A 709-carat diamond discovered in Sierra Leone was sold by the government Monday for $6.5 million at an auction in New York.
The gem, nicknamed the “Peace Diamond”, was bought by British billionaire and jeweler Laurence Graff.
The largest stone to be discovered in Sierra Leone in nearly a half-century was unearthed in March this year by Emmanuel Momoh, a Christian pastor, along with other miners.
Some $3.8 million of the money will be used to help the community of the small village of Koryardu in Kono district, where the diamond was discovered. The village lacks schools, hospitals, roads, electricity and clean water.
Government spokesman Abdulai Bayraytay said the auction process for the Peace Diamond has changed the narrative of the ugly history of Sierra Leone’s blood diamond trade.
Government officials are hopeful that the sale will have an impact on the illegal diamond trade and encourage diggers to bring their discoveries to the government for auction.
“For over 30 years, Kono district, where the diamond was found, has had no electricity, no clean water supply and [no] good roads. Therefore, the government’s percentage [of the proceeds] will be used to change that narrative,” Bayraytay said.
“President [Ernest Bai] Koroma is passionate about transforming the district to ensure mineral wealth benefits the people and as well empower artisanal miners to avert smuggling.”
Momoh said he was happy to be in the New York to help negotiate the price for the diamond.
“I handed over the diamond to the government because I am loyal to my nation. That’s what I demonstrated and I am happy with the negotiations so far, in which I am fully involved,” he said.
A 476-carat diamond found in the same district is also on auction in Antwerp, Belgium.