“A diamond is forever,” they say.
It’s funny how this phrase was coined and popularized by two women who were both never married themselves, Frances Gerety and Dorothy Dignam. Diamonds have now become an essential and cermonious symbol of love and marriage. It is unequivocally, the most decorated and valued jewel in the modern world.
However, it’s story from one of luxury to essential is an interesting one. De Beers controlled the world supply of rough diamonds and with the help of N.W. Ayer & Son in 1938, they collaborated to launch the most iconic and successful marketing campaign of the twentieth century, anchored by the slogan “a diamond is forever”.
The agency had an ambitious mission: “to create a situation where almost every person pledging marriage feels compelled to acquire a diamond engagement ring.” They alluded to sentiment and promise, love and riches. Instead of focusing on just status (though the campaign does appeal to that as wel), diamonds were a symbol of love and were items to be desired. De Beers artfully constructed the whole industry to create scarcity. By owning over 70 to 80 percent of the rough diamond industry, albeit littered with controversial stories regarding their rise to authoritative power in South African mines, they restricted diamond supply to create larger demand. Combined with the successful ad campaign, whole cultural standards have changed as the diamond was adopted as a necessary and valuable jewel, worth months or even years of one’s salary.
It is not the money value that gives diamonds this competitive advantage, but the sentimental value. Luxury has now become essential and it is conflicting to think that this imbedded and subconscious desire for a diamond ring originated from one company’s ambitious goal to create, sell and popularize their diamonds.