ALROSA has found a 34.17-carat yellow diamond which is the largest fancy-colored rough diamond extracted by the company this year.
The rough diamond, extracted from the Ebelyakh alluvial deposit, measures 20.17 х 19.65 х 15.1 mm. It is a transparent intense yellow crystal with a small inclusion in the intermediate zone, the miner said.
Before the end of October, it will be delivered to the United Selling Organization ALROSA (USO ALROSA) in Moscow, where the company specialists will give it a more detailed and accurate assessment.
"This year for ALROSA has already hit the record in the number of large fancy-colored stones," said the director of the United Selling Organization ALROSA Evgeny Agureev. "We used to extract fancy-colored rough diamonds over 10 carats once a year on average. This year, we have already recovered several large fancy-colored diamonds, and this 34.17-carat yellow stone is the largest one so far.
"The company's specialists are still to study the stone more in detail, but we can say in advance that it is fancy vivid yellow, which is very rare and highly valued. The stone will become a worthy addition to our collection of large rare-colored diamonds that we are forming and will bring to the market."
Earlier this year, ALROSA also extracted a 27.85-carat pure pink diamond - the largest pink stone in its history.
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Weighing 27.85 carats, the rough diamond has dimensions of 22.47 x 15.69 x 10.9 mm, and is described by the company as being “of gem-quality and almost free of inclusions.”
Prior to this find, Alrosa said the biggest pink diamond it had ever recovered was 3.86 carats. That too was discovered by Almazy Anabara, which recovers pink and other natural color diamonds at the Severalmaz kimberlite pipes and placer deposits.
Apart from that stone, which was found in 2012, Alrosa has found only three pink diamonds weighing more than 2 carats over the last eight years.
This week’s news of the recovery of a nearly 28-carat high-quality pink follows the company’s August unveiling of the five polished diamonds it cut from a colorless 179-carat piece of rough it found in 2015 and dubbed “The Romanovs” diamond.
The largest of the stones is a 51.38-carat round brilliant, D color, VVS1 clarity diamond with triple excellent cut. Called “The Dynasty,” it is the biggest stone of this quality ever cut by the company.
Commenting on The Dynasty, Alrosa said: “This stone gives a start to a new stage in the development of Alrosa’s cutting division that will actively develop polishing of extra-large and colored diamonds. The Dynasty demonstrated that we can do it at the highest level.”
But whether the company will apply these cutting skills to the newly discovered pink diamond remains to be seen.
In a news release issued Thursday, Evgeny Agureev, the head of USO (United Selling Organization) Alrosa, said the company’s polishing division is examining the diamond in order to decide whether to cut it or sell it rough.
“Large stones, particularly colored, are always in demand at auctions. But if the company decided to cut it, it would become the most expensive diamond in the entire history of Alrosa,” he said.
Canada's Lucara Diamond Corp will have to cut its tennis ball-sized rough diamond to find a buyer, industry insiders say, following Sotheby's failed auction for the world's largest uncut stone last summer.
It's not the ending that William Lamb wanted for his 1,109-carat stone, named 'Lesedi La Rona', or 'Our Light' in the national language of Botswana where it was mined.
"It's only the second stone recovered in the history of humanity over 1,000 carats. Why would you want to polish it?," said Lucara's chief executive.
"The stone in the rough form contains untold potential...As soon as you polish it into one solution, everything else is gone."
Lamb had gambled that ultra-rich collectors, who buy and sell precious art works for record-breaking sums at auction, would do the same with a diamond in the raw.
The unprecedented bet failed.
Bidding for the 2.5 to 3 billion year old stone stalled at $61 million - short of the $70 million reserve.
"When is a diamond too big? I think we have found that when you go above 1,000 carats, it is too big - certainly from the aspect of analyzing the stones with the technology available," said Panmure Gordon mining analyst Kieron Hodgson.
"At the end of the day, it's about understanding what the stone can produce. And the industry now doesn't work on hunches as much as it used to 20-30 years ago."
An arcane business, the diamond industry has no spot market trading, no guarantee that 'roughs' will yield any value, and a punishing grading system that can dramatically swing values.
Stones in the hundreds of carats come with additional risk, from the multi-million-dollar price tags and cutting process that can take months or years, to capricious customer demand.
There is a "very, very small universe" of companies with the skill, money and network to polish and sell the Lesedi, which will likely take two to four days for the first laser cut, said Lamb.
