SA lovers scoop up lockdown diamonds

JOHANNESBURG - South African lockdown lovers are giving the local diamond sector a boost.

Local polishers say the forced proximity of being locked down is giving couples, that loving feeling.

Nungu Diamonds has reported an increase of 60 percent since the lockdown began in March.

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South Africa's diamond industry is famed all over the world but even before people were locked down at home, prices were already weakening -- as was demand.

Anglo American's De Beers unit last week reported a plunge in earnings but some of the smaller South African players who polish the rough diamonds that De Beers and other miners unearth said they have been pleasantly surprised by the extent of local lockdown jewellery-buying.

Enforced proximity is apparently kindling romance and feel-good spending.

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Kealeboga Pule's cutting and polishing firm, Nungu Diamonds, said its custom-made jewellery sales have grown 60 percent, since South Africa imposed a strict lockdown in March.

Pule said, "where I'm specifically passionate is in seeing South Africans and Africans consuming these diamonds. It's one thing to go all over the world and telling people what they know, they know our diamonds are amazing, it's another altogether to educate our local South Africans and Africans to say, 'begin to enjoy them and also learn their value' because they are a store of wealth."

Customers have been using their time at home for online consultations and lining up their purchases for when stores reopened in June.

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That turned out to be the Nungu's best month for a year.

Lower global demand has depressed the prices of uncut, unpolished rough stones bought from mines.

That's bad news for suppliers like Thoko Diamonds.

In a typical year, the family firm would ordinarily supply more than 500 carats.

So far this year, it has sold fewer than 20 and profits have fallen 65 percent as exports dried up.

It's now turned to jewellery-making to boost its profits hoping its new line in finished earrings will appeal to the local market.


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