Mrs. Valentine Hall
23 March 2014
How Diamonds Became Forever
Everyone has heard the phrase “A Diamond Is Forever.” But why exactly is a diamond forever? Is it because it is supposedly the “rarest gem” and the international, crosscultural sign of eternal love? Actually, the diamond is forever because of De Beers company’s incredibly successful marketing scheme in the 1940’s, and since then everyone has listened to them and used the diamond as a symbol of love, allowing De Beers to grow into one of the most powerful industries of the twentieth century. Diamonds are not actually as rare as many are led to believe and are only so because of how successful De Beers’ advertising campaign for diamonds was, which also has a monopoly on the diamond industry.
Before the mid1800s, diamonds were a rarity, found only in the hand of royalty, but an influx of diamond mines found in South Africa in the latter half of the 1800s caused the prices of diamonds to crash. This is where Cecil Rhodes comes in to save the day and the prices of diamonds. Rhodes saw a chance to take hold of the diamond industry, which had huge supplies of diamonds at this time, and kept the reputation of diamonds high and the prices even higher.
Rhodes began buying diamond mines and began the De Beers Mining Company, and in a couple years he owned virtually all the diamond mines in South Africa. Now that Rhodes had diamonds, he needed a way to keep prices high, so he created the Diamond Trading Company. Diamond claim Walden 2 holders and distributors teamed up with De Beers because they had the same interest in mind: maintain the farce that diamonds are rare, and the prices will soon follow (Goldschein 2,3,4).
By 1902, De Beers controlled 90 percent of the world's diamond production and distribution, but it was Ernest Oppenheimer that made the company what it is today (Goldschein
5). Oppenheimer was the owner of a rival company that essentially bought his way into being the chairman of De Beers. Oppenheimer set up exclusive contracts with suppliers and buyers making it almost impossible to buy diamonds outside of De Beers company (Goldschein 5). Even today there are only about 200 companies, called sight holders, who can buy diamonds from the
Central Selling Organization, a subsidiary of De Beers that markets about 70 percent to 80 percent of the world's diamonds (Bonsor 5). Everything for De Beers was going great until a decline in diamond prices in the 1930s.
De Beers teamed up with N. W. Ayer, an advertising agency, to try and fix the problem. They needed to find a way to make everyone want, or need, diamonds. So what was something almost every American had in common? Their answer was marriage, or more specifically love, and De
Beers and N. W. Ayer would spend the next 50 years creating “a situation where almost every person pledging marriage feels compelled to acquire a diamond engagement ring”(Sullivan 9).
The campaign really took off in 1947 when Frances Gerety, an employee at N. W. Ayer, coined the phrase “A Diamond Is Forever.” In 2000,
Advertising Age magazine actually named the “A
Diamond is Forever” the slogan of the twentieth century (Bosnor 3). Frances Gerety went on to write all of the De Beers’ ads for the next 25 years (Sullivan 1, 3).
Later advertisements that continued De Beers’ success was that they convinced people who Walden 3 had already bought diamonds, that their diamond rings should be used as an heirloom.
Convincing people to do this thus eliminated the aftermarket of diamonds, increasing demands for new diamonds, and furthering the control De Beers had on the market. They also somehow convinced every groomtobe that the diamond ring that they buy should be worth a two months’