Russian diamond firm Alrosa to auction one of its biggest ever gems

The starting price for the 242 carat diamond will be above $2m

FILE PHOTO: Diamonds are pictured during an official presentation by diamond producer Alrosa in Moscow, Russia Ferbuary 13, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo
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Russian diamond giant Alrosa is putting one of its biggest-ever gem-quality stones up for auction just as the industry’s recovery builds momentum.

The 242-carat diamond, almost the size of ping-pong ball, will be viewable at the company’s sales office in Dubai from March 14 to 21, with the auction result announced on March 22. The starting price will be a little above $2 million.

Diamond prices slid last year as the coronavirus pandemic brought the sector to an almost complete standstill in the first half, though the biggest and rarest gems proved more resilient and rebounded strongly toward year-end. Gem Diamonds, a small miner that specialises in the most valuable stones, said its sales prices in recent months were higher than pre-Covid levels.

In the past decade Alrosa “auctioned just a handful of diamonds larger than 200 carats of comparable quality, as they are extremely scarce and the company often preferred cutting and polishing rare finds in-house,” Alrosa chief of sales Evgeny Agureev said. The auction is especially important as a year ago “our entire industry faced the toughest call in its history,” he said.

The company decided to sell the diamond to mark its 100th international auction, Mr Agureev said.

The diamond, which is the biggest of gem-quality that Alrosa has mined since 2000, was discovered at the Nurbinskaya deposit in Russia’s Far East more than a decade ago. The company also plans to sell two gems, of 190.7 carats and 136.2 carats, as well as other smaller stones at the auction.

The main item is still dwarfed by the largest diamonds found in Africa, namely the 3,106-carat Cullinan, found near Pretoria in South Africa in 1905. There have also been some big finds more recently, including a 1,109-carat stone unearthed in Botswana in 2015 and a 910-carat diamond mined by Gem Diamonds in the mountainous African kingdom of Lesotho three years ago.