The year was 1967. After Botswana was freed from Britain, Orapa, a large diamond mine was discovered by De Beers. Situated nearly 250 miles away from Gabarone, this is De Beers’ oldest operating mine, with the world’s second largest diamond producing kimberlite pipe. Shortly after Orapa, Letlhakane was found within the Orapa kimberlite area. Jwaneng, which according to De Beers’ is the world’s richest diamond mine by value, and has contributed between 60 per cent and 70 per cent of Debswana’s revenue. The Jwaneng kimberlite pipe was discovered in 1971 in the Naledi River Valley.
Many mines later and with over 50 years of production, diamonds have been a sole reason for Botswana’s economic upliftment – quick fact, shortly after its independence, Botswana’s per capita income was $80 a year. Cut to 2020, the country’s per capita income was $6781. The country has prospered with state-of-the-art infrastructure, with top class diamond sorting complexes.
Earlier this week, De Beers unearthed a 1,098 carat stone in Botswana on June 1 at its Jwaneng mine, the largest since the company began operations five decades ago. Shortly after, Lucara Diamond Corp discovered 1,174 carat diamond from its Karowe mine. Let’s look at some of the other massive diamonds discovered at the Botswana region:
Lesedi La Rona – 1109 ct (2015)
Lesedi La Rona is a type IIa diamond, the largest discovered in 100 years, and second in size only to the Cullinan diamond in the British Crown jewels. The giant 1,109-carat rock, known as “Lesedi La Rona” or “our light” (in the Tswana language spoken in Botswana), was unearthed in November at Lucara’s Karowe Mine late 2015. Lucara Diamond finally sold the 1,109-carat diamond for $53 million, or $47,777 a carat to Graff Diamonds. A year of analysis followed by the cutting and polishing process at Graff resulted in 67 finished gems, ranging in size from under a carat to in excess of 100 carats from the rough.
Constellation – 813 ct (2015)
The Constellation was found at the same mine, during the same week as Lesedi la Rona. de Grisogono bought the diamond in partnership with Dubai-based Nemesis International for $63 million. A total of 8 stones were produced from the 813ct stone. One of the stones, a 313 ct constellation 1 was the largest graded D-colour diamond on record.
Queen of Kalahari – 342ct (2017)
The Queen of Kalahari was unearthed from the Karowe mines of Botswana. Upon purchase by Chopard, the luxury jeweller produced 23 diamonds, five of which weighed more than 20 cts. This exceptionally large, D Colour, Flawless diamond was dislodged from a mass of kimberlite that journeyed along with it through the earth billions of years ago. The price Chopard paid for the stone was not disclosed. Placed into the hands of the Chopard atelier artisans and their peerless know-how, this 342-carat diamond has found its ultimate expression and most beautiful rendition as an extraordinary set of 23 diamonds, the Garden of Kalahari. Amongst these 23 diamonds, 5 are over 20ct and represent each of the main cut stone shapes: cushion: cushion, brilliant, heart, emerald, and pear.
Manami Star – 88 ct diamond cut from 242 ct (2018)
The 88 carat diamond came from a 242 carat piece of rough that was discovered at the Jwaneng mine in Botswana. The D flawless oval diamond was sold for $13.8 million to a Japanese collector who named it Manami Star after his eldest daughter. Sotheby’s stated that the diamond was “perfected by every critical criterion”—both externally and internally flawless and with excellent polish and symmetry. It is also type IIa—rare for a natural diamond.
Sewelô – 1758ct (2019)
The unbroken 1,758 carat stone was mined from Karowe and was recovered through Lucara's XRT circuit in April 2019. Meaning "rare find" in Setswana, the name Sewelô was selected from over 22,000 submissions in a contest open to all citizens of Botswana. Sewelô - the largest rough diamond discovered since 1905 was bought by French fashion house and luxury retailer Louis Vuitton. The news created quite a stir in the gems and jewellery industry worldwide since this was an unprecedented move from anyone in the fashion industry. Sewelô was seen on display at the Paris Fashion Week, while the company has not revealed how much it paid for the diamond, which is as large as a tennis ball.
Sethunya – 549ct (2020)
Lucara Diamond discovered an unbroken 549 carat white diamond of exceptional purity from its 100% owned Karowe Diamond Mine. The diamond was recovered in the MDR (Mega Diamond Recovery) XRT circuit that allows for diamond recovery post primary crushing and prior to milling. The 549 carat diamond is the second diamond recovered from the MDR which was commissioned in 2017. The gem diamond referred to as "Sethunya" meaning "Flower" in Setswana was bought by Louis Vuitton in partnership with HB Antwerp.