‘The Rock Star that Got Stage Fright at Auction’: The Political Economy of Marketing the Historic Lesedi La Rona Diamond

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Christian John Makgala
Maitseo Bolaane


In 1905 the largest diamond in history measuring 3,106-carat was discovered at Premier Mine near Pretoria in South Africa, and was presented to King Edward VII of Great Britain for his 66th birthday on 9 November 1907. After 110 years the second largest diamond in history was discovered by the Canadian company Lucara at its Karowe Mine in Botswana in November 2015, and the gemstone became ‘Botswana’s pride’. The 1,109-carat diamond, which came to be called ‘Lesedi La Rona’, brought great excitement globally as the news of its discovery allegedly received more than one billion hits in the Internet in just two weeks. The diamond went on a global road show with promotional stops in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Geneva, New York, and London. This massive publicity was expected to make the stone the most expensive gem ever sold. The sale of the rough diamond in an open auction in London was also hoped to significantly ramp up the global diamond market which had slumped badly at the time. However, this paper observes that the anticipated hefty price for the historic gem and its attempted sale at an open auction as opposed to traditional secretive operation rendered the stone problematic to the diamond industry in general and to Lucara in particular. Alleged sabotage by diamantaires and uncertainty of Brexit were some of the factors advanced for the failure of the ‘rock star’ to sell and these are examined in this historical paper

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