The diamond trade is one of the most lucrative industries. Thousands of shoppers visit jewelry stores every day, ready to invest in their dream jewelry. But do you understand the history behind the gorgeous diamonds on store displays?
Miners work tirelessly to supply the jewelry world with raw diamonds continuously. During their mining operations, they occasionally unearth massive diamond ores. We should understand the intrigues surrounding the sale and processing of such diamonds before they are sold to processing firms. The engagement ring that you are dreaming about might have been cut out of these gigantic finds. One such discovery is the Star of Sierra Leone.
What is it?
The Star of Sierra Leone is one of the world’s largest documented diamond finds, also being of the largest precious stones ever discovered. It was unearthed on 14th February 1972 by a group of diamond miners working on the Diminco alluvial mines located in the Koidu region of Sierra Leone. The name Diminco is an abbreviation for Diamond Mining Company—a state-sponsored mining and exploration company in Sierra Leone.
The Star of Sierra Leone has been ranked the fourth-largest gem-quality diamond ever discovered. However, it is still the world’s largest diamond find in alluvial mines. At the time of its discovery, the Star of Sierra Leone weighed a whopping 969.8 carats. Not only would the stone change the fortunes of the country, but there was also a significant media spotlight surrounding its discovery. Given its fame, the Sierra Leone government took up the initiative of marketing the diamond.
On 3rd October 1972, the then Sierra Leone president, Siaka Stevens, announced a deal to sell the Star of Sierra Leone. The deal was secured with the New York City jeweler Harry Winston for just below $2.5 million.
But even before this, Sierra Leone was not new to historical diamond finds. Two years before the discovery of the Star of Sierra Leone, the Sefadu diamond held the record as the country’s largest diamond find, weighing 620 carats.
Quality and Appearance
Diamonds obtained in Sierra Leone have an international reputation for being some of the highest-quality gems. Such diamonds are lauded especially for their purity and clarity, mostly coming with minimal inclusions. This makes their processing easy and their sale lucrative. Sierra Leone diamonds are so clear, colorless, and transparent that they are often called “glasses”. However, it is important to note that the diamonds that were cut from the Star of Sierra Leone are yet to be graded for clarity and color. All the same, gem experts believe that they are likely D-color diamonds and largely flawless.
The Star of Sierra Leone is a colorless, pellucid, and lustrous crystal. As you may know, these are features that are associated with superior quality diamonds.
Another unique attribute of the diamond is its perfect chemical purity, resulting from the absence of the common impurities that normally accompany precious stones. Examples of such impurities include boron, nitrogen, and hydrogen. Besides, the stone is also structurally perfect. Structural perfection is attributed to the lack of visually-perceptible plastic distortions in the crystal. The chemical and structural characteristics of a diamond impact its overall quality, especially its brilliance and clarity. Since the Star of Sierra Leone features no chemical or structural flaws, it scores remarkably high in the diamond color range and clarity scale.
Due to these unique attributes, the Star of Sierra Leone ranks as a Type IIa diamond—less than 1% of the world’s diamonds fall under this category. Thus, besides its exceptional quality, the Star of Sierra Leone also belongs in a league of the few.
Purchase and Processing
Harry Winston purchased the Star of Sierra Leone the same year the diamond was discovered. After the acquisition of the diamond, Lazare Kaplan was entrusted with the cutting process, though it could not commence immediately.
During this time, Lazare Kaplan was among the few world-renowned diamond cutters and cleavers, having demonstrated a long history of excellence in the trade. Mr. Kaplan descended from three generations of expert diamond cutters. The earlier members of his generation had learned and perfected the art of diamond cutting and cleaving in Antwerp, Belgium. One of their most notable works was the successful cutting of Jonker in 1936.
Lazare Kaplan’s experience in the trade saw him pioneer the establishment of Puerto Rico’s diamond cutting industry. At the time, he was about to bring this experience in cutting the world’s largest and most famous diamond.
Kaplan studied the Star of Sierra Leone carefully. As usual, his focus was more on how to bring out maximum sparkle and brilliance in the diamond. Lazare Kaplan spent around one year visualizing how the stone would look after cutting. When the day for cutting finally arrived, the event was broadcast live on television. Therefore, the diamond is not only a treasured gem in Sierra Leone, but is also quite revered in America. When the cutting process ended, the Sierra Leone government issued a unique commemoration stamp, thereby marking this event. The stamp had a special feature: a diamond-like shape that was complete with a crown, a table, and a pavilion.
Initially, the Star of Sierra Leone was cut into an emerald-shaped stone, weighing 143.2 carats. However, the diamond had numerous significant inclusions that marred its clarity and overall rating. Hence, it was only logical to cleave it further. Subsequent cleaving eventually reduced the stone into seventeen separate pieces. Out of these, thirteen were considered flawless. The largest stone out of the flawless pieces was a pear-shaped diamond that weighed 53.96 carats. Harry Winston set six of the cuts from the original rough diamond into the "Star of Sierra Leone" brooch.
The Star of Sierra Leone will go down in history as the world’s most historic diamond finds, one whose cutting and processing generated massive media publicity. The immense economic and sentimental value that the Government of Sierra Leone attached to the diamond is one reason behind its fame. Cullinan, weighing 3,106 carats and discovered in South Africa in 1905, may still be the world’s largest diamond find. Be that as it may, the Star of Sierra Leone ranks higher in purity and superior quality, like most Sierra Leone diamonds.