When did the practice of selling diamond jewellery (particularly engagement rings), become so taboo? Selling diamonds is done every day by industry professionals, so why is it strange when a private owner decides to sell her diamonds? Well, we have De Beers to blame for that, and the advertising campaign that single-handedly saved the diamond industry.
The business of selling diamond jewellery was in a bad way in the early 1900s, with world war looming, a volatile marketplace, and the fact that diamonds simply were not rare enough to be valuable. Massive diamond mines had been discovered in South Africa in the late 1800s, making these gems more common than ever.
De Beers began its genius marketing campaign (with the help of Philadelphia advertising agency N.W. Ayer), by monopolising the entire international diamond industry, and forming De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd.
Now that they owned the supply, it was time to take control of the demand – after all, selling diamonds cannot succeed without hungry buyers! Their initial marketing efforts began in America because the US seemed likely to remain relatively stable through the coming war, unlike Europe.
N.W. Ayer’s publicists began to challenge the narrative that diamonds were only for the super-wealthy, and ran stories and articles about celebrities proposing with diamonds, taking the position that diamonds were the ultimate symbol of love, marriage and devotion. According to De Beers, “A diamond is forever”, and this is one of the reasons selling diamond jewellery became taboo.
The famous slogan (voted best advertising slogan of the century) still appears on every single De Beers advertisement released, and perfectly captured the sentiment that the industry was going for. Even though only around 10% of engagement rings at the time even contained diamonds, diamond engagement rings were soon to be the norm. A diamond, like your love and your relationship, is eternal!
In this way, sales shot through the roof in the form of engagement rings, and women were also being discouraged from flooding the market with their second-hand stones, further driving up the price.
With fewer women deciding to sell their jewels, De Beers was better able to control the supply (and therefore, the price) of diamonds, dragging the industry from the brink of destruction to a global success in just a few years.
So if you’re in two minds about selling diamonds that you no longer wear, and are sitting in an old jewellery box gathering dust, just remember that the reason you might be uncomfortable parting with your diamond jewellery might be because of an 80-year-old advertising campaign.
[Main Image: artofmanliness.com]