Industry Analysis

2018: A Good Year for Finding Mega-Diamonds


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The 472 ct diamond from Lucara Diamond’s Kerowe mine is the largest found at the mine this year, which has, thus far, yielded five diamonds over 100 carats. Photo courtesy of Lucara Diamond Corp.

It’s turning out to be a good year for very large diamonds.

The three diamond mining companies that specialize in digging up large stones have found some really big ones during the first quarter of the year, ending a relative drought.

Gem Diamonds unearthed five diamonds over 100 carats in January after finding “only” eight such stones in all of 2017. One of those five was the 910 carat (ct) Letseng Legend (named after the company’s mine in Lesotho), which it recently sold for $40 million at a special auction. Then, in March, the same company recovered a 152 ct diamond.

Lucara Diamond Corp., which operates the Kerowe mine in Botswana, found five 100 ct-plus diamonds during the first quarter. And in April, the company announced it had discovered a 472 ct diamond in the same section of the mine where it discovered the 1,100 ct Lesedi la Rona diamond two years earlier. The 472 ct is the third largest diamond to come from the mine. Lucara executives described the color as “top light brown,” which means it is likely to polish out as an M-to-O color stone.

Shortly after this discovery, Lucara mined three more 100 ct-plus diamonds, including a 327 ct rough it described as a “high-color” stone, referring to D-E-F color grades on the GIA scale. The company will sell both diamonds at a special tender auction in June.

Kerowe’s output declined 27% last year due to production problems that forced the company to shift operations away from the richest area of the mine where most of the very large diamonds have been found.

Angola’s Luo Mine yielded a 46 ct fancy pink rough in April, reported Lucapa Diamond Company, the Australia-based operator of the mine. Luo, one of the smaller mines (producing fewer than one million carats yearly) specializing in major diamonds, has produced stones as large as 404 carats. The 46 ct diamond is the largest fancy color diamond it has produced since it came onstream four years ago.

A large pear shaped diamond sits on a silver plaque with French words.
The mysterious 6.16 Fancy Dark gray-blue Farnese Blue diamond was kept in a small wooden box away from the public eye for more than two centuries. The French script on the silver plaque on the box reads: “Remarkable blue brilliant. This historical stone was offered by the Philippine Islands to Elisabeth Farnese, Queen of Spain, wife of Philippe V, great-grandfather of the Comte of Villafranca, current owner of that stone.” Photo courtesy of Sotheby's.

AUCTIONS

The royal-provenance 6.16 ct pear shape Farnese Diamond drew a top bid of $6.7 million at Sotheby’s May 15 auction in Geneva, a price well above its high estimate of $5 million. The diamond, graded Fancy Dark grayish-blue by GIA, was a gift from King Phillippe V of Spain to his bride Elisabeth Farnese after they married in 1714. After her death, the diamond passed through royal houses in Italy and Austria, most of the time hidden in a small wooden box.

At the same auction, a GIA-graded 51.71 ct D Fl Type IIa diamond sold for $9.24 million; a 14.01 ct Kashmir sapphire sold for $1.8 million; and a 9.7 ct Fancy Light purple pink diamond soared far beyond its high estimate of $672,000 to sell for nearly $2.6 million.

LAS VEGAS

The industry is anticipating respectable demand for diamonds and colored gemstones at the upcoming JCK Show in Las Vegas. Retail demand is steady in the U.S. and climbing again in China.

In the U.S., the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index rose in April.

“Consumers’ assessment of current conditions improved somewhat, with consumers rating both business and labor market conditions quite favorably,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board. “Consumers’ short-term expectations also improved, with the percent of consumers expecting their incomes to decline over the coming months reaching its lowest level since December 2000 (6%). Overall, confidence levels remain strong and suggest that the economy will continue expanding at a solid pace in the months ahead.”

In China, first quarter jewelry and watch sales climbed 8% on the mainland and 22% in Hong Kong, the China and Hong Kong statistics bureaus reported. Sales at the end of the quarter were particularly strong in both regions.

Russell Shor is senior industry analyst at GIA in Carlsbad.