Without further ado, these are the top 10 stones discovered this century that have secured their place in diamond history. Will they be trumped by an even-greater discovery in the not-too-distant future? We will just have to wait and see.
1. The 1,758-carat Sewelô diamond
The second-biggest diamond in history and the largest ever found in Botswana was discovered in April 2019 at the Lucara Karowe diamond mine. Named The Sewelô, it weighed a colossal 1,758 carats, second only in size to the historic 3,107-carat Cullinan Diamond recovered in South Africa more than a century ago. That is where the similarities end, however, because The Sewelô was a very different kind of diamond. The tennis-ball-sized stone, whose name translates as “rare find” in the local Setswana language, was covered in a thin layer carbon, giving it a frosty-grey appearance and concealing the potential contained deep within. In a move that surprised many in the industry, this most unusual diamond reportedly sold to Louis Vuitton “for millions” at the beginning of 2020. The first important stone acquired by the famous French maison better known for its logo-emblazoned leather goods, Louis Vuitton is collaborating with the mining company who made the discovery, and the diamond manufacturer responsible for cutting and polishing the stone, to create a collection of diamonds that are yet to be revealed.
2. The 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona diamond
The unearthing of the Lesedi La Rona at the Lucara Karowe mine in Botswana in 2015 was a momentous occasion. Weighing a whopping 1,109 carats, it immediately made history as the largest gem-quality diamond discovered since the Cullinan Diamond was revealed in 1905. Even more astonishingly, it was identified as Type IIa, which comprise only 1-2% of all diamonds found. The most chemically pure of all diamonds, Type IIa stones are almost entirely devoid of impurities, which made the prospect of cutting and polishing this epic stone even more exciting. The Lesedi La Rona definitely ended up in the right hands when it was sold to the renowned London diamantaire Laurence Graff for $53 million. Mr Graff, who in his lifetime has acquired more important diamonds than any other jeweller, spent 18 months cutting and polishing the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona, revealing a magnificent collection of 67 diamonds, including the historic 302.37 carat D colour Graff Lesedi La Rona – the largest highest colour, highest clarity diamond ever certified by the GIA and the largest square emerald cut diamond in the world.
3. The 910-carat Lesotho
Legend diamond in the Southern African Kingdom of Lesotho is the Letšeng mine, which, together with the Karowe mine in Botswana, consistently produces some of the highest-quality diamonds in the world. In 2018, Gem Diamonds, owner of the mine, revealed its greatest diamond discovery to date: a 910-carat rough diamond the size of two golf balls. Named the Lesotho Legend, the huge diamond was identified as a top D colour and Type IIa, making it one of the purest and most valuable diamonds on earth. Unlike the other historic diamonds in this list, the owner of the Lesotho Legend remains a mystery. Just two months after its discovery, it was sold for $40 million to an unnamed buyer in Antwerp, Belgium – the centre of the world’s diamond industry – and disappeared without a trace.
4. The 813-carat Constellation diamond
In what was an incredible year for Lucara, the Canadian diamond company that owns the Karowe mine, a second enormous rough diamond was uncovered in Botswana in 2015. Named The Constellation, it weighed 813 carats and, like the Lesedi La Rona and the Lesotho Legend, was also an exceptionally pure Type IIa diamond. In 2016, it sold to Dubai-based Nemesis International and its whereabouts was unknown until, in 2019, Nemesis revealed a sensational 313-carat emerald cut diamond at the Dubai Diamond Conference. Christened The Constellation I, at the time of its unveiling Nemesis stated that it was not only the largest D colour diamond ever graded by the GIA but also the first UAE-crafted stone of importance because the majority of the cutting and polishing took place in the country.
