Making diamonds forever

The diamond engagement ring is a necessity today for any prospective bride. But even 3 quarters of a century ago, only 10% of engagement rings contained diamonds. The company that can be credited with turning diamond into a necessary piece of luxury is De Beers (BBC 2014). The company, then known as De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd., literally controlled supply of diamonds worldwide after the discovery of the South African mines (SAHO, 2016). What was left was to control demand, and De Beers did it with the help of a single tagline: “A diamond is forever”. The tagline has permeated so much of our psyche that for many it has become a quote, not remotely related to an advertising slogan (The Washington Post 2014).


An artificial demand:

For years, De Beers created a huge stockpile of rough diamonds sourced out of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. A myth was created that diamonds were rare and prices were kept artificially high ( But to sustain these high prices, De Beers had to balance the other side of the equation; they had to convince people to buy them. The job of marketing a product for which there was no need in the market fell upon N.G. Ayer, a New-York based agency in 1938 (The Atlantic 2015).The work which N.G. Ayer did spanned the full set of ABCs of consumer attitude, starting from cognition leading to affect and behavior (Lutz 1977). The long-running campaign captured the imagination of the people in the U.S. by capitalizing on a sentiment that corresponds with the idea of eternity, the marriage. It was marketed as the ultimate engagement material that the men had to buy for their beloved, and more importantly, something that every woman deserved. The company did not sell the brand through the ads; rather it just focused on the idea of an eternal diamond. The campaign was so successful in affecting the desires and attitudes of the customers that by the end of the 20th century, 80% of all engagement rings had diamonds studded into them. (BBC 2014).


Interestingly, De Beers was also successful in setting the standard of how much should be spent on an engagement ring through its ad campaigns. In the 30’s, De Beers suggested that one month’s salary should be spent. In the 80’s, it changed to two months.


How they marketed “forever”:

The agency, N.W. Ayer, initially used celebrity endorsements. The marketing campaign was carried on newspaper columns and magazines, which told stories of celebrity proposals with accompanying information about the size and type of diamonds involved. The idea was that a large diamond will eventually sell a smaller one. Radio talk shows contained interviews of fashion designers who narrated the latest fashion trends involving diamonds. These two traditional tools of marketing were used in the first half of the twentieth century. The campaign also designed cognitive ads which demonstrated the product by including an educational tip about how to buy the right diamond and what factors to focus on while buying (Kolowich 2014).  Ayer had also planned on using the Royal family of Great Britain to further the image of romanticism.  Along with these tactics, the idea that a piece of diamond is a work of art was propagated through association with famous paintings by artists like Picasso, Dali, etc. All these different modes of advertising sold the idea that diamonds are rare and need to be treasured forever.

The ROI of the marketing campaign in its initial years can be gauged by the fact that between 1938 and 1941, the sales of diamonds rose by 55% in the U.S. market alone.From the mid-1960’s De Beers decided to enter other markets than U.S. They had their greatest success in Japan where they managed to create a billion-dollar industry. (The Atlantic 1982).

By associating diamonds intricately with engagement rings and the idea of “forever”, De Beers very subtly ensured that the diamonds bought by their customers are not resold due to its high emotional value.

submitted by:- SUMANTH CHILUKURI(215182698)



Lutz, R.J. 1977, ‘An Experimental Investigation of Causal Relations Among Cognitions, Affect, and Behavioral Intention’, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 3 Issue 4, p197-208. 12p., retrieved 4 May 2016, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost     


Cawley, L 2014, De Beers myth: Do people spend a month’s salary on a diamondengagement ring?, BBC, retrieved 4 May 2016, <;

SAHO 2016, De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd. is founded to exercise control over diamond production in South Africa, South African History Online, retrieved 4 May 2016, <;

Sullivan, J.C 2014, Why ‘A Diamond Is Forever’ has lasted so long,The Washington Post, retrieved 4 May 2016, <;

Friedman, U 2015, How an Ad Campaign Invented the Diamond Engagement Ring, The Atlantic Monthly Group,  retrieved 4 May 2016, <;

Epstein, E.J 1982, Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?, The Atlantic Monthly Group, retrieved 4 May 2016, <;


Figure 1: A diamond engagement ring, retrieved 4 May 2016, <;

Figure 2: <;

Figure 3: A De Beers Ad, retrieved 4 May 2016, <;


Kolowich, L 2014, ‘The Engagement Ring Story: How De Beers Created a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry From the Ground Up’, Hubspot, weblog post, 13 June, retrieved 4 May 2016, <;


Diamonds: The Greatest Myth Ever Sold 2013, YouTube, MEFblog, 19 February, retrieved 4 May 2016, < >




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