But after Lucara's public auction, potential buyers now know what the market is willing to pay, said Edahn Golan, of Edahn Golan Diamond Research & Data. "Maybe it's worth waiting a couple of years," he said.
While Lucara does not need the money, investors may not have that patience.
Lamb said the unsold stone "weighs heavily" on the stock, which is down more than 30 percent from late last year.
To be sure, Lucara has seen other benefits from the stone, said independent diamond analyst Paul Zimnisky.
"There's the value of a particular diamond, but then there's also a story behind the second-largest rough diamond ever recovered in modern time," he said.
"Just from a publicity standpoint, nobody knew what Lucara Diamond was when they recovered that stone ... now they're probably one of the most recognized names."
Lamb, a former De Beers executive, says it's unlikely Lucara can sell the stone for its desired price and polishing the Lesedi itself is risky.
Another option is for the Vancouver-based miner to partner with one or more companies to cut and sell the stone. "We've already done our homework," Lamb said. "You don't take a stone like this and give it to the second best."
Industry sources agree that high-profile British diamond dealer Laurence Graff makes the list of potential partners, but beyond that, opinions vary.
Lucara could work with a consortium, sources said, including Cora International, Diamcad, the so-called 'King of Diamonds' Lev Leviev, Mouawad, Tache Diamonds, Optimum Diamonds, the Angolan President's daughter Isobel dos Santos, Swissdiam International and Rare Diamond House (RDH).
It would be a mistake for Lucara to hold onto the Lesedi, said Oded Mansori, RDH managing director. "Maybe next week, there will be a larger stone."
Lucara, which installed a Large Diamond Recovery machine, using X-ray transmission sensors (XRT), recovered the Lesedi, an 813-carat and 374-carat stone over two days.
A Dubai trading company paid a record $63 million for Lucara's 813-carat 'Constellation', while Graff bought the 374-carat stone for $17.5 million.
"Miners have more advanced technology, this is why we see these large stones coming up all of a sudden," said Mansori. "I think that Mother Nature has some more surprises waiting for us."
Lamb won't take that bet.
"Don't hold your breath. There's no guarantee that there's going to be a next one," he said.
Reporting by Susan Taylor
RAPAPORT... Gem Diamonds has recovered a “high-quality” rough diamond weighing 126 carats at its Letšeng mine, following a switch to a more lucrative section of the project in Lesotho, the company reported Thursday.
The D-color, type-IIa stone is the latest in a string of large discoveries at the mine, which is known for its high-value rough production. Last month, the company found a 104.73-carat, D-color, type IIa diamond and a 151.52-carat yellow diamond. In April and May, Gem Diamonds found three D-color, type IIa rough diamonds weighing 80.58 carats, 98.42 carats and 114 carats respectively.
Gem Diamonds shifted focus to the higher-grade K6 portion of Letšeng’s main pipe in the second quarter, enabling a higher rate of large-diamond discoveries, the company explained in May. This followed a slowdown in 2016, when it unearthed only five stones of 100 carats or more, dragging revenues down by 22%.
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — The recent find of a mammoth diamond the size of a hockey puck has everyone in this small West African nation wondering how big a fortune it will fetch.
Giddy talk about the gem's worth is providing a needed uplift in a country long plagued by misfortunes that include a deadly Ebola epidemic in 2013-16 and a decade-long civil war that broke out in 1991.
Even diamonds have a bad connotation here. Smugglers took advantage of the country's abundance of precious stones to sell them illegally and help finance that brutal conflict. The gems gained the name "blood diamonds" and inspired the 2006 movie Blood Diamond starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
“This diamond makes me happy even though I am not the owner,” said Mohamed Bangura, 28, a bartender on popular Lumley beach. “When I saw it being displayed on national TV by the president, I felt good that after all these years, our country is making headlines again for a good reason.”
Now on a recent sunny day, people on the beach enjoy picnics and discuss how local Pastor Emmanuel Momoh found the huge diamond in May in his small mining plot in Kono, in the east. Mining is a common alternative to subsistence farming in this impoverished country.
Following a law passed to curb diamond smuggling, the pastor handed the diamond, dubbed the "Transparent Gem," to the government, which is supposed to sell it and give the proceeds to him after collecting a 3% tax.
“My fear is, how will the money be shared and spent?” Bangura asked. “Diamonds worth millions of U.S. dollars have been smuggled before and nothing happened.”
