Canada's Lucara sells world's largest uncut diamond for $53 million

FILE PHOTO: The 1109 carat "Lesedi La Rona" diamond is displayed in a case at Sotheby's in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S. on May 4, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - A tennis ball-sized rough diamond unearthed nearly two years ago by Canada's Lucara Diamond Corp has been sold for $53 million (39.36 million pounds), the Vancouver-based company said on Monday.

The 1,109-carat stone, which is the world's largest uncut diamond, was bought by high-profile British diamond dealer Graff Diamonds for $47,777 per carat, and will now be cut and polished, Lucara said in a statement.

The price paid was an "improvement" on the highest bid received for the diamond at a Sotheby's auction in June 2016, Lucara Chief Executive and President William Lamb said.

Lamb had gambled that ultra-rich collectors, who buy and sell precious art works for record-breaking sums at auction, would do the same with a diamond in the raw. The unprecedented bet failed when bids did not meet the auction reserve price and the diamond was not sold.

Lamb said in July the unsold stone "weighs heavily" on the company's stock, which is down more than 40 percent in the past year.

The stone, named "Lesedi La Rona," or "Our Light" in the national language of Botswana where it was mined at Lucara's Karowe mine in November 2015, is said to be 2.5 to 3 billion years old.

The rough diamond is second in size only to the 3,106.75 carat Cullinan, which was cut into 105 diamonds, including several British Crown Jewels.

The Lesedi will "dictate how it wants to be cut, and we will take the utmost care to respect its exceptional properties," Laurence Graff, founder of Graff Diamonds said in the statement.

(Reporting by Nicole Mordant in Vancouver; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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