Meet the company that upended the world’s diamond economy

Lucara’s rise to the top of the diamond-mining heap took innovative thinking -- and some good luck.

Photo: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP via Getty Images

Meet the company that upended the world’s diamond economy

As the old saying goes, diamonds are forever. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be disrupted.

A Canadian company called Lucara figured out how to do it. The company is known for unearthing some truly gigantic gems. A diamond known as the Sewelô was discovered at a Lucara mine in Botswana last year. 

  • The Sewelô weighs 1,700+ carats. (!)
  • That’s about as big as a tennis ball.
  • One expert estimated that the stone is worth $6.5m to $19.6m.
  • Louis Vuitton actually bought a stake in it.

The New Yorker’s fascinating story of the company’s rise sounds a little like the way diamonds are formed — it took pressure, time, and geographic good luck.

People worry that diamonds are dirty, but demand is soaring

There are only a few dozen big diamond mines operating across the world. But 150m+ carats of rough diamonds were produced in 2017 — one of the highest-volume years on record. 

Um, what about those blood diamonds?

Everybody’s asking. So mining companies have had to get creative.

Enter Lucara, diamond-disruptor extraordinaire

Here are three ways Lucara shook things up:

  1. It looked in new places. The frozen reaches of northern Canada are a hot source of diamonds. Lucara’s CEO made some big discoveries there, back when she worked for her father’s company.
  2. It looked to other industries. Lucara used X-ray transmission technology, which is more commonly used in recycling, to better locate diamonds without damaging them.
  3. It created a new market. The company’s blockchain-secured platform, Clara, makes it easier to sell rough diamonds individually to retailers.

For all the company’s success, its outlook isn’t all diamonds and pearls. Canadian mines are relatively young, but they might soon be tapped out.

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