable value was attributed to the Light of Letšeng’s white colour and outstanding clarity.
The diamond was recovered at Letšeng le Terai mine on September 8, 2008, and was the third significant diamond to be recovered at Letšeng in as many years.
Graff Diamonds is noted as one of the world’s leading diamond jewellery purveyors, and was also the winning bidder for the Lesotho Promise in 2006 and the Letšeng Legacy in 2007. There were strong bids from a further six diamantaires, the company said.
The Light of Letšeng ranks as the twentieth largest rough diamond ever to be recovered. The Letšeng mine has now produced four of the world’s 20 largest rough diamonds and the three largest diamonds recovered this century.
Fourth quarter 2008 prices for Letšeng’s diamonds were averaging $2 139/ct and the average 2008 price a carat on all Letšeng diamonds sold was $2 123/ct. This compared favourably to the average price a carat achieved in 2006 and 2007, of $1 578/ct and $1 977/ct, respectively.
The Letšeng mine was operated by De Beers between 1977 and 1982, reopening operations in 2004, after which it was acquired by Gem Diamonds in late 2006 for $118,5-million.
The mine is located in the Maluti mountains, is the highest diamond mine in the world at an altitude of 3 250m above sea level - one of the coldest places in Africa.