By Michelle Graff
The 442-carat Type II rough diamond recently found at the Letšeng mine (Photo courtesy of Gem Diamonds)
London—Gem Diamonds Ltd. said Friday it has recovered a 442-carat rough diamond from the Letšeng, the largest find at the mine so far this year.

Gem said the diamond is a “high-quality” Type II stone, meaning it has no detectable nitrogen impurities and will produce a polished diamond of top color and clarity.

The Letšeng mine is in Lesotho, a small, enclaved kingdom located within South Africa. Gem Diamonds operates it in a 70-30 joint venture with the Lesotho government.

The mine is known for its output of large natural color and colorless diamonds, like the 163-carat yellow found earlier this year.

CEO Clifford Elphick said the “remarkable” 442-carat stone is one of the largest gem-quality diamonds found in 2020.

The only reported find that is larger came from Lucara Diamond Corp., which recovered a 549-carat diamond from its mine in Botswana early this year.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the diamond will be used to fund a special community project, the company said.

Like so many diamond miners, Gem Diamonds had to shut down production for a period this year due to COVID-19, placing Letšeng on care and maintenance between March 26 and April 28.

The pandemic also has taken a toll on diamond prices, though Gem said in a trading update issued in late July that its large, high-quality diamonds have demonstrated price resilience.

Gem’s sales by volume in the first half of fiscal 2020 were down 22 percent when compared with the second half of 2019, while the total value of diamonds sold dropped 16 percent.

The average price-per-carat, however, was up 8 percent to $1,707/carat from $1,576/carat.

Gem said it offered only larger diamonds at its June tender, as it’s holding off on the sale of smaller stones until September, but included an estimated value for the diamonds in the per-carat price average.

The company is set to release complete half-year results on Sept. 3.

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