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Diamond slump delays Okavango Blue sale

MBONGENI MGUNI
Millions in wait: The Okavango Blue is amongst the world’s best PIC: MBONGENI MGUNI
State-owned diamond trader, Okavango Diamond Company (ODC) is holding onto its prized Okavango Blue diamond as it monitors the ongoing depressed conditions in the market for the precious stones.

The 20.46 carat blue diamond was unearthed at Debswana’s Orapa Mine in the third quarter of 2018. It drew comparisons with the world famous Hope Diamond, although the local, stone has a higher purity and clarity level. The Okavango Blue is expected to fetch millions of US dollars when it finally goes on sale at auction.

On Tuesday, ODC spokesperson, Dennis Tlaang told BusinessWeek the trader could not commit to a date for the auction of the stone.

“The state and health of the diamond market as well as the general global economic climate are important factors influencing the timing of the sale of the Okavango Blue,” he said. “With the undesirable global impact of the COVID-19 crisis and associated uncertainty in the diamond industry, we will be monitoring the situation closely but have not yet committed to a specific date.”

Late last year, ODC had expected to sell the stone within the first half of this year, a move that will unlock value for government in a year of unsteady revenues.

“The benefit of Okavango Blue being sold through a government-owned entity is ultimately that all the proceeds generated through the sale of the stone will end up in government coffers,”

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ODC managing director, Marcus ter Haar told BusinessWeek at the time.

“Those funds will then be used for all the development efforts that we know government does.

“There’s no private investor nor interest that accrues any benefit from the sale of this stone.”

However, prices in the market for the stone, which include jewellers and private collectors, have been affected by the slowdown in the industry due to cyclical oversupply. The intensifying coronavirus has also grounded global travel, depressed economies, weakened consumer demand and made luxuries such as diamonds a non-essential for many. The ODC, however, is banking on the uniqueness of the Okavango Blue to help it sell at a premium. “Blue diamonds are extremely scarce and the Okavango Blue is even more so, described by leading global gemmologists as the most unique blue diamond ever encountered, a masterpiece that, like the Hope and Wittelsbach-Graff Diamonds, has become a legend in its own right, sought after and inspiring stories for generations to come.

“The Okavango Blue Diamond is a natural wonder, dating back almost three billion years.

“Anyone fortunate enough to own this Botswana-sourced natural blue diamond will be in possession of a truly rare and unique gem,” Tlaang said.



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