Diamond the size of a tennis ball could fetch $70 million

London: It's a rock for the ages. A 3-billion-year-old diamond the size of a tennis ball the largest discovered in over a century could sell for more than USD 70 million, auctioneer Sotheby's said today. The auction house plans to offer the Lesedi la Rona diamond in London on June 29.

The diamond was unearthed in November in Botswana at a mine owned by Canada's Lucara Diamond Corporation. It measured 1,109 carats, the second-largest gem-quality rough diamond ever discovered. Its name means "our light" in the Tswana language of southern Africa.

The auctioneer said the rough gemstone "of exceptional transparency" could yield the largest top-quality diamond ever cut and polished. David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby's jewelry division, called the discovery "the find of a lifetime" and the auction unprecedented.

"Not only is the rough superlative in size and quality, but no rough even remotely of this scale has ever been offered before at public auction," he said. The Royal Collection Trust, which oversees British royal treasures, says the largest gem-quality diamond ever found was the 3,106-carat Cullinan diamond, unearthed in South Africa in 1905. It was cut into nine pieces that form part of the UK Crown Jewels.

The Lesedi la Rona could smash the record price for a diamond of USD 48.5 million, paid at a Geneva sale last year for the 12.03-carat polished "Blue Moon" diamond. Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau picked it up as a gift for his 7-year-old daughter. The Lesedi la Rona diamond will be on public display at Sotheby's in New York on Saturday, and at the auctioneer's London showrooms June 18-28.

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