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Russia's third largest diamond set for Moscow display after sale

MOSCOW, September 11 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow residents and visitors will soon have a chance to see the third-largest diamond found in Russia after authorities in Siberia's main diamond-bearing region sold it to the national fund of gemstones and precious metals.

Vladimir Rybkin, the head of the collection, said Monday the 298.48-carat diamond was valued at "several million dollars." But he declined to name the price at which the stone had been bought from the government of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), which owns the mining company that unearthed it in July 2004.

The new acquisition will be displayed to the public in Moscow's Kremlin Armory Palace, where the Diamond Fund, started by Tsar Peter the Great in 1719 as a royal jewelry collection, is now housed.

"There has never been the desire to sell such stones in our country's history," Rybkin said.

The fund's largest Russian diamond, of 342.5 carats, was uncovered in 1980 and the second largest, weighing 320.65 carats, emerged nine years later. Other highlights include the diamond-encrusted coronation crown of Catherine the Great and the 190-carat Orlov Diamond, given to the empress by her lover Count Grigory Orlov. The collection also boasts the world's largest sapphire and Easter eggs designed by imperial jeweler Carl Faberge.

According to Finance Ministry statistics, Russia is the leading producer of diamonds by volume and second to Botswana in terms of value. Some 99% of Russian diamonds are mined in Sakha.

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