The tennis ball-sized stone was found in the Karowe mine in Botswana last spring

By Claudia Harmata
January 16, 2020 10:09 AM
Advertisement

Luxury French fashion house Louis Vuitton is setting its sights on the fine jewelry market.

The prestigious luxury brand — known for its leather handbags — recently purchased the 1,758-carat Sewelo diamond, the world’s second-largest diamond ever found in history, according to several reports.

In April 2019, Lucara Diamond Corp. found the gem in Botswana at the Karowe mine, naming it Sewelo — which translates to “rare find” in Tswana, one of the languages spoken in Botswana — according to Bloomberg. The diamond company struck a deal with Louis Vuitton, though it is not known how much the brand paid for the rock, which is roughly the size of a tennis ball.

Michael Burke, the chief executive of Louis Vuitton, told The New York Times that the purchase price was in the “millions” and acknowledged that “some of my competitors, I believe, will be surprised” by the news.

“Nobody expects us to put such an emphasis on high jewelry,” Burke told the outlet. “I think it will spice things up a bit. Wake up the industry.”

The Sewelo diamond
Louis Vuitton

While many may be surprised by Louis Vuitton’s eagerness to break into the high-end jewelry industry, Burke also told the Financial Times that he sees a lot of “potential” for his company in the market.

“It’s the biggest potential we have right now,” he told the outlet, adding that the industry is “one of the highest-growth categories we have, if not the highest.”

Marcel Pruwer, the former president of the Antwerp Diamond Exchange, estimated that the gem might have cost the brand — whose parent company, LVMH, recently acquired Tiffany & Co. in a $16.2 billion purchase — around $50 million.

“There are less than 10 people in the world who would know what to do with a stone like that or how to cut it and be able to put the money on the table to buy it,” Pruwer told The New York Times. “To buy and then sell what could be a $50 million stone, you need the technical qualifications, as well as the power to write the check and take the risk.”

But this isn’t the first time Lucara has scored big in the diamond mine.

In 2015, the company found the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona diamond, which at the time was named the second-largest diamond ever. It was sold to Graff, a British jeweler, for $53 million. That same year Lucara also found the 813-carat Constellation stone, which sold for $63 million to Nemesis International in Dubai.

The largest diamond on record was the 3,106-carat Cullinan diamond. It was found in 1905 in South Africa. The stone was famously cut into several gems — the largest of which (one of 530.4 carats and one 317.4 carats) are now part of the British crown jewels.