King Letsie III of Lesotho Pays Visit to Antwerp Diamond District

Lesotho's monarch, King Letsie III, paid a comprehensive visit to the Antwerp diamond sector.

His four-day visit to the city included a visit to the HRD diamond lab, the Antwerp World Diamond Centre's (AWDC) Diamond Office, the offices of Gem Diamonds which owns part of the Letseng mine in Lesotho, and the Antwerp Diamond Tender Facility.

The AWDC described the visit as showing the excellent trade relationship that Antwerp and the small southern African diamond producing country have enjoyed for many years.

Antwerp imports most of Lesotho's rough diamonds in value terms at $352 million for 114,525 carats in 2011, the latest figures given by the AWDC.

Lesotho has produced some outstanding diamonds in spite of a low production level. Letseng has produced four out of the 20 largest white diamonds ever found, including the Lesotho Promise discovered in 2006, the AWDC said.

It is the largest diamond mined this century, at 603 carats and was sold and cut and polished in Antwerp. The result was a 224-carat necklace with 26 diamonds, and yielding a perfect set of Flawless D color diamonds.

AWDC CEO Ari Epstein added that just over 96 percent of Lesotho's rough diamonds are sold in Antwerp.

Furthermore, he said, following the inauguration of the Antwerp Diamond Tender Facility last October, 50 percent of the diamonds offered for sale have been from Lesotho.