In 2005, a rough diamond of 316.15 carats was discovered, the largest ever to emerge from the De Beers Venetia mine. This diamond was considered so special that it was given a name, just as the Jonker and the De Beers Millenium Star diamonds were deemed worthy of special titles. Jonathan Oppenheimer, Head of the Chairman's Office De Beers Group and great grandson of Ernest Oppenheimer, who controlled De Beers and founded the Anglo American Corporation of South Africa, named it the 'Ponahalo' diamond. In Sotho, the tribal language spoken by the Venda tribe in the area of South Africa where the gem was mined, Ponahalo translates as "vision."
The Venda live in the Limpopo Province of South Africa, between the Lebombo Mountains and the Soutpansberg, a remote section of the country that is naturally protected by mountains and the Limpopo River. With an approximate population of 600,000 people, the Venda comprise South Africa's smallest black nation. Ancestor-worshippers and farming tribespeople, the Venda are also highly creative artists who are well-known for their wood and stone-carving, which bear spiritual significance. They also rely on witchcraft as a method to communicate with the spirit world and to seek guidance from ancestors.
The Steinmetz Diamond Group, one of the leading diamond manufacturing and trading groups in the world, entrusted with the honor of cutting the 316.15 carat stone, expertly produced four polished diamonds, leaving one in its rough form. It took eighteen months to shape the two largest diamonds, weighing 102.11 and 70.87 carats, into rectangular-cut gems. Two more stones, weighing 12.48 and 4.13 carats, were fashioned into pear-shapes to capture the diamonds' inherent brilliance. The final stone, weighing 4.77 carats, was left in its rough form to serve as a reminder of the Ponahalo's origin.
South African jewelry designer Kevin Friedman, who specializes in jewelry designs that draw upon African tribal imagery, designed a necklace for the five Ponahalo diamonds in 2007. Comprised of 291.88 carats of diamonds set in a heavy gold surround, accented by glass beads and safety pins, the necklace was modeled upon the baubles that the Venda wear when performing religious rituals.
In June 2007, Steinmetz finally revealed the Ponahalo with its Forevermark inscription, a unique identification number and icon invisible to the naked eye, on all five of the diamonds. This was the first time a diamond larger than 20 carats had been inscribed with Forevermark, making the 102.11 carat the largest in history. The inscription is meticulously inscribed on the table facet of the diamond, using highly advanced proprietary technology.
As part of the De Beers Family of Companies, the world's leading diamond company, each Forevermark diamond has been set apart and specially cared for by experts at every step of its remarkable journey. Each diamond is individually inspected to ensure it meets the Forevermark criteria and is cut and polished by master craftsman before its inscription. The inscription also promises that each diamond meets high ethical standards along its path, bringing prosperity to diamond-bearing nations and transforming the lives of the local people. Finally, it provides the assurance that the diamond is genuine, natural and untreated.
Christie's is honored to offer the two largest Ponahalo Diamonds, weighing approximately 102.11 and 70.87 carats, which exemplify cutting-edge technology, master craftsmanship and a commitment to social responsibility.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Ponahalo Diamonds will be donated to the Diamond Empowerment Fund, co-created by Russell Simmons.
Founded in 2007, the Diamond Empowerment Fund (D.E.F.) is a non-profit international organization that raises funds to promote education initiatives in African nations where diamonds are a natural resource, in an effort to stimulate economic growth and assist the under-privileged people who live in these areas. Established by members of the diamond and jewelry industries, as well as individuals outside of the industry who are committed to African empowerment, D.E.F. believes that education is a mobilizing force that empowers people to realize their full potential. D.E.F. seeks to partner with African educational organizations that have a strong success rate in helping young people learn the merits of self-discipline and hard work. Through fund-raising initiatives that will stimulate economic and educational development on a local level, D.E.F. strives to dramatically reduce the poverty that afflicts many of Africa's diamondiferous regions. The Community and Individual Development Association (CIDA) City Campus in Johannesburg is D.E.F.'s first named beneficiary and a model for higher education in South Africa.
THE PONAHALO DIAMONDS