Botswanan diamond firm Debswana has said it unearthed a 1,098-carat stone that it described as the third-largest of its kind in the world.
The stone, found on June 1, was shown on Wednesday to President Mokgweetsi Masisi in the capital, Gaborone.
“It is believed to be the third-largest gem-quality find in the world,” said Debswana Managing Director Lynette Armstrong.
The “rare and extraordinary stone … means so much in the context of diamonds and Botswana,” she said. “It brings hope to the nation that is struggling.”
The yet-to-be named stone, which measures 73mm long, 52mm wide and 27mm thickm is also the biggest stone of gem quality to be found in the history of Debswana, a joint venture between the government and global diamond giant De Beers.
The biggest diamond ever discovered in the world was the 3,106-carat Cullinan, found in South Africa in 1905.
The second-largest was 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona – a diamond the size of a tennis ball, discovered at Karowe, northeastern Botswana, in 2015.
Botswana is Africa’s leading diamond producer.
Minerals Minister Lefoko Moagi said the discovery of the stone could not have come at a better time after the COVID-19 pandemic hit diamond sales in 2020.
The government receives as much as 80 percent of the income from Debswana’s sales through dividends, royalties and taxes.
Production at the company fell 29 percent in 2020 to 16.6m carats while sales fell 30 percent to $2.1bn as the pandemic impacted both production and demand.
In 2021, Debswana plans to increase output by as much as 38 percent to pre-pandemic levels of 23m carats as the global diamond market recovers with the easing of travel restrictions and reopening of jewellers.