A 910-carat diamond, which is believed to be the world’s fifth largest diamond, has been unearthed in Lesotho. The stone was discovered in Letseng mine by Gem Diamonds, a UK miner with operations in Botswana and Lesotho.
Clifford Elphick, Gem Diamonds’ chief executive, says the find is a “landmark discovery” and is the largest diamond ever mined by the company. Gem Diamonds shared rose 15% after news of the find.
This is just the latest find by Gem Diamonds. In Aug. 2006, the company mined “Lesotho Promise,” a 603-carat diamond in Letseng mine. At an auction in Antwerp, Belgium less than two months later, Lesotho Promise was sold for $12.3 million—around $20,000 per carat. Analysts say the newly discovered 910-carat diamond could be worth as much as $40 million.
Gem Diamonds will be hoping that its stone has better luck at auctions unlike the last big stone found in southern Africa. In Nov. 2015, Canadian mining company Lucara discovered a 1,110-carat diamond in Karowe mine in Botswana. The tennis ball-sized diamond, later named Lesedi La Rona, meaning ‘our light’ in Tswana, was the largest diamond discovered in more than a century.
However, at a June 2016 auction, a sale failed to materialize as the highest bid for the stone was $61 million—$9 million less than the owner hoped to sell it for. It was eventually sold in Sept. 2017 for $53 million.
Before now, nine of the 10 largest diamonds ever discovered have been found in Africa: Four in South Africa, two each in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo and one in Botswana.
But African countries have a difficult history with diamond mining, particularly in countries like Sierra Leone and DRC, where diamonds have been shown to help fund conflict in those countries and others. In South Africa, diamond mining once helped support the oppressive apartheid political system.