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Huge Diamond Could Sell for More Than $70 Million

  • Deborah Block

For those of us with an untrained eye, the lovely big crystal looks like something we might put on display. But for diamond experts, it's the find of a century — the largest gem-quality diamond discovered in more than 100 years.

The 3-billion-year-old crystal, unearthed last November at a Canadian-owned mine in the southern African country of Botswana, is about the size of a tennis ball.

The famous auction house Sotheby's will put the diamond up for public sale June 29, where it's expected to sell for at least $70 million.

"It's a simply dramatically beautiful stone," said David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby's jewelry division.

"It's unbelievable," he added at an unveiling of the diamond last Wednesday at Sotheby's headquarters in New York.

Named Lesedi la Rona in Botswana's national language, meaning "our light," the diamond was also on display Saturday in New York.

And is it something to see. The 1,109-carat diamond measures 65 millimeters by 56 millimeters by 40 millimeters.

"It's an extraordinary thing," Bennett said. "The sheer size is difficult to comprehend."

And so is the beauty of the rough diamond, which has exceptional quality and transparency — and could become the largest top-quality diamond ever to be cut and polished.

"You can imagine the extraordinary stones that can be cut of out it," Bennett said.

Despite its massive size, it is not the largest gem-quality diamond ever found. The 3,106-carat Cullinan diamond was discovered in a South African mine in 1905. It was cut into nine pieces, the largest of which are part of Britain's crown jewels, including the First Star of Africa, which adorns the Royal Scepter.