A 709 carat uncut diamond discovered in March 2017 in Sierra Leone fetched a lower-than-expected $6.5m at a New York auction on Monday (4 December).
The stone was found by diggers working for Pastor Emmanuel Momoh in Koryardu, located in the country’s eastern Kono district. It is one of the largest ever discovered in Sierra Leone and the 14th largest ever found in the world.
The stone was dubbed “Peace Diamond” after Pastor Momoh handed it over to the government of Sierra Leone in the hope it would allow it to raise money for local development projects. “Peace diamond” plays on the term “blood diamond,” which were diamonds rebel groups sold during Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war in the 1990s to buy arms and ammunition.
In an interview with the BBC, Pastor Momoh defended the decision to hand over the diamond to the government instead of selling it to middlemen. According to him, the community stands to lose if the middlemen were involved.
“The Peace Diamond will greatly improve the lives of our people as it will bring clean water, electricity, schools, medical facilities, bridges and roads to our villages and the Kono District. This diamond represents our hope for a better future as the resources of Sierra Leone fund growth, development and jobs,” Momoh said.
Over 50 per cent of its sales value will directly benefit the community where the diamond was discovered and the people of Sierra Leone. The government said on Monday it would use the $3.9 million in tax revenue from the sale to fund clean water, electricity, schools, health centres and roads.
Officials said they also hoped the sale would help combat the country’s illicit diamond trade.
The auction was managed by Rapaport Group, a network of diamond companies.
“There’s a reason God gave these diamonds to the poorest people in the world and made the richest people want them. This is Tikun Olam (Hebrew for correcting the world), this is making the world a better place,” Martin Rapaport, chairman of Rapaport Group said in October this year.
The 4 December auction was the second attempt by the government to sell the gem, it had earlier, in May 2017, rejected the highest bid of $7.8 million at an initial auction in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown.