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Okavango Blue unique gem.

Described by President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi as 'the rarest and most unique diamond ever discovered in Botswana,' the Okavango Blue, a 20.46-carat blue diamond is symbolic of the rags to middle-income tale of post-independence Botswana.

This was narrated by various speakers as the Okavango Blue was formally launched at the Diamond Park in Gaborone on April 17 night.

Describing the gemstone as 'a remarkably rare and exceptionally cut and polished diamond,' President Masisi noted that the Okavango Blue, mined by state-owned Okavango Diamond Company (ODC) in Orapa, mirrored the Botswana story.

Reminding his audience that at independence in 1966 Botswana was described by a Western journalist as 'an impoverished, arid and hungry land without hope of achieving economic fifth of the population literally being kept alive by emergency feeding,' Dr Masisi said diamond mining and responsible governance had since written a 'beautiful story' of national socio-economic transformation.

'Our diamonds have not only given us an enviable brand, but they have also significantly contributed to the growth of our economy. They have immensely contributed to the creation of jobs, provision of social services like health, education and the construction of hospitals, roads as well as energy and water infrastructure among others,' Dr Masisi said.

He pledged that his government would continue to grow the economy through 'mineral beneficiation to maximise value addition and also enhance citizen participation in the diamond industry through skills development and mentoring as well as improving access to rough diamond supply and funding.'

Dr Masisi said the Okavango Blue symbolised Botswana's 'diamonds for development' narrative, and that its sale through the wholly state-owned ODC, which has access to 15 per cent of Debswana's mine production, would benefit the country.

ODC managing director, Mr Marcus ter Har said it was an 'iconic night' for the company, and that their staff complement of an average age of 39, was 95 per cent made up of citizens, the majority of them women, worked tirelessly to deliver Botswana's diamonds to the world.

He said the unique blue diamond had presented an opportune moment to market their work.

'This opens up an opportunity to tell our story to the world, that we have an entire value chain happening within our country. This stone will help us tell an incredible story of how diamonds have transformed the livelihood of the people of our country over the past 50 years,' Mr Ter Haar said.

He narrated that when their field team in Orapa discovered the gem, they were initially confused as to whether it was indeed a diamond, and in Gaborone they also needed to 'double take' before 'the joyous but tortuous journey of making important multimillion dollar decisions.' He noted that Okavango Blue was cut and polished by experts in New York.

Mr Ter Haar said there were few experts who could cut the blue diamond gem across the world, but that they were able to find specialists who did a commendable job. He added that after valuation, Okavango Blue could sell for a significant sum on the global market.

Mr Mogogi Chepete of ODC, who unearthed the diamond also recounted the tale of how astonished he and others in the field team were upon excavating the precious stone.

The oval-shaped blue diamond was fashioned from a 41.11 carat stone unearthed in Orapa in 2018.

Blue diamonds are among the rarest of the precious stone, coloured by trace amounts of boron that contaminate their structure to create a blue coloured gem.

The Okavango Blue is smaller than the legendary Hope Diamond, the 45.42 carats blue diamond kept at a museum in the United States, the 31.06 carats Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond mined centuries ago in India, later to be part of the European crown jewels as well as the Cullinan Dream, a 24 carat intense blue diamond unearthed in South Africa in 2014.

With blue diamonds graded by a combination of colour, clarity, cut and carat weight, the Okavango Blue could still fetch a price similar or close to that of the bigger stones.

In their grading of Okavango Blue, the Gemological Institute of America has already given it one of the highest polished colour classifications attainable for any blue diamond.
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Publication:Botswana Daily News (Gaborone, Botswana)
Geographic Code:6BOTS
Date:Apr 22, 2019
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