Miners in Angola have unearthed a rare pure pink diamond, believed to be the largest found in 300 years. Following the US ban on imports of Russian gems, "Lulo Rose" could give Angola's troubled diamond mining industry a welcome boost.
A 170-carat pink diamond – dubbed The Lulo Rose – was discovered at Lulo mine in the diamond-rich northeast of the country.
Australia's Lucapa Diamond Company, which operates the site, told investors it was among the largest pink diamonds ever found.
The Angolan government, which is also a partner in the mine, welcomed the "historic" find of the Type IIa diamond – one of the rarest and purest categories of natural stones.
"This record and spectacular pink diamond recovered from Lulo continues to showcase Angola as an important player on the world stage," Angola's Mineral Resources Minister Diamantino Azevedo said.
Angola is the world's fourth-ranked diamond producer, but around 60 percent of its diamond deposits remain unexplored.
Lulo Rose will undoubtedly generate interest in Angolan diamonds and give President João Lourenço some timely publicity as he prepares for general elections next month.
Worth millions, but will it sell?
The Lulo Rose will be sold by international tender.
It would have to be cut and polished to realise its true value, in a process that can see a stone lose 50 percent of its weight.
Similar pink diamonds have sold for eye-wateringly high sums.
The 59.6 carat "Pink Star", sold at a Hong Kong auction in 2017 for 71.2 million US dollars, remains the most expensive diamond ever sold.
But in November 2017, the 37.30 carat “Raj Pink” diamond failed to find a bidder at auction in Geneva.
The pre-sale estimate for that stone, found in South Africa in 2015, was between $20 million and $30 million.
The Raj Pink was not an easy diamond to sell, Eric Valdieu, a Geneva-based jewellery dealer told Reuters at the time.
“It was a modern, recent stone and not a 10 out of 10 in terms of its colour and form," he said. "It had no history."
Angola's untapped potential
Angola's diamond industry has a troubled history.
The late, former president José Eduardo dos Santos, and his daughter Isabel dos Santos in particular, had uncomfortably close ties to the diamond business.
In 2015, a court in Angola sentenced award-winning Angolan journalist Rafael Marques to a six-month suspended prison term for "malicious denunciation" after he wrote a book about rights violations in the diamond industry.
Since João Lourenço took over from Dos Santos in 2017, Angola has divested interests in the Swiss jeweller De Grisogono – at the heart of many of the corruption allegations against Isabel dos Santos.
Poor infrastructure continues to hamper the exploration of Angola's diamond deposits.
But President Lourenço is keen to develop the industry. In August 2021 he inaugurated the $77m Saurimo Diamond Development Hub.
Industry leader De Beers Group, which left Angola a decade ago, recently signed two mineral investment contracts to renew diamond exploration and mining in the country.
The demand for diamonds has become more intense since Western countries banned the import of Russian luxury goods following the invasion of Ukraine.
In April, the US blacklisted Russian state-controlled diamond miner Alrosa, complicating the Russian company's operations in the global diamond market.
Alrosa, the world's largest diamond miner, is one of the three diamond majors operating in Angola.
In June, the Financial Times daily reported that the Angolan government had bought a stake in the country's biggest diamond miner, Catoca, whose owners include Alrosa.