Africa-focused Gem Diamonds’ (LON:GEMD) revenue nearly tripled in the first quarter of the year thanks to strong demand for its high-quality white rough rocks and the sale of a 910-carat diamond, the fifth-largest in history.
Delivering results for the quarter ended on March 31, the company said the $40 million fetched by the giant D-Colour Type IIa diamond found at its flagship Letšeng mine in Lesotho, increased the firm’s average realized diamond price by 48% to $3,276 per carat. Diamonds produced in the prior quarter sold for an average of $2,217.
Revenue jumped a whopping 174% in the period when compared to the first quarter of 2017 to $106.2 million, as the miner sold 16 diamonds for more than $1 million each, generating revenue of $70.7 million.
Production from Letšeng grew 32% to 33,526 carats, with the mine yielding seven diamonds larger than 100 carats during the period, including “The Lesotho Legend,” acquired by an unnamed buyer in Antwerp, Belgium, in March.
“It is encouraging to see the improvement in the frequency of large-diamond recoveries during the period,” the company’s chief executive, Clifford Elphick, said in the statement. “The market for Letšeng’s high-quality diamonds has remained robust over the period.”
Gem Diamonds owns 70% of the Letšeng mine, with Lesotho holding the remaining shares. Last week, the country’s government said it intended to renew the miner’s lease on the operation until 2034. The current lease expires in 2024.
Since acquiring Letšeng in 2006, Gem Diamonds has found about five of the 20 largest white gem quality diamonds ever recovered, which makes the mine the world’s highest dollar per carat kimberlite diamond operation.
At an average elevation of 3,100 metres (10,000 feet) above sea level, Letšeng is also one of the world’s highest diamond mines.
The biggest diamond ever found was the 3,106-carat Cullinan, dug near Pretoria, South Africa, in 1905. It was later cut into several stones, including the First Star of Africa and the Second Star of Africa, which are part of Britain’s Crown Jewels held in the Tower of London. Lucara’s 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona was the second-biggest in record, while the 995-carat Excelsior and 969-carat Star of Sierra Leone were the third- and fourth-largest.
Gem Diamonds also said it was going ahead with the planned sale of its Ghaghoo mine in Botswana, which it placed on care and maintenance in February 2017.