A few days before the new gem was put on auction, the diamond-mining firm Lucara sold an 813-carat diamond for $63 million in London. But the top offer for the Transparent Gem was only $7.8 million at a May auction. The government rejected the bid.
“The next step is to call for an international bidding to be held either in Tel Aviv or Antwerp to ensure the right price is paid,” government spokesman Abdulai Bayraytay said, referring to major diamond centers in Israel and Belgium.
Since then, the government has refused to answer questions about the diamond. That has led to much speculation about the sale and what happens next.
Cecilia Mattia, national coordinator for a mining watchdog group, said the country's diamond wealth often has led to tragedy: Thousands have died because of illegal trade, and rebels started the civil war by seizing mining regions.
“Diamonds and other minerals have not been very helpful to Sierra Leone for some obvious reasons,” Mattia said.
Now some hope diamonds can benefit the country.
“Our district lacks good roads, no electricity and no water,” said Fanday Musa, 25, a taxi-motorcycle driver in Kono, where the pastor found the stone.
The civil war destroyed Kono and left 50,000 dead nationwide. Musa hoped Momoh, the pastor, would spend his fortune from the diamond in his community. The churchman's mines employ a handful of men, providing crucial jobs for Kono.
“It’s a shame,” Musa said. “The name Kono is known worldwide, but on reaching here you will see the deplorable ruins left behind by the war. I hope the blessing of this gem will give a face lift to my town.”
Momoh believes he and his fellow citizens will receive their windfall soon.
“I am very satisfied," he said about giving the diamond to the authorities. "I am looking forward to the government working on how to sell the diamond in the interest of Sierra Leone.”
Others were impatient. “I want this diamond to be sold now,” said taxi driver Mohamed Sall, 34, of Bo South, an inland city. “Our country needs the money badly.”
Government officials counsel patience. “In the 1990s, our country was known for blood diamonds,” said Bayraytay, the government spokesman. “This is now a golden opportunity to let the world know that Sierra Leone is back on track. This diamond will help us achieve that.”
Some also hope the diamond heals the nation after Ebola.
“This is the first time since my adult life a diamond has been given this kind of attention,” said Ramatu Turay, 35, a street vendor in Port Loko, a northern district. “I lost relatives to Ebola in 2014. But this diamond is a way of wiping tears from Sierra Leone."
OFF THE COAST OF NAMIBIA — Deep beneath this frigid stretch of the Atlantic Ocean, some of the world’s most valuable diamonds are scattered like lost change.
The discovery of such gems has sparked a revolution in one of the world’s most storied industries, sending mining companies on a race for precious stones buried just under the seafloor.
For over a century, open-pit diamond mines have been some of the most valuable real estate on Earth, with small swaths of southern Africa producing billions of dollars of wealth. But those mines are gradually being exhausted. Experts predict that the output of existing onshore mines will decline by around 2 percent annually in coming years. By 2050, production might cease.
Now, some of the first “floating mines” could offer hope for the world’s most mythologized gemstone, and extend a lifeline to countries like Namibia whose economies depend on diamonds. Last year, mining companies extracted $600 million worth of diamonds off the Namibian coast, sucking them up in giant vacuum-like hoses.
“As [Namibia’s] land-based mines enter their twilight years, it’s very important for us and for Namibia that we have long-term mining prospects,” said Bruce Cleaver, the chief executive of De Beers, in an interview.
But as companies weigh the prospect of more offshore operations, environmentalists have raised concerns about the damage that could be inflicted on the seafloor.
From above, the mining vessels look like oil rigs, 300-foot-long ships with helicopter landing platforms, dredging equipment and industrial metal pilings. On a recent day, a family of seals swam off one of them, as the machines hummed and sediment was sucked on board through a 170-yard hose to be sorted. It might be the world’s most complex commercial mining endeavor.
Diamonds are formed when carbon is subjected to high temperatures and pressure deep underground. Some were hurled toward the surface millions of years ago in volcanic eruptions. In recent decades, geologists realized that because diamonds could be found in Namibia’s Orange River, there was a good chance they could also be detected at sea, swept there by the current. As it turned out, the underwater gems were among the world’s most valuable stones — with far greater clarity than diamonds mined on land.
De Beers, which historically dominated global diamond production, purchased mining rights to more than 3,000 square miles of the Namibian seafloor in 1991. So far, it has explored only 3 percent of that area.
