Nungu Diamonds punches above its weight
Share this article:
NUNGU Diamonds – named after the African porcupine for its resilience and fierce competitiveness – has partnered with a diamond cutting and polishing giant in a deal that will also create local jobs.
Although Nungu has not named its new partner, the small diamond producer says it is confident it will be able to hold its own in the relationship.
IOL Business chatted to Kealeboga and Ursula Pule - the dynamic husband and wife duo behind the brand - about diamonds, the business and their exciting plans for the future.
1. What inspired the establishment of Nungu Diamonds? How did you come up with the name?
We were inspired by our need to build a first-generation, black-owned diamond business. Our aim was to be an impactful brand that tells a new story about diamonds. “Nungu” is the Swahili for porcupine. The porcupine is resilient, agile and able to defend itself against “the kings of the wild”. It’s distinctly African - and embodies the spirit of Nungu Diamonds and the people behind it.
The porcupine’s small size is grounding, because regardless of how big our business becomes, it’ll always remind us of where we came from and that we were once small, hungry, and eager to grow and seek new opportunities. These are qualities that have sustained us, and that will contribute toward our continual growth.
2. What makes South African diamonds so special?
Diamonds are an African natural resource. They are as much a part of our heritage as our rich cultures - and as such, should be worn with pride. Local diamonds are some of the largest and rarest in the world, and are highly sought after.
3. What makes a Nungu Diamonds piece unique and different from other diamond jewellery?
It’s because the jewellery is made by us. We make our diamond jewellery with our clients – and the collaboration and bespoke experience make it special. It’s the personality of the client brought through by the craftsmanship of Nungu Diamonds.
4. Is diamond jewellery still a good personal investment choice?
Diamonds make great investment sense. Your investment value will be upheld by your sentimental value. If a diamond is gifted from one sister to another for example, that is an investment between sisters. That is the continuation of an investment. They have high intrinsic value, they’re always in demand and they last for generations. However, as with any investment, we encourage clients to have a full awareness of what they are purchasing.
5. Quite a few of your designs seem to be inspired by South African heritage and culture. Is this intentional?
Yes it is. We draw inspiration for the creative approach to our jewellery designs from our local cultures, iconography, nature, metals and the diamonds themselves. The beauty of having three different metals to choose from gives you that nod to heritage. We also have a lot of colour; using rose and yellow gold adds to a richness which speaks to the Africa sunrise and sunset.
6. Nungu Diamonds had seen a substantial increase in demand for its custom-made jewellery sales. To what would you attribute this growth?
Our growth started from June 2020, when businesses reopened during level 4 lockdown. The increase in our custom jewellery sales was due largely to an aggressive marketing we had invested in before the time. One example of this marketing strategy is the Somizi Mhlongo and Mohale Motaung wedding special.
7. Has the business been able to maintain this trajectory?
Yes it has, as a result of further marketing. We use social media as a tool to show the businesses offering. We became more lifestyle oriented, and continued our culture of gifting and collaboration. Our brand became a lot less bridal specific. We pushed our ongoing partnership with Houghton Hotel. Another initiative was our youth Women's Month give away campaign where through the DJ Zinhle Mbokodo watch we collaborated on, we showed how diamonds do good.
8. What are the most pressing sustainability issues for the diamond sector at the moment?
Consumers are beginning to insist that the diamonds they buy need to benefit more than the diamond mine alone. They now care about the manner in which mines run their businesses. From the sector’s side, there’s an increased attempt to do better in mining, and to ensure people living around the mine are not suffering. It’s about the land itself and the safety of workers being insured.
9. When was the first Nungu Diamonds bespoke wedding ring created, and for who?
The first wedding ring was for Kealeboga’s older brother in 2017. The ring was set with an oval diamond; it had a halo, and was set in white gold.
10. What are the hottest design and colour trends at the moment?
The classic solitaire with a single diamond is a dominant trend. It has a very romantic appeal. Second to that, you see some people wanting to add gem-stoned colours to the ring itself. As much as people want to buy white diamonds, birth month colours like sapphires and rubies add a high level of personality to the ring. In terms of shape, there is a high demand for the oval shape – it’s very sparkly, and elegant because of its elongated shape.
11. When it comes to choosing the right diamond, which is more important - size or quality?
In terms of the value of a diamond, quality is paramount. Value has very little to do with size. In the educational sales process at Nungu Diamonds, we emphasise quality. And what influences quality is much more about colour and clarity, than about size. In addition to this, in the polishing process there’s a cut grade given to a diamond, and the cut grade has to be excellent. For your diamond to have fire and scintillation, it needs to be cut a certain way.
12. What does the future hold for Nungu Diamonds?
Nungu Diamonds wants to become a world-renowned African brand that tells a new African story. We have recently entered into an agreement with a mammoth diamond cutting and polishing firm that was founded in South Africa and is expanding into the country again.
We have partnered with them and are currently setting up a factory where we will use the latest technology to cut and polish diamonds in South Africa. This partnership will result in job creation locally, building on this narrative of an African diamond business being impactful in the world of diamonds.