709-carat Sierra Leone 'peace' diamond sells for over $6.5m

709-carat Sierra Leone 'peace' diamond sells for over $6.5m

The Sierra Leone government sold a diamond for $6.5 million at a Tuesday, Dec. 5 auction in a deal that is being touted as marking "a sea of change for the diamond trade".

The egg-sized 709-carat diamond, bought by Laurence Graff, a British billionaire and jeweller, is one of the largest ever discovered diamond in Sierra Leone and between the 10th and 15th largest ever found in the world, experts say.

The stone was dubbed "Peace Diamond" after the Christian pastor who found it gave it away in the hope it would allow the government of Sierra Leone to raise money for local development projects.

In contrast, the 709-carat rough gem sold in NY will see its proceeds used to improve conditions in the small village where it was found. Schools, hospitals, electricity, clean water and transportation all stand to benefit from the sale, according to the Rapaport Group, which handled the auction. Named the Peace Diamond, $3.8 million of the proceeds will directly benefit 250,000 inhabitants of a region with no school, hospital, clean water, roads or electricity.

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"It is an honor to have acquired this magnificent rough diamond - and that its sale will directly benefit a country in desperate need", Laurence Graff said in the Rapaport release.

The government had expected the stone, the first ever to be sold at a public auction, to fetch $7 million.

The United Nations lifted a ban on diamond exports from Sierra Leone in 2003, though the $113 million sector is plagued by smuggling.

The Sierra Leone government rejected a bid of $7.8m at an earlier auction.

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