The largest diamond discovered in over a century failed to sell at an auction on Wednesday (June 29). The hammer went down on a disappointing $61 million bid, the highest price on offer at Sotheby’s in London, the BBC reported. Its owner was hoping for $70 million.
The diamond’s owner, Vancouver-based Lucara Diamond Corporation said in a statement that it will be retaining the 1,109-carat stone. Named Lesedi La Rona, meaning “our light” in seTswana, the tennis-ball-sized gem was discovered in Botswana last year.
The decision to auction the uncut stone was a break from convention, the New York Times reported (paywall). Rare finds like this are usually only offered to an elite group of dealers who assess the gem to determine how many individual diamonds can be cut from it before it is sold.
Opting to auction the stone whole was an attempt to tap a new market of wealthy collectors eyeing trophy stones. The auction, Lucara CEO William Lamb told Reuters, was an opportunity to ”access to as many ultra-high net worth individuals as possible, those people who had bought very expensive items in the past.” Sotheby’s would have made a 12% fee from the sale, the New York Times reported.
The approach apparently was not successful, but Lamb says that’s just fine. “There is definitely demand for the stone,” Lamb told Reuters. “It is just demand from the people who we would normally sell the stone to.”
In May, the Lucara Diamond Corporation sold the second-largest rough diamond, the 813-carat Constellation, for a record-breaking $63 million. That sale, to a Dubai-based rough diamond trading company, fueled speculation on how much the Lesedi La Rona would fetch. Applying the same dollar-per-carat price, the larger diamond’s value would be $86 million.
It’s unclear what Lucara will do next with the Lesedi La Rona, but one possibility, Lamb told Reuters, is to loan it to museums to raise its profile.