Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 5 April 2020

Dangling the carat: Louis Vuitton shows off huge rough diamond the size of a tennis ball

The 1,758-carat 'Sewelo' gem is the second-biggest diamond ever found

The biggest rough diamond discovered in more than a century was shown to private clients yesterday by French luxury label Louis Vuitton, which acquired the 1,758-carat gem to make a big splash in the high-end jewellery market.

The stone named "Sewelo", meaning "rare find" in the tswana tongue of Botswana where it was discovered, is the size of a tennis ball.

It is the second-biggest diamond ever found after the 3,100-carat "Cullinan", mined in neighbouring South Africa in 1905, which went on to adorn Britain's crown jewels.

Canadian mining company Lucara Diamond, which recovered the stone, last week announced a deal with Louis Vuitton and the Antwerp-based diamond manufacturer HB Company to have it carved up and polished.

Louis Vuitton, part of the LVMH luxury conglomerate, created surprise in the jewellery sector by pipping high-end houses such as Cartier and Graff to acquire the bragging rights to what could be the diamond deal of the century.

It comes after LVMH successfully wooed New York jewellery house Tiffany, agreeing to fork out $16.2 billion (Dh59.5bn) for the fabled maker of wedding rings and diamonds that come in blue boxes.

"It's the biggest potential we have right now," Louis Vuitton chief executive Michael Burke told the Financial Times recently of the company's gem business.

By showing clients the rough diamond, LVMH also aims to set itself apart in the rarefied world of high jewellery, which is centred on Paris's ritzy Place Vendome.

"No jeweller has done that [show the rough stone] – that is not the way high-end jewellery functions, it does not show what happens behind the scenes," Burke said, adding that Louis Vuitton's goal was to be "utterly transparent in what mine it came from and associating the final client in the creation of the final stone".

This picture taken on January 21, 2020, shows the second world biggest rough diamond displayed at place Vendome's Louis Vuitton luxury shop in Paris. A tennis ball sized rough diamond : the Louis Vuitton luxury house presents from January 21 in Paris that "rock" to a selected audience. / AFP / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN
The gem is still coated in carbon. AFP

While it has a glittering destiny, "Sewelo" currently resembles a lump of coal, still coated in the black carbon in which it was mined.

Lucara, which said it will receive 50 per cent of the proceeds of the resulting diamonds with a further 5 per cent going towards community projects in Botswana, said the "full potential of this special stone" would be revealed only when polished.

Louis Vuitton has not said how much it paid for the stone nor how much it could eventually be worth.

After the Paris showing, the "Sewelo" will be taken on a tour of prospective foreign clients.

Updated: January 22, 2020 09:54 AM

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