5. The 709-carat Peace Diamond
Of all the stones in our top 10, the Peace Diamond stands out as the luckiest find of them all. Many locals in Sierra Leone search for diamonds as a way to earn a meagre living and, in 2017, a team of artisanal diggers, hired by Pastor Emmanuel Momoh, struck gold in Koryardu, a village with no running water or electricity. Sifting through the grit and sand in a muddy mining pool, one of the miners happened upon a diamond that was so large no-one believed it could possibly be genuine. Measuring 2.5 inches wide by 1 inch deep, when it was confirmed that the yellow 709-carat diamond was indeed real, the pastor ignored offers to smuggle the stone out of Sierra Leone and instead took it straight to the government. Keen to right the wrongs of years of unscrupulous mining practices in Sierra Leone, the government announced that it would sell the diamond, and others that followed, through legitimate channels in a completely transparent manner. Named the Peace Diamond because a proportion of the proceeds of its sale would directly benefit the community in which the miners lived, the 709-carat stone was sold to the jeweller and diamantaire Laurence Graff for $6.5 million in December 2017.
6. The 603-carat Lesotho Promise diamond
Despite being eight times smaller than the United Kingdom, the Kingdom of Lesotho has a history of producing large diamonds of an unusually high quality. In August 2006, Gem Diamonds revealed that it had uncovered a 603-carat diamond at its Letšeng mine that was not only exceptional in size. A top D colour and Type IIa, at the time of its discovery it was the largest diamond find of the century. Named the Lesotho Promise, it was sold to Graff for $12.36 million and the jeweller’s cutting and polishing division, SAFDICO, set about transforming it into 26 D Flawless polished diamonds, including an impressive 76.41 carat pear-shape diamond, all of which were set into the single, spectacular Lesotho Promise necklace.
7. The 581-carat Wynn diamond
While all of the other diamonds in this top 10 have been well publicised, the 581-carat Wynn diamond remains shrouded in mystery. An alluvial diamond discovered in 2002 in the Amazon River in Brazil, it was expertly cut and polished in Antwerp, yielding a magnificent H colour, VS1 clarity 230-carat pear shape stone that was sold to Steve Wynn in 2007. Wynn, creator of some of Las Vegas’ most iconic casinos, reportedly set the stone in an incredible Cartier diamond necklace, after which its story comes to an abrupt end. Was the Wynn diamond sold at auction in 2011 or does it still belong to Steve Wynn? Until this legendary diamond goes up for sale again, we might never know.
8. The 552-carat Diavik diamond
Near the Arctic Circle, Canada’s Diavik mine is situated in one of the most inhospitable environments on earth, yet it has emerged as one of the world’s leading sources of gem-quality diamonds. In 2018, a game-changing stone was recovered at the mine: a yellow diamond weighing a mighty 552 carats. As big as a chicken’s egg, it was the largest diamond ever found in North America and represented a major milestone for the Canadian diamond industry, which is playing an increasingly important role in the production of diamonds globally. Because of its unique structure, texture and colour (most of the stones discovered at Diavik are colourless diamonds), Dominion, which owns the mine, announced that it wasn’t planning on selling the rough diamond. Instead, it is the process of being cut and polished by a master cutter, the results of which are yet to be unveiled.
9. The 550-carat Letšeng Star
The third diamond in our top 10 discovered in the tiny sovereign state of Lesotho, the 550-carat Letšeng Star was named to signify the growing number of star stones to have emerged from the prolific Letšeng mine in the Maluti Mountains. Recovered in August 2011 by Gem Diamonds, the rough diamond is the fourth diamond on this list to have been sold to the diamantaire Laurence Graff, who employed the skills of Graff’s expert diamond cutters to polish the stone in-house. It yielded a superb collection of D Flawless stones, including 12 identical pairs of pear shape diamonds, alongside the principal stone: a spectacular 33 carat pear-shape diamond.
10. A 549-carat diamond recovered in Botswana
The final diamond on our list is also the most recently unearthed. Found in February 2020 at the Karowe mine in Botswana, the 549-carat diamond was recovered from the same ore block as the Lesedi La Rona and The Constellation. Just like both, it is an exceptionally pure, highly valuable Type IIa diamond. A decision is yet to be made about its sale, but its discovery is another definitive sign that we have entered a new era of diamond discovery in which anything – or any size – is possible. With the help of advanced technology designed to recover these mega-stones in one piece, there is every chance that this top 10 greatest diamond discoveries of the 21st century will require updating with a new, record-breaking discovery in the not-too-distant future.
It is exciting to think that there could be more epic diamonds hidden deep in the ground, just waiting to be found. Only time will tell when the next record-breaking stone will be revealed.