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The tradition of diamond engagement rings is actually less than 100 years old. How did it become so popular in such a short time?

Learn more at HowStuffWorks.com:
http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/geology/diamond5.htm

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Today’s question: Why do most engagement rings feature diamonds? Why not emeralds, or pyrite, or beef jerky nuggets? Turns out, you can trace this precious tradition back to … an ad campaign.

Before the 1940s, opals, rubies, sapphires, and turquoise were way more popular than diamonds as engagement stones. In 1939, only some 10 percent of U.S. engagement rings bore diamonds. And the jewels being used were smaller and of poorer quality than the stones common today. But by the end of the 20th century, about 80 percent of U.S. engagement rings featured diamonds.

Enter an ad campaign. In the 1930s, the world’s leading diamond mining and trading company, De Beers, found itself in a tight spot. De Beers has been in the business, in one form or another, since just after the discovery in 1870 of huge deposits of diamonds in South Africa. Before then, diamonds were truly scarce; they had to be panned from rivers. With this new supply, De Beers flourished. Well, it was really the supply plus careful corporate consolidation and market control. But yes, they flourished. That is, until the Great War, the ensuing Great Depression, and the looming promise of a second world war sent the demand for diamonds into freefall.

So in 1938, De Beers hired ad agency N. W. Ayer to research the market and produce a comprehensive U.S. ad campaign: print, radio, and celebrity publicity. Print ads compared diamonds to paintings by Picasso and Dali – unique and precious. They commissioned portraits of famous couples who’d recently gotten engaged – all sporting diamonds. In 1947, they launched the slogan “A Diamond Is Forever”. By that time, the number of diamonds being purchased for engagement rings in the U.S. had already tripled.

It was – and is – a brilliant campaign. Pun intended, for once. It set up diamonds as a near-indispensable part of engagement traditions. And as heirlooms to be cherished and kept – not to be resold back into the market. Meaning more diamonds would be bought, and almost all of them new.

In the 1960s, De Beers and N. W. Ayers began educating the public about the quality of diamonds, encouraging the purchase of more expensive jewels. And their product placement continues to this day as they loan out extravagant pieces to Hollywood stars for films and the red carpet alike.

CREDITS:

Vintage De Beers ads from Vintage Ads:
http://vintage-ads.dreamwidth.org/2228174.html

N.W. Ayer Ad from MagazineArt.org:
http://www.magazineart.org/main.php/v/ads/banksinsurancebrokers/advertisingagencies/N_+W_+Ayer+and+Son+-1920A.jpg.html

Ad of man holding diamond ring from Art of Manliness:
http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/06/11/5-alternatives-to-the-diamond-engagement-ring/

SOURCES:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1982/02/have-you-ever-tried-to-sell-a-diamond/304575/?single_page=true

http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/geology/diamond.htm/printable

http://www.bain.com/Images/PR_BAIN_REPORT_The_global_diamond_industry.pdf

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-a-diamond-is-forever-has-lasted-so-long/2014/02/07/f6adf3f4-8eae-11e3-84e1-27626c5ef5fb_story.html

source

25 Comments

  1. Diamonds are absolutely worthless, yet thanks to DeBeers' stranglehold, they can artifically inflate the price. Dirty dirty tricks.

  2. truediva18 says:

    If my future husband really knew me, he would know to not give me diamonds. I would prefer rubies(my birthstone) and either a titanium or any other strong metallic wedding band. 

  3. More proof DeBeers is an evil empire. Supported by the rich and built off of the backs of the poorest of the poor.

  4. Where do you guys get these info? Did you search it up or something?

  5. audiocow says:

    There is too much negativity and hatred in the world today. In such times the only response is love. So to whoever reads this I would like for you to remember that you are a beautiful and unique person, even in this world of seven billion. If you are feeling worthless, insecure or blue know that you are amazing and one of a kind- nobody, no matter how hard they try, can take that from you.
    Please enjoy the rest of your day as much as possible. 

  6. Toon M says:

    Can you explain how "accelerometer" works in smartphones and such devices? :-))

  7. Jasmine says:

    i want an opal engagement ring if i don't get one i might feel some type of way 

  8. I wanna buy you a diamond and put a ring on it

  9. reksub says:

    they'll never speak as load as my heart.
    I say that cos I'm skint.lol.

  10. jason samuel says:

    How is this the stuff they don't want u to know I ending my subscription. Their other videos r boring anyway

  11. tommy tran says:

    She look like vampire I sorry I scared

  12. SUGAR XYLER says:

    ~ If you're smart you'll put the cash on a down payment of a house, not a little rock !!         ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]

  13. her teeth are freaking huge

  14. Beef jerky nuggets!

  15. I have told my parents and my sisters that if a future boyfriend of mine asks for input on an engagement ring that I don't want a diamond. They're pricey but plain and impersonal.

    My birth stone is emerald and, as a lifelong Californian, I have a love for our state gemstone benitoite. My ideal ring has one or both stones on it, rather than a diamond.

  16. We learned about this is film class! It's amazing how simple advertising can change sales and culture so quickly and effectively. 

  17. I actually want an aquamarine or Rubylite when I get engaged. diamonds are boring.

  18. With an artificially restricted market supply and the fact that they can be mass produced, they are just worthless pieces of carbon. They should have gone the way of amethyst after huge deposits of the purple stuff were found in south America but for some reason (DeBeers) did not.

  19. Son Ne says:

    Just wondering though. I love this clip but once it finishes off it actually pops up diamond commercial. This probably is only search engine match due to the topic but thought I let you know.

  20. everett818 says:

    GradeA made a video about how diamonds are dumb!

  21. prostitucion disfrazada de esponsales, me dan asco.

  22. user 007 says:

    why? that is easy because the world is full of fucking retards.

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