Despite the media’s best efforts to convince the world that the 1,109 carat rough diamond that was discovered in Botswana in November 2015 was too big to buy, once again the diamond industry proved itself strong. The colorless rough diamond is the second largest diamond that was ever discovered, after the Cullinan diamond which weighed 3,106 carats in its rough state and was discovered in South Africa in 1905. The Lesedi La Rona was discovered by Lucara Diamond Corp. and was offered for auction at Sotheby’s in June 2016 with a reserve price of $70 million. The diamond failed to sell, not exceeding more than $61 million, and the diamond left the spotlight and reverted to the usual method of selling such a stone – private negotiations. Now, as of September 2017, the enormous rough diamond finally sold for $53 million to Laurence Graff of Graff Diamonds.
The 1,109 carat Lesedi La Rona rough diamond Image credit: Lucara Diamond Corp.
For those who follow the sales of large rough diamonds, this news may not have come as a surprise seeing as how Laurence Graff also bought another large rough diamond from Lucara back in May. Graff acquired a 373 carat rough diamond for $17.5 million which was reportedly a piece of the Lesedi La Rona (although it did not have its own moniker). Perhaps he planned all along to buy both pieces at a price that he could control on his own terms? The $53 million diamond and $17.5 million prices that he paid interestingly total $70.5 million – the asking price for just the Lesedi La Rona alone. His negotiation skills prove that he certainly knows how to create ROI for himself when making diamond acquisitions. However, the primary reason for Graff Diamonds’ purchase of the now infamous gem is probably more of a result of the company’s reputation of buying and selling blockbusting diamonds. It is also important to note that out of all the possible buyers of the diamond in the world, very few also have the capability (manpower, technology, and capital) that Graff has of polishing such a valuable and large stone. It seems like fate that Graff ended up with it.
Graff’s Famous Diamonds
Laurence Graff is not afraid of acquiring very expensive and important diamonds, and the cost does not seem to faze him. He is also not afraid of taking risks with his stones, and is not affected by the backlash when he does. Two of the most famous such diamonds of his from the last decade are the Wittelsbach-Graff blue diamond and the Graff Pink diamond. He bought the Wittlesbach diamond in 2008 as a 36.56 carat Fancy Deep Gray Blue diamond with VS2 clarity for $23.4 million, at the time the highest price ever paid at auction for a diamond. He re-polished it to a 31.06 carat Fancy Deep Blue diamond with Internally Flawless clarity and subsequently renamed it to the Wittelsbach-Graff, and received much backlash in the media for altering a historical gem. Its estimated worth is now $80 million.
The 31.06 carat Fancy Deep Blue IF Wittelsbach-Graff diamond Image credit: Graff Diamonds
The Graff Pink was a Harry Winston diamond that was Fancy Intense Pink, weighed 24.78 carats, and was cut in an emerald shape. Upon his purchase of the diamond in 2010 for $46 million, Graff re-polished it to a 23.88 carat Fancy Vivid Pink with Internally Flawless clarity and named it the Graff Pink. At the time, it became the highest price ever paid for a diamond at auction as well.
The 23.88 carat Fancy Vivid Pink IF Graff Pink diamond Image credit: Graff Diamonds
Not all of Graff’s purchases are as famous. He is a permanent fixture at the major diamond auctions around the world. Just this month, he purchased the 4.03 carat blue diamond that was sold by Bonham’s. He is also known to buy other large rough diamonds like the one that he bought in May, and polish them in order to sell them. He has done so many times throughout the years.
The 4.03 carat blue diamond sold to Laurence Graff Image credit: Bonham’s
The Possible Future of the Lesedi La Rona
Diamond cutters who examined the stone estimate that it will yield a 400 carat D color Flawless cushion cut diamond, but time will tell as to the exact shape into which the diamond ultimately manifests. Graff does not need to sell his diamonds via auction in order to make sales, so it is not likely that he will choose this route to sell the Lesedi La Rona either. In addition, the diamond already has an “auction fail”, so to speak, on its record, and he may choose to keep it off the auction block for that reason too. As is the case for all the luxury diamond dealers, he probably has a short list of clients who already are expressing interest in acquiring the stone and who can afford to, so he would not need an auction in any case. Diamonds of this enormity are so rare that from an investment perspective, it would not make sense for the buyer to resell this stone for a very long time, when more people with the means to buy it arise and become interested in it. This will be a buy-and-hold purchase, to be enjoyed privately by an individual or perhaps even an institution or a fund until the market becomes ready in a few decades to see it again.
The 1,109 carat Lesedi La Rona diamond and a diamond loupe Image credit: Lucara Diamond Corp.
What do you think of this diamond? Can Laurence Graff do it justice? Is he the right buyer, considering his penchant for risk taking? React in the comments!