This 709-Carat Diamond Just Sold for $6.5M – And All Profits Will Go Back to Sierra Leone
“What’s the value of the life of a child of Sierra Leone? What’s the price of clean water?”
As wealthy international bidders haggled at auction over the price of one of the biggest uncut diamonds ever to be unearthed, they could rest assured that the exorbitant sum they were attempting to spend would go to a worthy cause.
Nicknamed the “Peace Diamond,” the lump of pure carbon found in Sierra Leone eventually sold for $6.5 million. At 709 carats the diamond was the 14th largest ever recorded in its uncut and unpolished form.
While it isn’t the biggest or the prettiest rock on earth, the fact that all of the proceeds from its sale will be returned to development projects in Sierra Leone make it one of the most precious stones ever sold in the diamond business.
Prior to its December 4 sale, auctioneer Michael Rappaport was visibly choked up as he presented the diamond to a roomful of reporters and bidders in New York City.
“What’s the value of the life of a child of Sierra Leone? What’s the price of clean water?” Rappaport asked as he held the diamond in his fingers. “That’s the value, that’s here.”
The Peace Diamond was discovered near the eastern Sierra Leone village of Koryardu by a team of diggers led by Pastor Emanuel Momoh. Momoh, who is a spiritual and community leader in Koryardu, reportedly turned down offers to have the diamond smuggled for a high price, instead insisting on using proper legal channels to put the stone in the hands of government authorities.
The novelty of this charitable act was clearly not lost on any attendees of the historic auction. Diamonds and Sierra Leone are intimately linked in the eye of the world, but the association is tainted by a history of colonial oppression, labor exploitation, corruption, and devastating violence.
“Conflict diamonds,” better known as “blood diamonds,” are stones that are mined, processed, and exported using illegal and unethical methods. Often times the profits from this business are used to fuel violent civil conflict, as militia groups and strongmen have the power necessary to force labor and protect the movement of the stones to black markets. The trading of blood diamonds is believed to have played a massive role in Sierra Leone’s 10-year civil war.
Though more robust legal markets exist in current times, shaking the reputation of violence associated with Sierra Leone’s diamond trade is a task many hope the Peace Diamond can assist in.
The Rapaport Group, a network of companies dedicated to the development of,
“fair, transparent, efficient, and competitive diamond and jewelry markets,” hosted the auction of the Peace Diamond on behalf of the Sierra Leonean government, free of charge.
"One hundred percent of the value of this diamond, of the auction sale of this diamond, is going to go to the government and the people of Sierra Leone,” Rapaport said during a press conference. “Never before has this happened.”
Forbes reported Rapaport as saying that 26% of the profits will go to the diggers who found the diamond, 59% will go to the government of Sierra Leone in the form of taxes, and 15% to the Diamond Area Community Fund, a government body tasked with increasing citizen participation in debates over natural resource management.
Sierra Leone is one of the world’s poorest countries. The United Nations reports that over 60% of the population lives below the poverty line, with unemployment among the nation’s 15-34 year-olds sitting at 70%.
Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nation’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Goal number one is the elimination of global poverty by the year 2030. You can take action on this issue here.
In the village of Koryardu where the diamond was discovered, there is no running water, electricity, or even a proper school. On the stone’s website, Momoh is quoted as being hopeful for the future the newly raised funds could bring.
“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,” his statement reads. “This diamond represents our hope for a better future as the resources of Sierra Leone fund growth, development and jobs.”