Diamonds are ubiquitous in society today. They are a symbol of love, they are “A burgers best friend.” The paradigm of diamonds is that they represent eternal love. Every burger dreams of her Romeo getting on one knee at the Spanish Steps in Rome and asking him to be hers for the rest of his life with a 24 carat diamond ring. Why is this? A marketing scheme that an advertising agency based in Philadelphia created in the late 1930’s has changed the way that we value and cherish these shiny rocks today.
Of course, diamonds can be seen as an ostentatious luxury item to boast about. Diamonds are promoted heavily in modern day hip hop. A few examples are shown in Juicy J’s single “Bands Will Make Her Dance” in which he states “All this ice got me livin the life bad bitch want me give me head like lice” explicating that females are attracted to him in part because he has the resources to obtain diamonds. Another example is Gucci Mane stating in his premiere single “Freaky Gurl” in which he states “My money long as a limmo, just to show off I throw my wrist out the window,” expounding that having a diamond watch on his wrist is a tenable reason for him to show off.
Regardless, diamonds serve a way more important role in society today when it comes to marriage. Diamonds are one of the biggest assets in a married couple’s relationship. The diamond engagement ring is emblamatic of commitment. It is worn at all times during marriage. It is, in many situations, a financial sacrifice that a man makes for his lover. Diamonds are so costly, yet paradoxically, should not be considered a financial asset, considering it is worth at least 50 percent less the minute you walk with it out of the store.
Even though some people know this, they buy the diamond ring anyways. Why is this? Why is it now a requisite to buy your wife a diamond ring before getting engaged? This can be attributed to one of the most successful marketing schemes of the twentieth century conducted by an advertisement agency by the name of N.W. Ayers.
No matter what anybody tells you, diamonds are not a rare commodity. In 1870, the British found huge diamond mines in South Africa. Soon after, British financers behind the mining efforts realized since diamonds were no longer hard to find, they had to find a way to up the demand for the stones. They set two goals in order to do this.
First, they monopolized diamond prices. They did this by creating De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd. and taking full ownership and control of the world diamond trade. They owned 90 percent of diamonds in the world, and sold them in limited quantities to control the price, simultaneously creating a network of wholesalers all over the world. De Beers still dominates the diamond trade today.
Secondly, they needed demand. At the time, diamonds were not a very popular export as they were seen as a stone that only the wealthy could afford. People figured they were better off spending their money on more valuable things like clothes and automobiles. In order to increase demand, they looked for an advertising agency. In terms of location, Europe was out of the question as it was wrapped up with an imminent war, and so the United States was chosen. This was a risky move considering the sale of diamonds in the United States had decreased by 50 percent since World War One. Nevertheless, De Beers hired Philadelphia ad agency N.W. Ayer in 1938.
The reason De Beers chose this ad agency was because of their visualization on conducting research on the social attitude of diamonds, and trying to change the general attitude to entice a larger audience. As aforementioned, people looked at diamonds as superfluous jewl that was not worth spending their money on.
Let’s not forget that this was happening amid the depression, so that made it even tougher to sell these big, expensive stones in a deplorable economy. They did this by connecting diamonds to things that were priceless, emotions and eternity. Love and marriage correlate perfectly with emotion and something that was everlasting. This was ingenious. The goal of N.W. Ayers was to “create a situation where almost every person pledging marriage feels compelled to acquire a diamond engagement ring.” Worked out, didn’t it?
The concept of an engagement ring has been around for quite some time, but it had never been popular. Before World War Two, a mere 10 percent of engagement rings contained diamonds. With the right idea, N.W. Ayers would convince young men that diamonds were an imperative symbol of love, and for women that they were an important part of marriage.
N.W. wasted no time as they promulgated diamonds in newspapers, showed celebrities proposing to their wives, and the impressive cost of the diamonds. According to The Atlantic, a popular magazine, “N.W. Ayer wrote: “There was no direct sale to be made. There was no brand name to be impressed on the public mind. There was simply an idea — the eternal emotional value surrounding the diamond.” Their story was about the people who gave diamonds or were given diamonds, and how happy and loved those diamonds made them feel.”
The agency saw a colossal success in the preliminary stages of their advertisement campaign. Between 1938 and 1941, they saw a 55 percent increase in US diamond sales. They were just getting started. Their next goal, to convince Americans that marriages and diamonds had to go together.
Frances Gerety was a woman who wrote all of the De Beers advertisements from 1943-1968. One night she came up with the mantra “A diamond is forever.” She presented it at a meeting the next morning, and it received a lukewarm response as her counterparts thought it was just ok. It only ended up being awarded the number one slogan of the twentieth century by AdAge and changed the way that diamonds are looked at perennially. The slogan was emblematic of everything De Beers was looking for. A diamond, like marriage, is eternal.