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Sierra Leone's 709-carat 'peace diamond' sells for $6.5 million

A 709-carat diamond, found in Sierra Leone and known as the “Peace Diamond”, has sold for $6.5m (REUTERS/Nir Elias)

One of the world’s largest ever uncut diamonds has been sold by Sierra Leone for $6.5 million (£4.8m).

The gem, called the ‘peace diamond’, is about the size of an egg and was sold at auction in New York.

The money raised will go to fund developments in the African nation.

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It was bought by British luxury jeweller Laurence Graff, said Martin Rapaport, chairman of Rapaport Group, a network of diamond companies that managed the auction.

“One hundred percent of the value of this diamond, of the auction sale of this diamond, is going to go to the government and the people of Sierra Leone. Never before has this happened,” Rapaport said.

The Peace Diamond on display at the Rapaport Group in New York (AFP Photo/TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

The gem was unearthed in March in Sierra Leone’s eastern Kono region by a Christian pastor who gave it to the government to handle the sale.

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Ahead of Monday’s auction, the diamond was shown to some 70 potential buyers and received seven bids, Rapaport said.

“We showed the diamond everywhere. We did whatever we could and that’s the best price that we can get from the market today,” he said.

Proceeds from the sale of the diamond will go directly to the people of Sierra Leone (REUTERS/Nir Elias)

A previous attempt to sell it in May did not go through as the Sierra Leone government rejected the highest bid of $7.8 million at an auction in the capital Freetown.

The United Nations lifted a ban on diamond exports from Sierra Leone in 2003, though the $113 million sector is plagued by smuggling.

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During the 10-year civil war, which ended in 2002, rebels forced civilians to mine the stones and bought weapons with the proceeds, leading to the term “blood diamonds”.

The issue spawned a Hollywood movie and saw many celebrities castigated for wearing them and launching campaigns to highlight their trade.