The technology to extract the underwater diamonds took years to develop. Only recently has the firm been able to efficiently scavenge the sea for diamonds. Underwater gems only represent about 13 percent of the value of diamonds De Beers mines onshore each year, but more countries are pushing for exploration to begin along their coastlines.
At the unveiling last month of the SS Nujoma, a giant exploration vessel, former Namibian president Sam Nujoma smashed a bottle of champagne over the hull, surrounded by signs that read:
“The future of marine diamond mining is here, and it’s Namibian.”
Mining sites turned into ghost towns
In 1908, a railroad worker named Zacharias Lewala found a shiny stone in the desert of southwestern Namibia. South Africa’s diamond rush had been underway for a few decades, and now another boom began in the territory to its northwest, with miners finding some valleys strewn with the precious stones. Germany, which controlled present-day Namibia until World War I, extracted 7 million carats between 1908 and 1914.
A century later, many of those mining sites are now ghost towns. All that’s left of Kolmanskop, where Lewala found his diamond, is a cluster of abandoned wooden houses, their living rooms covered in sand. It is a portrait of the rapid boom-and-bust life cycle of diamond mining.
Mining companies have invested billions in technology that would lead to new finds. And there have been some big ones: In 1982 in Botswana, De Beers opened a mine called Jwaneng, which produces roughly 12 million carats per year, worth over $2 billion.
But known diamond deposits began to diminish in recent years, even as demand for the gems has remained strong. Last year, the world spent $80 billion on diamond jewelry, more than half of it in the United States, an all-time high. Demand in emerging economies such as China and India is also expected to increase.
Those trends — diminishing supply and rising demand — made Namibia’s offshore deposits all the more important. In the 1990s, De Beers sent its first commercial vessels into the Atlantic in search of diamonds. Now, more than 90 percent of Namibia's diamond-related revenue comes from offshore finds.
These days, the company uses drones to fly over vast stretches of the ocean, looking for areas that might be worth exploring. Then it sends vessels like the Mafuta to dredge the most promising areas. Most of the diamonds are close to the surface, De Beers said, so it does not go deeper than six feet beneath the seafloor.
The mining vessels combine technology from oil rigs, dredging ships and even canneries to do their work. A remote control, tractor-like crawler moves slowly along the surface of the seafloor, directing a hose that sucks up tons of sediment every hour.
The sediment is then passed through a series of machines that cull material first by size and then, using X-ray technology, by geological composition. Diamonds make their way down five floors of conveyor belts and machines into a metal container that looks like a soup can.
“The things we do for women,” quipped Mike Rogers, the chief engineer of the Mafuta, as the crawler descended from the vessel one day last month.
Ninety-eight people live aboard the Mafuta, which has the urgent, frenzied feeling of a naval ship. A few weeks ago, it was hammered with 30-foot swells as it tried to operate.
Diamond mining contributes roughly a tenth of Namibia’s gross domestic product, and its offshore contract with De Beers is a 50-50 partnership with the government. But while the soaring revenue has made some Namibians rich, this remains the world’s third most unequal country, according to the World Bank, with millions of people unaided by the diamond rush.
Debate over ecological damage
Although Namibia is considered the easiest place to extract offshore diamonds, mining executives are not ruling out exploring other stretches of ocean. Marine mining has also taken place off the coast of South Africa, though it has proven less lucrative.
“Never say never,” Cleaver said.
But environmental groups have raised concerns about the offshore mining operations, which spew the sediment back into the ocean after it is processed for diamonds. Companies also plan to begin mining offshore for gold in coming years, with one commercial operation scheduled to launch in 2018 off Papua New Guinea.
“My concern with this and all deep-sea mining is that we just don’t know much about the deep sea at all,” said Emily Jeffers, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, a U.S. nonprofit organization. “The worry is that we are going to irreparably harm this environment and these species before we discover them.”
De Beers says its offshore operations do not cause significant ecological damage, as sediment is returned to the sea and eventually resettles. The company says it employs ecologists who monitor the environment where they have mined to make sure it is recovering.
Sitting on the bridge of the Mafuta one recent day, a middle-aged South African man named Leonard Bunce manned the joysticks that control the dredging equipment. In front of him, a series of screens showed a live stream of various stages in the mining process. Sometimes, he said, he sees fish and octopus sucked up by the hose, but they appear to survive as they are dumped back into the sea.
