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How De Beers Changed Our Engagement Rings

How De Beers Changed Our Engagement Rings

The word diamond is
synonymous with the engagement ring and not surprising when you see any high
street store window or see the latest celebrities out-doing each other in the
carat stakes.

When reading about
diamonds you can’t help but come across the name De Beers and their infamous
slogan "A diamond is forever”. The
impact of the ad campaign of which this slogan was the result, is still with us
today and there may be a generation of people buying and receiving diamond
engagement rings who have no idea that they haven’t always traditionally been
diamond and perhaps think that this tradition has always been the case.

I say that there may be a
generation of people unaware of the origins of the diamond used for engagement
rings as we are now seeing the lasting effects of what has to be one of the
most successful marketing campaigns ever among an age range of people not old
enough to have remembered the original campaign but yet who still buy and
receive these rings. I include myself in
this generation and if I was not in this industry I would have never known of
such a campaign and how it has shaped our jewellery habits today.

The diamond industry had
been in difficulty and so it is not surprising that as a company, De Beers
would need to improve sales in order to survive as a business. The advertising agency working for De Beers
made sure that the public saw Hollywood stars wearing incredible diamond
jewellery so that the big gems would effectively sell the smaller gems to
regular people. The stars were adorned
in pieces of jewellery for highly publicised events raising the profile of
diamonds in the minds of the public so they were no longer thought of as an
unnecessary expense and only for the super wealthy but were portrayed as
something they should be aspiring to. The
ad campaigns, which promoted diamonds as lasting a lifetime and as being an
investment, also featured images promoting the 4 c’s alongside beautiful
artworks by the likes of Picasso and Salvador Dali. For copyright reasons I haven’t included
pictures of the adverts but if you do happen to come across them via Google
images, you can see how artistic and romantic they appear. We still judge diamonds based on the 4 c’s of
clarity, colour, carat and cut today, so another lasting impact from De Beers
that the generation I speak of are unlikely to be aware of as resulting from an
ad campaign. We can see from the 4 c’s
that we even aspire to not getting simply any diamond but getting the best of
the best.

There is quite a hint
here at the psychology that led to such a successful marketing campaign that is
still effective in 2017. So cleverly,
the campaign had successfully instilled the notion that to show true and
everlasting love, a diamond was the way to go and it had also given the idea
that the better the diamond, the closer to perfect it was, would share the
message even better. This aspect does
seem to be directed at the men proposing to their beloved and also is important
as it is said that men are more impulsive and think less of the consequences of
spending money than women and so encouraging the men to buy diamonds, as close
to perfect as possible of course, would be an effective sales strategy. This campaign would also have encouraged women
to expect diamonds from their suitors and strive for the best, most clear and
large diamond they could.

If you think back to someone
you know who told you they had become engaged, the chances are you asked to see
their ring, or perhaps the ring was shown to you immediately! Would you have been
surprised if it had not been diamond? I have personally noticed people asking
to see "the rock” which suggests they are not only expecting to see diamond but
they are curious as to how big the stone will be, as if it is some sort of
competition or validation of how much the man loves his wife to be. I remember a college friend becoming engaged
and us all excitedly asking to see her ring and we all seemed to be taken aback
by the gold band with no stone as it was not what we were used to or what we
would have expected. Even she stated she
was disappointed but that hopefully in the future when their finances were
improved, they could change it for what she was expecting, a diamond. Our reactions to seeing the ring in question
shows just how well conditioned we became by a clever marketing campaign, which
played on our psychology and nature as human beings as well as change the
buying habits with regards to engagement rings.

All of this got me
thinking to some of the engagement rings in my own family and how these had
changed and I thought it would be nice to share these with you. As children my sister was always in love with
my grandmother’s engagement ring, which interestingly she received from my
grandfather prior to the De Beers campaign.

As you can see, the ring
focuses more on the design of the metal and this is used as the overall focus
of the design as opposed to the stones. This
ring dates from during World War II and so times were tough and my grandparents
were not in a position to afford a ring with large stones of any kind and so
the design is clever to use the metal to create a visually gorgeous ring. This contrasts quite radically from my
mother’s engagement ring whose design is based entirely around the stones. I have always been surprised and intrigued at
my mother’s engagement ring since it focuses more on sapphire rather than being
plain diamond. I asked her how she came
to have this ring and she told me how she had chosen it rather than my father
presenting her with a ring when he proposed.
She said she hadn’t wanted a plain solitaire diamond and since she loved
sapphire, this is what she chose. Even
then it still included diamond but they do serve to emphasise the sapphire
don’t you agree! This also points to the
expectation that an engagement ring should be diamond but my mother went
against this tradition and expectation to get something she loved. When I
thought about what my mother had told me about her ring I compared the two
rings and it is so clear that previous to the De Beers campaign, rings seemed
to be more interestingly shaped with the metal than in my mother’s time in
which she stated all diamond rings seemed to be a plain band with a single
diamond at the focal point. Of course I
don’t claim that these rings are entirely representative of all rings at these
times but it does give an interesting insight into how things have
changed. When I think about it, if I
ever walk past a jeweller’s window and see the engagement ring displays there
do seem to be a majority of solitaire diamond rings. Perhaps this is due to cost and perhaps it is
fashion too or possibly demand.

My grandmother’s ring is
now well looked after by my sister who kindly provided a rather gorgeous photo
of the ring:

My mother still proudly wears her sapphire and diamond ring which is still as beautiful 40 years on.  

I loved reading about the De Beers campaign and how it impacted on our habits and expectations today.  I had never thought to question why engagement rings are almost always predominantly diamond and this article was originally going to be about the historical use of engagement rings and what they were made from until i read about the De Beers campaign and found it an interesting phenomenon.  I personally felt enlightened to read about how engagement ring habits have been changed the world over, not by culture as such, but by an advertising campaign, which i must admit was nothing short of genius.  

Created On  10 Apr 2017 16:42 in April 2017  -  Permalink


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