Sierra Leone's 709-carat 'peace diamond' sells for $6.5 million

Reuters

Reuters

Sierra Leone sold one of the world's largest uncut diamonds for $6.5 million at a NY auction on Monday to raise funds for development projects in the West African country.

The gem, called the "peace diamond", is about the size of an egg and was sold at auction in NY.

The egg-sized 709-carat diamond, bought by Laurence Graff, a British billionaire and jeweller, is one of the largest ever discovered diamond in Sierra Leone and between the 10th and 15th largest ever found in the world, experts say.

"One hundred percent of the value of this diamond, of the auction sale of this diamond, is going to go to the government and the people of Sierra Leone". The Rapaport Group reports in a news release that it sold the 709-carat Peace Diamond for the government free of charge.

While the war ended, Sierra Leone still has to deal with diamond smugglers and with exploitation of workers, with activists hoping the case of the "peace diamond" will herald a new, more equitable era for the country's residents and laborers.

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An earlier bid of $7.8m was rejected by the government when the stone was initially auctioned in Freetown, after it said that the figure was too low.

"Peace diamond" plays on the term "blood diamond", which were diamonds rebel groups sold during Sierra Leone's brutal civil war in the 1990s to buy arms and ammunition.

The gem was unearthed in March in Sierra Leone's eastern Kono region by a Christian pastor who gave it to the government to handle the sale.

The issue spawned a Hollywood movie and saw many celebrities castigated for wearing them and launching campaigns to highlight their trade.

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