The emplacement of the 2.05-billion-year-old Bushveld complex, the world's largest layered intrusion and platinum-group element (PGE) repository, is a singular event in the history of the Kaapvaal craton of southern Africa, one of Earth's earliest surviving continental nuclei. In the prevailing model for the complex's mineralization, the radiogenic strontium and osmium isotope signatures of Bushveld PGE ores are attributed to continental crustal contamination of the host magmas. The scale of the intrusion and lateral homogeneity of the PGE-enriched layers, however, have long been problematical for the crustal contamination model, given the typically heterogeneous nature of continental crust. Furthermore, the distribution of Bushveld magmatism matches that of seismically anomalous underlying mantle, implying significant interaction before emplacement in the crust. Mineral samples of the ancient 200-km-deep craton keel, encapsulated in macrodiamonds and entrained by proximal kimberlites, reveal the nature of continental mantle potentially incorporated by Bushveld magmas. Here we show that sulphide inclusions in ~2-billion-year-old diamonds from the 0.5-billion-year-old Venetia and 1.2-billion-year-old Premier kimberlites (on opposite sides of the complex) have initial osmium isotope ratios even more radiogenic than those of Bushveld sulphide ore minerals. Sulphide Re-Os and silicate Sm-Nd and Rb-Sr isotope compositions indicate that continental mantle harzburgite and eclogite components, in addition to the original convecting mantle magma, most probably contributed to the genesis of both the diamonds and the Bushveld complex. Coeval diamonds provide key evidence that the main source of Bushveld PGEs is the mantle rather than the crust.