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Photo credit: Government of Botswana

1,098 carat Diamond among Top Four Ever Discovered

Botswana’s Jwaneng diamond mine, the world’s richest by value, has just produced the third-largest gem quality diamond ever found. At 1,098 carats this record-setter is just a fraction lighter than the 1,111 carat Lesedi La Rona, unearthed at the Karowe mine in northern Botswana in 2015.

This post will cover each of the top four diamonds ever unearthed, three of which have been found in Botswana.

Diamond Dependent

Diamonds account for approximately 90% of Botswana’s exports and more than 65% of DeBeers’ diamond production.

Debswana, the historic agreement between the mining giant and the government of Botswana, is responsible for transforming the landlocked African nation into one of the continent’s most prosperous. Debswana’s acting Managing Director, Lynnette Armstrong commented:

This is the largest diamond to be recovered by Debswana in its history of over 50 years in operation. From our preliminary analysis it could be the world’s third largest gem-quality stone.

Photo credit: Debswana

Measuring 73.00 by 52.00 by 27.00 mm, the new discovery was presented to the country’s president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, on Wednesday.

See coverage on LatestLY

The Lesedi La Rona

The second largest gem-quality diamond, the Lesedi La Rona (“Our Light”) measured 66.40 x 55.00 x 42.00 mm. Unearthed at a raw weight of 1,111 carats, it was purchased at 1,109 carats after cleaning by Laurence Graff for a total of $53 million in 2017.

Photo credit: Graff.com

Lesedi La Rona was fashioned into 67 separate polished diamonds, including this gigantic 302.37 carat emerald shape, the world’s largest square emerald-cut diamond. Another 66 diamonds, polished from pieces of the Lesedi La Rona, range from 1.00 to 26.00 carats.

Photo credit: Graff.com

The Sewelô

The second largest rough diamond in history, overall, weighed 1,758 carats. Discovered in April, 2019, also at the Karowe Mine in northern Botswana, the dark crystal was named Sewelô (“Rare Find”). Measuring 83.00 x 62.00 x 46.00 mm, which is approximately the size of a tennis ball, it was purchased by the French luxury brand Louis Vuitton, despite doubts about its suitability for jewelry applications.

Photo credit: New York Times

The Cullinan: The World’s Largest

The largest gem-quality diamond ever discovered was the 3,106.75 carat Cullinan, which was extracted from a South African deposit in 1905. With dimensions of approximately 50.00 x 50.00 x 100.00 mm, it was sold to the then-colonial government of the province for 150,000 British Pounds.

Photo credit: Cullinan Replica Collection

The Diamond of Kings and Queens

Named for the chairman of the Premier mine, the Cullinan Diamond was gifted to King Edward VII of England by the Transvaal government to demonstrate their loyalty to the British royal family. In a circular honor, on its 100th anniversary in 2003, the Premier mine was renamed as The Cullinan Diamond mine.

1905 publicity photo of the Cullinan being handed to Sir Thomas Cullinan (at left). Photo credit: Tripod.com

The Cullinan I and II were frequently worn together by Queen Mary. In similar fashion, Queen Elizabeth II has regularly worn the Cullinan III and IV, combined to form a brooch. One of the most popular crown jewels has been the Cullinan V, an 18.8 carat heart-shaped diamond, originally worn by Queen Mary and seen on her granddaughter on frequent occasions today. It was among the eye-candy featured back in our 2020 Valentine’s Day post about historic heart-shapes.

Photo credit: Cape Town Diamond Museum

John Pollard

John Pollard is an educational consultant and subject matter expert for diamond producers, grading laboratories and jewelers in the USA, Europe and Asia. He has lectured for JCK Las Vegas, IGI workshops in New York, Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai, the American Gem Society in Washington D.C., GIA's Alumni Association and other industry organizations.

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