By Ashley Davis
Half of the profits of the sale of the "Peace Diamond" will benefit the people of Sierra Leone.
New York--The government of Sierra Leone will auction off a 709-carat rough diamond, dubbed the “Peace Diamond,” with the help of Rapaport Group.

Rapaport has been appointed as sales agent of the stone, which was discovered by artisanal miners in the village of Koryardu in Sierra Leone’s Kono district.

It is the third-largest diamond found in Sierra Leone to date and the 14th largest in the world.

The stone will be auctioned off in New York City on the evening of Monday, Dec. 4.

The Peace Diamond is so called because over half of its sales value will benefit the community where it was discovered, as well as the people of Sierra Leone, with the other half going directly to the diggers who recovered it and their boss, village chief Pastor Emmanuel Momoh.

“Thousands of artisanal miners are looking to see how they can improve their lives,” said Momoh during a press conference held via video from Israel and Sierra Leone on Tuesday. “This diamond is going to be the bridge to build the lives of artisanal miners.

Abdulai Bayraytay, a spokesperson for the president of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ernest Bai Koromo, spoke about the broad implications of the stone, and how its sale would show the world that, “We still have very clean diamonds in Sierra Leone, we have peace diamonds in Sierra Leone and we have diamonds that will transform the lives of people in this country as long as they pass through legal channels that Sierra Leone prides itself on.”

Martin Rapaport, chairman of the Rapaport Group, noted that his company is facilitating the sale of the stone at no charge to the government of the Sierra Leone.

“This is a beautiful diamond, not just because of its physical characteristics but because the money will create tremendous benefits for people who don’t necessarily have clean water, education or electricity,” Rapaport said. “Calling this diamond the Peace Diamond is very significant because it’s much more than just a diamond. It’s the hope and dream of thousands of people in Sierra Leone.”

Rapaport went on to emphasize that the goals of the sale were to be transparent, competitive, to receive fair market value for the stone, to benefit the people of Sierra Leone, encourage artisanal sector formalization and create legitimate artisanal distribution.

“We’re creating legitimacy where before there were a lot of questions as to what comes out of Sierra Leone and out of the artisanal sector,” Rapaport added.

Chief Paul Saquee V of the Kono province hoped the sale of the Peace Diamond would show artisanal miners that they will be properly compensated by bringing forth their finds.

“My dream has always been for this country, especially artisanal miners to benefit from the diamonds…they acquire,” Saquee said. “We now have an opportunity for a diamond found in Sierra Leone, instead of being bought in some dark corner room in someone’s office, for it to be placed in public tender. This is going to encourage other artisanal miners to bring forth their diamonds instead of smuggling them or instead of getting robbed by unscrupulous businessmen that pass for dealers.”

The Peace Diamond is currently being shown to interested parties at the Israel Diamond Exchange.

On Oct 30, it will be on view in Belgium, before moving to New York on Nov. 13.

Rapaport was unable to comment on characteristics of the stone, noting that opinions from various diamond experts differed on the best way to cut the Peace Diamond, and what polished stones it will yield, though he said that all polished stones would be certified polished Peace Diamonds.

“This is probably one of the most complicated diamonds in the world, with many different opinions of what can come out of this diamond physically,” he explained.

He said that interested buyers are bringing diamond experts with them for individual assessment.

While there is no minimum bid for the stone, Rapaport said that an offer of approximately $7.77 million had been rejected, though ultimately, the stone’s value is enhanced by its “spiritual sparkle,” or the transparent manner in which it has come to auction and by the way it will help the people of Sierra Leone.

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