November 23, 2021
In April 2019, Botswana’s state-run Okavango Diamond Company unveiled the largest blue diamond ever discovered in that country — a 20.46-carat oval gem with Fancy Deep Blue color and VVS2 clarity. At the time, the company’s managing director called the gem “a once-in-a-lifetime find.”
Earlier this month, the “Okavango Blue Diamond” made its New York City debut as the centerpiece of a spectacular display at the Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals, the newly renovated, 11,000-square-foot section of the American Museum of Natural History.
The vibrant gem occupies the lead showcase in a presentation about the wide variety of natural diamonds found in Botswana — from more common industrial diamonds used in construction, manufacturing and other sectors to gem-quality ones. More than 1,000 rough natural diamonds are included in the gallery that explains the different characteristics of diamonds, including size, shape, quality and color. There is also an emphasis on the unique way that Botswana runs its diamond industry.
Botswana is the second-largest producer of natural diamonds in the world and a major source of gem-quality, ethically sourced diamonds. The “Okavango Blue Diamond” was sourced at one of the world’s largest open-pit diamond mines, the Orapa Mine.
It was cut from a 41.11-carat rough diamond and its name honors the world heritage site known as the Okavango Delta. The lush delta is the home of hippos, elephants, crocodiles, lions, leopards, giraffes and rhinos. It’s an area of exceptional biodiversity and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The government of Botswana established the first of four large diamond mines shortly after it attained independence in 1966. At that time, lawmakers entered into agreements with tribal leaders to make certain that the country’s valuable diamond resources would always benefit the people.
“Our natural diamond resources are managed responsibly in a manner that puts the people of Botswana first,” said Okavango Diamond Company Managing Director Mmetla Masire. “There is a strong sense of local pride knowing that these diamonds are improving the lives of Batswana with profits directly reinvested in education, infrastructure and public health. We are so pleased to share with the world the larger story of the diamond industry of Botswana.”
The “Okavango Blue Diamond” and the other diamonds of Botswana are on loan from the Okavango Diamond Company. Visitors will find the gems within the museum’s Melissa and Keith Meister Gallery, which is specifically designed to accommodate rotating exhibitions at the Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals.
Credits: Diamond photo courtesy the Okavango Diamond Company. Display photos by D. Finnin/©AMNH.