New York–Laurence Graff of Graff Diamonds has purchased the “Peace Diamond,” Martin Rapaport announced at a press conference Monday.
He paid the government of Sierra Leone $6.5 million for the 709-carat stone, down from an earlier bid of $7.7 million from a private bidder, which had been rejected.
Rapaport said that he didn’t know how serious the original bid was, as it was made prior to his involvement with the sale, “but perhaps the government should have taken that offer.”
Still, he noted that it was far more prestigious for the one of the world’s foremost diamond houses to own the stone, rather than an unknown buyer.
“Laurence Graff usually doesn’t buy anything that isn’t D or E in color,” Rapaport continued, “but he believes this diamond is a special diamond because it’s going to help the poorest people in the world.”
Graff commented in a press release, “It is an honor to have acquired this magnificent rough diamond, and that its sale will directly benefit a country in desperate need. It is always special to be able to give back to the places that provide us with these beautiful stones.”
The “Peace Diamond” is so called because when it was recovered by artisanal miners in Sierra Leone, they turned it into the government, which pledged to use half of the profits to help the people of Sierra Leone, with the other half going to the people who were responsible for finding it.
Rapaport Group facilitated the sale free of charge, in an effort to promote transparency in the Sierra Leone diamond industry.
“This is a historic moment,” said an emotional Rapaport, explaining that the sale of the Peace Diamond, which he called the “most transparent process ever,” legitimized the artisanal mining sector.
Several members of the Sierra Leonean government were present at the press conference, which was also being broadcast to press in the West African country.
“There’s a reason God gave diamonds to the poorest people in the world and made the richest people desire them.” — Martin Rapaport
Chief Paul Saquee V of the Kono province where the diamond was found said, “I am very convinced that (we have extracted) the maximum benefits from this diamond. We encourage the diggers, the artisanal miners back home, instead of being ripped off in some dark corners when they find their diamonds that they … bring it to the government so they will get the maximum benefit.”
Rapaport said the government received 59 percent, or $3.9 million, of the Peace Diamond’s profits in the form of taxes, to benefit the people of Sierra Leone. A total of $980,454 went to the Diamond Committee Development Fund, which will oversee infrastructure development projects specifically in the area where the diamond was recovered.
The remainder will be split among the five diggers who acquired the stone (Rapaport said they would earn roughly $200,000 each) and their boss, the Koryardu village chief Pastor Emmanuel Momoh.
Rapaport said that 70 companies saw the diamond, which is “very complicated to cut,” at the Israel Diamond Exchange, in Antwerp and in New York. Seven bids were ultimately made for the stone, the attributes of which haven’t been announced, though the diamond appears light yellow to the eye.
Rapaport has been vocal about the stone’s value surpassing that of its typical market value because of the good it will create in the lives of the people of Sierra Leone.
Chief Saquee called it a “first step” toward transparency and fairness. He also noted that a recently recovered 476-carat diamond had also been given to the government, rather than smuggled out of the country.
In the future, Rapaport hopes that more Sierra Leoneans will be able to benefit from the natural resources their country has to offer.
“There’s a reason God gave diamonds to the poorest people in the world,” he said, “and made the richest people desire them.”