"NEW YORK, NY - MAY 03: Lesedi La Rona Diamond Still Life at Sotheby's on May 3, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Donald Bowers/Getty Images for Sotheby's)"

The largest gem-quality rough diamond discovered in over one hundred years is to be auctioned at Sotheby’s London on the 29 June 2016.

The 1109-carat Lesedi la Rona is estimated to achieve in excess of $70 million (upwards of £48.3 million) at the stand-alone auction. Uncovered by mining company Lucara Diamond Corp. in November 2015 at its Karowe mine in Botswana, the stone’s name means “our light” in Tswana, the native language of the country.

Measuring the size of a tennis ball (approximately 66.4 x 55 x 42 mm), the rough diamond features exceptional transparency and quality, and is two-and-a-half to three billion years old.


Nothing of the size and quality of Lesedi La Rona has been found in over 100 years, and in terms of its size, it is exceeded only by the legendary Cullinan diamond, mined in South Africa in 1905. The 3016.75-carat Cullinan diamond produced nine major diamonds that are part of the Crown Jewels, including the Great Star of Africa currently the largest top-quality polished diamond in existence, weighing 530.20 carats.

According to a study by the Gemological Institute of America, the Lesedi La Rona’s “top colour and transparency exemplify the ‘limpid’ appearance commonly associated with type IIa diamonds” , which is a rare subgroup inhabited by less than 2% of all gem diamonds. Stones in this group are “the most chemically pure and often show extraordinary optical transparency”.

Independent reports on the potential yield of the rough diamond have suggested that the Lesedi la Rona may have the potential to achieve the largest top-quality diamond that has ever been cut and polished. These reports have also stated that there is a high probability that the resulting polished diamonds will be ‘D’ colour, which is the highest colour classification for white diamonds.

David Bennett, worldwide chairman of Sotheby’s Jewellery Division commented: “The Lesedi la Rona is simply outstanding and its discovery is the find of a lifetime. It is a huge honour for Sotheby’s to have been entrusted with its sale. Every aspect of this auction is unprecedented. Not only is the rough superlative in size and quality, but no rough even remotely of this scale has ever been offered before at public auction.”

William Lamb, president and CEO of Lucara Diamond Corp. said: “We are very excited to be partnering with Sotheby’s on this landmark auction. Lucara has made innovation the cornerstone of its development strategy and this has led to the historic recovery of the Lesedi La Rona diamond. The forthcoming sale presents a unique opportunity to present this extraordinary diamond to a worldwide audience.”

The Lesedi la Rona will be on view at Sotheby’s New York on 7 May, and at Sotheby’s London from 18 until 28 June, ahead of its auction in the evening of 29 June.