Provenance, substance and authenticity – what it means to own a diamond from Africa.
If you’re clued up on the bounty of Limpopo, you’ll know it’s the source of the bulk of South African mangoes for which peak season is summertime. And about four hours’ drive away, in the northeast corner of the province, near the Zimbabwean border, is Venetia mine, responsible for 40% of the country’s annual diamond production.
Nungu Diamonds Founder Kealeboga (Lebo) Pule and De Beers Sightholder is passionate about both. Mangoes and diamonds, that is.
“I often make this silly example… because De Beers has one of its biggest mining operations in Limpopo; think about diamonds the same way you would mangoes, as a South African, from a heritage perspective.”
Changing The Narrative
Intent on changing the narrative around these precious stones, private jewellers are wanting to share stories of origin, community upliftment, hope and value to make people less afraid of diamonds, which Lebo says is the truth, specifically about black people.
“When I told my dad I was going into this business he said, ‘Diamonds! Are you serious? Are you not going to compromise your law degree by going into this shady business?’”
Undeterred by that opinion and blessed with a mentorship that kicked in fulltime after he graduated (giving him a decade’s worth of experience in less than two years in reality), Lebo says he’s simply a young black boy who likes things from the North West.
That includes his wife, Ursula, Nungu Diamonds’ Creative Director. They are both age 32, and hail from Mahikeng, near the Botswana border.
“These days people aren’t getting married as quickly as they used to, and diamonds as the mark of love are not celebrated the way they were in the 70s or even earlier than that,” says Lebo. “Today’s consumer wants you to tell them why they should be buying the diamond. Its sparkle is neither here nor there.”
Cleaning The Value Chain
Because diamonds on the continent are known to kill people, there are many who don’t want to touch them. “But if that’s the attitude, you begin losing an opportunity to clean the value chain,” he says.
“Being a young black boy in this business should say to other people that this is a space we ought to be playing in because of what it can do in terms of social development and job creation. It has such a role to play but that mind shift has to happen.”
Nungu Diamonds buys directly from De Beers, so is able to tell clients where the rough diamonds come from, what the company is doing to uplift the nearby communities, and how that is impacting the lives of South Africans positively.
“When you come to see us, we’ll show you an array of diamonds so you can choose one with a story you understand. Then we’ll make your bespoke jewellery piece.” In essence, it’s a sequel to a never-ending story.
Black diamonds (also known as carbonado) are created when carbon is compressed below the earth’s crust under high pressure and extreme heat.
Brazil and Africa are the only known locations of carbonado deposits worldwide. Black diamonds get their colour from inclusions such as graphite. They are more affordable because they are opaque.
That result means they cannot be graded on the international Gemological Institute of America (GIA) clarity scale. Beware of artificially enhanced black diamonds.
Request the GIA Coloured Diamond Identification and Origin Report to confirm certification. A reputable jeweller like Shimansky will always have certification on hand.
Words by Debbie Hathway