Discovered in May
1967, the 601 carat Lesotho Brown diamond was the first significant diamond
to be recovered at Letšeng and thus became famous as the largest diamond ever discovered by a woman.
name of the diamond is a combined one that seems to reflect partly the
country of origin of the diamond, Lesotho, and partly the color
of the rough diamond.
The Lesotho Brown
was discovered accidently by Ernestine Ramaboa who
is reputed to have walked for four days and four nights with her husband to
deliver the diamond into the safe keeping of a reputable diamond buyer. The discovery came as a God-given gift to the poor couple, who were
said to be nearly penniless.
After being sold
and acquired a few times, Harry Winston acquired the diamond at an auction in
Geneva in 1968, and the cleaving of the Lesotho Brown Diamond into two pieces
was broadcast live on American television the same year. Mr.
& Mrs. Ramaboa, the
founders of the diamond, were also invited for the occasion.
The polishing was
completed in a year and resulted in 18 gemstones totaling 252.40 carats, the
largest of which was the Lesotho I, a 71.73 carat flawless emerald cut
diamond with a pale pink hue.
The Lesotho III
(the 3rd largest stone cut from the crystal) is a 40.42 carats
(8.08 g) marquise-shaped gem that was once owned by Jackie Kennedy,
given to her by her husband Aristotle Onassis as an engagement gift.
The Lesotho I
The ring had an estimated value of $600,000 US, but at
the Jackie Kennedy estate sale auction in April 1996 it reached a price of
$2,587,500 US dollars. The ring was purchased by Al and Felice
Lippert on behalf of their friend Tony O'Reilly of
the Heinz Ketchup fortune as a birthday gift for his wife Chryssanthie
The Lesotho I, estimated at $3
million-$5 million, was offered at the Sotheby's Geneva auction on
November 19, 2008 as part of a Magnificent Jewels sale, but the Lesotho I
failed to sell.
The Lesotho I set on a ring
The lot's description mentioned it was being offered
for sale by the same owner who had originally bought it from Harry Winston
around 1969. It also listed the
gem as having a clarity of VVS2, excellent polish
and excellent symmetry, and although the stone (and the other Lesotho
fragments) is a pale brown color, no color grade is mentioned in the auction