April 2017

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Big Diamonds: Why We Love Them

The diamond has long been considered the world’s ultimate gem, prized for its beauty, brilliance and rarity. What is rarer than a beautiful diamond? Big diamonds –  those rare finds ranging in the hundreds of carats. These diamonds fetch higher prices per carat than smaller diamonds, partly because of the scarcity of diamonds of such size, and partly due to the difficulty in retrieving them from the earth.

Big Diamonds: A Treasure Trove

The extraction process for big diamonds is much more difficult than for smaller diamonds. First, the rock in which the diamond is ensconced must be blasted with dynamite. Then comes drilling, followed by crushing and grinding in mills. For larger stones, the process of grinding is more complex, as the miner needs to keep the entire larger stone intact. And, despite the fact that diamonds are commonly regarded as the hardest substance known to man, their internal crystal structure makes them quite fragile when exposed to certain conditions.  As the market for big diamonds grows, it is not only the difficulty in finding them that affects price, but also the process by which they are mined and manufactured.

Big Diamonds in High Demand

Recently, the demand for big diamonds has grown. They are sought by large manufacturing firms and also private buyers. The second-largest gem quality rough diamond ever found, the Lesedi La Rona, with a 1,109 carat weight, was recently put up for auction at Sotheby’s. This is the first time a rough diamond of this size had been put on the public market, rather than sold by private sale. Although the reserve price was not met and the diamond remained unsold, it attracted numerous bids. The largest was $61 million.

Earlier this year, a pastor, who is also licensed as an independent miner, found the second-largest diamond ever discovered in Sierra Leone. The diamond, weighing 706 carats, is now being sold by the Sierra Leone government, and the proceeds will be split between the government and the pastor.

In addition, other big diamonds have piqued the interest of wealthy buyers, including the 59-carat Pink Star diamond, which is expected to break sales records when it goes up for auction at Sotheby’s. The Pink Star is the largest internally flawless fancy vivid pink diamond that the Gemological Institute of America has even graded. It is currently valued at more than $60 million.

Established exclusive jewelry brands are often the ones to purchase big diamonds. Jeweler Laurence Graff has purchased both the Wittelsbach-Graff diamond, a 31-carat blue diamond, as well as the Graff Pink, a 24.68-carat diamond. Experts note that it makes more sense for top jewelers like Graff and De Beers to purchase these diamonds, since – beyond having the means to buy such expensive pieces – they also have the in-house experts and equipment required to handle the unique challenges involved in the cutting and polishing processes.

Painstaking Efforts Pay Off

One of the biggest issues that effects the cost of big diamonds is the difficulty in cutting and processsing. Once the stone has been cut, there is no going back. Experts often take years to study, evaluate, cut and sell these large stones. Experts use tools to assess the crystal structure, and to determine how the diamond will react to the cutting process. With larger stones, cutters often work extremely slowly, making sure they yield the absolute maximum value that can be extracted from the diamond.

There is no question that big diamonds are extremely rare and highly valued. Perhaps the true question is: how big is the market for such large stones and can it be sustained?

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