Mostly, what Bunce saw that day were the tons and tons of sediment churned into the vessel — any diamonds indistinguishable on his screen. The culling process is entirely mechanized, and the diamonds are only visible to workers when they are dropped into the can. When enough of the gems accumulate there, the can is sealed and flown to Windhoek, Namibia’s capital.
That is where, in an office on the 11th floor of a nondescript building, Peter Kayser inspects high-value diamonds that could be worth anywhere from tens of thousands to millions of dollars.
One day last month, his attention was on a diamond about the size of the tip of his thumb that had recently been vacuumed up from the ocean floor. He passed the gem through a machine that calculated its weight. It took a few moments before the number flashed on a screen: at least seven carats.
“This could be a very expensive stone.”
Despite a market that accounts for more than a third of global demand for the gemstone, the U.S. does not have any significant natural diamond resources within its geographical borders. Instead, Russia supplied about a third of the total carats mined in 2015.
Diamond production levels have remained steady in recent years, but industry analysts have predicted a dip in demand due in part to shifting preferences among millennials. The generation is getting married later, if at all, and has unique preferences.
In October, the Diamond Producers Association – a group of seven major diamond retailers, including De Beers and Canada's Lucara – launched an advertising campaign targeting millennial consumers called "Real Is Rare." The industry organization, founded in 2015, even got celebrity Nick Cannon involved.
But diamonds may not be as rare as the trade organization makes them out to be. After a drop in production between 2008 and 2009, more than 120 million carats of diamond have been produced each year by a handful of countries, largely concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, there are also "substantial" reserves of the gemstone around the world.
Here are the countries that produced the most diamonds in 2015, according to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, a collaboration among government and industry organizations.
|Country||Diamond Production in 2015 (in carats)||Average Value Per Carat|
|Dem. Rep. of Congo||16.0 million||$8|
|South Africa||7.2 million||$193|
New York--Two large diamonds have been uncovered in Africa in as many weeks, putting an end to the drought of big diamond finds the industry seems to have been experiencing.
Gem Diamonds uncovered the 114-carat D color, Type II rough diamond on the left at Letšeng while Firestone Diamonds found the 110-carat light yellow rough diamond at right at its Liqhobong project.
Mining company Gem Diamonds Ltd. announced the recovery of a 114-carat rough diamond from its Letšeng mine in Lesotho on Friday.
The company described it as a D color, Type II diamond of “exceptional quality.”
The Letšeng mine is known for producing large, high-quality white diamonds, selling at an average price of $2,000 per carat, according to Bloomberg, which is the highest in the industry.
It is the deposit responsible for producing the 357-carat chunk of rough that was cut into the 118.78-carat “Graff Venus,” the world’s largest flawless heart-shaped diamond.
Since Gem Diamonds acquired Letšeng in 2006, the mine has produced four of the 20 largest gem-quality white diamonds ever recorded, though last year it only recovered five stones bigger than 100 carats, less than half what it found the year prior.
The news of Gem’s find came on the heels of another big diamond find from a rival miner in Lesotho, a small kingdom within a country that’s located in the southeastern portion of South Africa.
On April 5, Firestone Diamonds said it had unearthed a 110-carat diamond, its biggest discovery so far, at its new mine in Lesotho.
The light yellow stone was discovered at the Liqhobong project, confirming its beliefs that the deposit has the potential for large diamonds, the company said.
Firestone has spent $185 million to build up the mine, which just began production in October.
In addition to its Liqhobong mine in Lesotho, Firestone also owns and operates the BK11 kimberlite mine in northern Botswana.
In the far north-east of Russia, a whole town of people dedicates their working lives to finding diamonds. Russia is the world's largest producer of diamonds by volume and Mirny is its ‘diamond capital'.
Mirny is so remote that the people here refer to the rest of Russia as ‘the mainland.'
Located in Russia's far northeast, 4,000 km from Moscow, the main route in and out is via aircraft. In winter, when temperatures can drop to below -50 degrees centigrade, ice roads appear allowing supplies to be brought in overland.
The town itself is built around a giant hole in the ground. It is probably Mirny's most distinguishing feature. Diamonds were discovered here in the 1950s and as the diamond mine grew, so did the town around it. The city has primarily been financed from the proceeds of the quarry - which grew to be 1.2km wide and 525m deep.
It is a remote, inhospitable place. Until June this year there was still snow on the ground. "In Mirny, for ten months of the year, it is winter."
The attraction here is definitely not the climate or the location, but the higher wages which attract people from other Russian regions and former Soviet states.