Botswana's state-run Okavango Diamond Company today (April 17) unveiled the polished result of what is said to be the largest blue diamond ever discovered in the southern African country, one of the world’s top producers. The 20.46-carat, oval-shape fancy colored diamond, fashioned from a 41.11-carat rough stone recovered on May 21 2018 at the Orapa mine, has been named "The Okavango Blue" in honor of the Okavango Delta, the country's wildlife-rich world heritage site.
Blue diamonds are among the rarest found in nature, created by the molecular inclusion of the rare mineral boron at depths of up 400-600 km beneath the earth's surface. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has graded the diamond as an Oval Brilliant Cut, VVS2 clarity, two steps below internally flawless, making it one of the highest color and clarity classifications attainable for any blue diamond. At 20.46 carats it is in the very top bracket of all-time historical blue diamond finds, which includes The Cullinan Dream - a 24-carat intense blue diamond which sold for $25.4 million at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction, was cut from a 122.52ct rock from Petra Diamond's Cullinan mine in South Africa in 2014.
"In my 41 years I have worked on many blue diamonds, and this is the most unique one I have ever encountered," said Gemologist Howard Bell, "and most importantly [because of] its most unbelievably spectacular color." He said the stone emerged as an undamaged crystal, something very unusual coming from that depth. A team of four master-craftsmen polished the stone in New York. "My first thoughts were that this is an exceptional diamond, totally historic, in the realms of the Hope Diamond [a massive, 45.52-carat, deep-blue diamond now kept at the U.S. National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.] and the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond. It is that important and historic."
ODC General Manager Bakani Motlhabani said, "When it 'popped' it created a sense of excitement and curiosity. A few weeks later when it got to the sorting house in Gabarone, people shouted. Here is something special." ODC Managing Director Marcus ter Haar added, "It is incredibly unusual for a stone of this color and nature to have come from Botswana – a once-in-lifetime find, which is about as rare as a star in the Milky Way."
The prices that exceptional blue diamonds achieve are truly extraordinary: in 2016, a 10.10 carat blue diamond, named "De Beers Millennium Jewel 4", went under the hammer today at Sotheby's in Hong Kong, selling for $31.8 million. It had already clinched the title of largest Oval Fancy Vivid blue diamond to ever appear at auction. In May of 2016, the 14.62-carat “Oppenheimer Blue,” the largest fancy vivid blue diamond ever offered at auction, set a world auction record, selling for more than $58.2 million, topping the 12.03-carat “Blue Moon of Josephine,” which sold for a world record of $48.4 million in November 2015.