Before 1947, Diamonds weren’t forever; they weren’t even a while.
Diamonds were seen as a gift that only the extremely wealthy would get for their significant other in the early 20th century. Most women would have preferred a new car, washing machine, or mattress. Women wanted something practical, rather than some gaudy ring on their finger that just appeared as a waste of hundreds or thousands of dollars. This was the case, until a Ms. Gerety came up with the slogan that Advertising Age named the slogan of the century in 1999.
Francis Gerety was hired by a Philadelphia advertising agency by the name of N.W. Ayers in 1943, and her only client during her time there was De Beers Diamond Jewelry. When Ms. Gerety submitted the famous slogan “A Diamond is Forever” in front of her colleagues, they were as displeased as she was. Ms. Gerety felt that the line wasn’t that good, and her colleagues thought that the word “forever” didn’t even make grammatical sense. Thankfully, she gave it to De Beers and it has been in every one of their ads since 1947.
This ad slogan essentially transformed giving a diamond ring to your significant other from something that was seen as unneeded into a social norm. Diamond sales had been slumping for decades, especially going into the Great Depression. Gerety and N.W. Ayers were trying to sell the public a product that they didn’t want or need. The powerfulness of the slogan is based on its simplicity and emotional appeal. It was a way to symbolize to your significant other that your love was timeless, and what better way to capture all of that emotional sentiment than with a diamond ring? The repeated advertisement and gaining popularity of the slogan created a psychological phenomena in Americans’ heads that diamonds were valuable. This played right into De Beers’ wallets.
De Beers created a diamond monopoly in the late 19th century and early 20th century, carefully controlling the supply of diamonds into the market. They were able to figure out a way to sell a stone that had no intrinsic value unlike precious metals such as gold and silver. In addition to appealing to the ethics and emotions of an eternal love and marriage through their famous slogan, they also discouraged consumers from ever re-selling their rings. This ability to discourage reselling prevented a disrupt in the market because if many consumers resold their rings, the market would realize that diamonds really had very little intrinsic value.
While De Beers couldn’t remain a monopoly in the American as well as global market, they ensured that they would remain in the $72 billion dollar a year market just as long as the product would; forever.