Diamonds Are Not a Girl’s Best Friend

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This post was also inspired by this weekend. We were playing bronco and diamonds was the suite that was picked and I made some offhand comment about how diamonds were marketed and someone (I don’t remember who – sorry!) said that I should write a blog post about that, so here it is. The history of diamonds.

FYI, for purposes of this post I am not going to talk very much about blood/conflict diamonds, because that deserves a whole post of its own. I am just going to be looking at what made diamonds so popular in the first place.

When you see ads for diamonds what do you notice? I notice the language like “an enduring symbol of love and commitment.” There’s a billboard near my house with a picture of a diamond ring that says “I hold more memories than a tablet.” But why do we think of them this way? What makes them more special than other precious stones?

In the beginning, diamonds were relatively rare. However, that all changed during the late 1800s. A new source was found and diamonds became extremely common. Wealthy members of society then began to see diamonds as common and opted for other magnificent gemstones like rubies – the actual rarest of all gemstones.

But as is the law of supply and demand goes, once diamonds started to be seen as common and ordinary, the demand for them dropped and so did their price and value.

Of course, this was not good for DeBeers – a major player in the diamond business. They knew they had to do something to make these diamonds profitable for them again. In the mid-1900s De Beers had an ad out that suggested that diamonds were the only acceptable choice for engagement rings. Can you guess what the slogan was? I am sure you have heard it. “Diamonds are forever.” This slogan was so popular and so successful it was later named the best and most recognized slogan of the 20th century. Then of course the song “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” becomes hugely popular and helps sell the idea as well. After the success of the forever as campaign, they went on to have many other successful ad campaigns.

Now I have to give them props for having such a hugely successful marketing campaign because you can really see how the effects have trickled down even to our day – over 3/4ths of engagement rings sold still have diamonds. I believe this is mainly spurred on by their marketing campaign. There’s nothing else that really makes the diamond exceedingly special, in my opinion. I think rubies and sapphires are more brilliant and dazzling but a company has convinced us that diamonds are the stone above all stones. Just think about it logically for a second. I know they charge a lot for diamonds, but how many people do you know with some kind of diamond jewelry? 78 percent of engagement rings have them. To me, that makes them very common and ordinary again when they are everywhere. In the 1990s, over 100 million carats were being mined every year. You be the judge of whether or not that amount is rare. You have to ask yourself is there a practical purpose to a diamond ring that could not be filled by any other kind of ring? Because I’m pretty sure a diamond ring is just a status symbol.

This may change in the future though as their popularity will lead to depletion of the supply. This is a part (I believe) of what fuels the trade in conflict diamonds as I think they higher ups have started to realize they have created a demand that’s not sustainable in the long run so get the biggest profit while you can. Many even consider De Beers to be a cartel (at least back then, they no longer control as much of the diamond trade as they used to). But as a cartel they created demand and then limited the supply, creating a false impression of scarcity and making diamonds expensive.

As for me, diamonds are nothing special. My engagement ring has them but my wedding ring does not – it has Nick’s fingerprint engraved in it instead – something that is more personally meaningful to me. And I’m not saying never buy diamonds either – I know they can be brilliant sometimes (and hopefully if you do you will be buying certified conflict free diamonds or diamonds mined in Canada or Australia). I guess what I am saying is really think about why you want a diamond. Is it because you personally like them or is it because they have really good marketing? Diamonds are certainly not the only forever thing and if you want to do something different, go for it. There is a world of possibilities outside of diamonds.

Sources:
History of Diamonds
Diamond History and Lore
How Diamond Rings Came to Be: A Tale of Advertising & . . . Lies
Forever Diamonds
-On the economics of diamonds, the biggest marketing scam in history (Link has since become broken – 06/03/2015)

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