Ice, ice baby

Ransom Riggs

Is it good timing -- or just good PR? At a time when the diamond industry is getting some of the worst press in its history -- recent reports claim that an asset-frozen Al Qaeda has used diamonds as currency, and damning DiCaprio starrer Blood Diamond hits theaters December 15 -- DeBeers & friends were ready for a little feel-good news: one of the largest diamonds ever discovered (the golf-ball sized Lesotho Promise, unearthed August 22) has been sold to a South African company for $12.4 million. For all the trouble they cause, people never fail to ooh and ahh when it comes to shiny rocks.

It's the fifteenth-largest diamond ever discovered, a 603-ct white gem, weighing 4.2 oz.

Lesotho, the tiny African nation where it was mined, is notorious for its child labor practices, and has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world: 29%.

The world's largest diamond was unearthed in 1905: the Cullinan I, weighing in at 3,106 carats. It's colloquially known by a more elegant name, "Great Star of Africa," which, it rather goes without saying, resides in Europe as part of Britain's Crown Jewels.