“Real is rare”, bidders were rarer

“I’VE seen grown men with tears in their eyes” in front of it, an auctioneer from Sotheby’s said as he opened bidding on June 29th on the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona, the biggest diamond to be discovered in over a century. Within minutes the tears were, if anything, of embarrassment. Bidding, which started at $50m, was desultory. A rough stone that Sotheby’s had put in the same league as the 3,107-carat Cullinan diamond, discovered in South Africa in 1905, failed to make its $70m reserve. “I’m a bit disappointed. There were no private buyers and the diamantaires stayed away,” said Lukas Lundin, chairman of Lucara Diamond, a Canadian firm that unearthed the stone in Botswana last year.

It was the latest disappointment to befall an industry that has had little to celebrate. Two days before, William Lamb, Lucara’s chief executive, said he believed the auction would symbolise the allure of diamonds and their promise for African development. He hoped to “dispel the rumour that all diamonds are bad”. That reek of notoriety has clung to the industry in recent years, especially...Continue reading