A model displays a rare 603 carat white diamond that sold for $12.36 million during a news conference in Antwerp, Belgium Monday. The diamond will be cut up and sold for an expected $20 million. Francois Lenoir / Reuters
Professional Jeweler -- The Lesotho Promise, the largest uncut diamond excavated this century and the 15th largest diamond ever excavated on Earth, changed hands today in Antwerp for the amount US$12.36 million. The new owner of the stone, which weighs 603 carats and is about the size of a hand, is Safdico.
The diamond is notable for its color as well as its size: It is virtually clear in color and has been graded "D", the most exceptional color a diamond can be.
The African kingdom of Lesotho is famous for its diamond finds. The previous largest find dates back to 1967, when a 601-ct. diamond was found: the Lesotho Brown, so named because of its color.
The Lesotho Promise was found on August 22, 2006, in the Letseng mine, 30 percent of which is owned by the government. The mine was closed from 1982 to 2004 (De Beers closed the mine in the 1980s). It is no coincidence that the diamond was put onto the market on October 4, the day that the small kingdom of Lesotho celebrates its independence.
"We are proud that a diamond from Lesotho is making history for the second time," states Minister of Natural Rrsources Mamphono Khaketla. "That such a unique diamond was sold here proves ... that Antwerp is still the international diamond capital of the world," added Freddy J. Hanard, managing director of the HRD.
Here's an economic background on the Kingdom of Lesotho:
GDP (2003): $1.43 billion.
Annual growth rate (2004): 3.4%.
Per capita GDP (2003): $550.
Average inflation rate (2003): 10%.
Natural resources: Water, agricultural and grazing land, some diamonds and other minerals. Lesotho is an exporter of excess labor.
Agriculture (2003 est.): 16.8% of GDP. Products--corn, wheat, sorghum, barley, peas, beans, asparagus, wool, mohair, livestock. Arable land--11%.
Industry (2003 est.): 43.1% of GDP. Types--apparel, food, beverages, handicrafts, construction, tourism.
Trade (2003): Exports--$450 million; clothing, furniture, footwear and wool. Partners--South Africa, United States, Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia, EU. Imports--$661 million; corn, clothing, building materials, vehicles, machinery, medicines, petroleum products. Partners--South Africa, Asia, EU.
Fiscal year: 1 April - 31 March.
Economic aid received (2002): $972.6 million. Primary donors--World Bank, IMF, EU, UN, U.K., Ireland, U.S.
Source: US State Department, October 2006
The Poverty Factor
Lesotho has been wracked by acute poverty, with a per capita GDP of 402 dollars. About 29% of the adult population is HIV positive and the country has more than 100 000 orphans, most of whom lost their parents to Aids. More on News24.com.