Sierra Leone sold one of the world's largest uncut diamonds for $6.5 million at a NY auction on Monday to raise funds for development projects in the West African country.
Instead of like most diamond auctions, the value of the Peace Diamond was more in its potential social impact rather than its physical characteristics, according to the company handling the auction.
The government's stake in the diamond sale will be used to fund development projects nationwide. "Never before has this happened", Rapaport said.
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A previous attempt to sell it in May did not go through as the Sierra Leone government rejected the highest bid of $7.8 million at an auction in the capital Freetown.
The "peace diamond", said to be the 14th largest recorded diamond in the world, was handed to the Sierra Leone government in March after it was unearthed by a Christian pastor.
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.
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Senior officials were nonetheless optimistic about the sale's effects on the illicit diamond trade in Sierra Leone.
"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.
"It will encourage all the diggers back home", said Chief Paul Ngaba Saquee, head of Sierra Leone's eastern Kono district where the diamond was found.
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