New York City, US – The diamond sat in a secure room in an office, waiting to be sold to the highest bidder and perhaps change the lives of the people belonging to the village in Sierra Leone where it was found.
On Monday, a 709-carat diamond sold for $6.5m at an auction in New York City hosted by Rapaport Group, a diamond trade and auction house.
The buyer was Laurence Graff, one of the world’s top precious stone buyers and founder of Graff Diamonds.
Officials say he knowingly overbid for what has been called the “Peace Diamond” because of the symbolism behind the stone.
It was found by villagers in Koryardu earlier this year. The village has no electricity, running water, school, or a hospital.
“It was amazing,” said Emmanuel Momoh, a pastor in the village.
“I am not able to express the feeling. Because, you know, I wasn’t expecting this kind of stone.”
Instead of selling the diamond on the black market or smuggling it out of the country, the villagers decided to turn it over to the government.
The government then put it up for public auction and said the majority of proceeds will go to social services in villages ravaged by war.
The five villagers who found the diamond will split a little over $1m, another $1m will go to a fund to help other poor villages and the rest to other social programmes through the government.
“The diamond sold here will now help the lives of people and that is the hope and resilience of us as a nation,” said Abdulai Bayraytay, spokesperson for Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma.
“It’s very important as a nation that the proceeds complement the government efforts to provide social services to the people.”
Sierra Leone has a long and bloody relationship with diamonds, as depicted in the Hollywood movie Blood Diamond.
An 11-year civil war, fought partially over the riches from diamonds, killed more than 40,000.
Many in Sierra Leone will now be watching closely to make sure they see the social benefits from the sale of the diamond as the government promised.
If so, it will be a rare example of diamonds, instead of causing conflict in the country, bringing a little peace and prosperity to the place it was found.