How Diamonds Became “Forever”

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The Birth of Diamond Marketing as We Know It

Diamonds haven’t been forever…well, forever. In fact, they’ve only been “Forever” (with a capital F) since 1948, when “A Diamond is Forever,” the tagline Advertising Age would later dub “Slogan of the Century,” was launched. The grammatically incorrect ad campaign was created by N.W. Ayer & Son, a Philadelphia advertising agency hand selected in 1938 by the chairman of De Beers Consolidated Mines, Harry Oppenheimer.

N.W. Ayer himself was on the problem immediately, and stayed on it for nearly a decade, slinging diamond encrusted everythings at celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Rosalind Russel, and even the British Royal family. Five years after Oppenheimer showed up in his offices, Ayer hired Mary Frances Gerety, a Philadelphia-area woman who can be credited with the string of four words that altered the American Dream, bringing on a much-needed change for the fairly flailing diamond industry. (It wasn’t actually “flailing,” more just “anticipating a slight downward spiral,” as De Beers still owned 90 percent of the world’s diamond production. However, Oppenheimer did sense trouble in the midst due to the onset of war in Europe and distress in the Great Depression.) Gerety was hired “at the right time,” because Ayer had just lost a female copywriter, according to the The New York Times.

It came to her in a dream, says Adweek. Well, it came to her as she was falling asleep. She had been asked to come up with a slogan, but had forgotten about the assignment until that occasionally panic stricken moment when the head hits the pillow. The idea floated toward her and she scribbled it onto a photo of an engaged couple, serendipitously marrying (get it?) the idea of eternal love and the watery, beautiful gem that is also the hardest substance on earth.

Apparently, lots of other copywriters had been on the task as well. They all brought their ideas to several meetings on the subject, and Gerety said in an interview that she strongly believed many of the other slogans were probably much better. At that meeting, the line was presented, the concept was discussed, and the people at N.W. Ayer & Sons moved on. Gerety herself was not so sure the line was any good.

But Gerety’s slogan was (ahem) a diamond in the rough.

Before De Beers hired N.W. Ayer & Sons, diamonds were almost exclusively reserved for the rich and famous. However, De Beers recognized that an untapped market lay in the covetous masses that were John Q. Public. By teaching the average American that they, too, could have a diamond, De Beers captured the hearts and washed the minds of many Americans, increasing sales by 55 percent in just three years, according to The Atlantic.

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Not only was a diamond forever, it was for everyone.

That belief is still going strong today, with at least 75 percent of married women donning bling of the diamond variety on the weakest finger on their left hand. Like all good marketing, the slogan wasn’t the only thing N.W. Ayer & Sons produced. Gerety and her tag-team partner, Dorothy Dignam (a.k.a. “Diamond Dot Dignam”), essentially flooded the American consuming mind with images of diamonds. Dignam also engaged in what would be the late-1940s equivalent of blogging, and appeared in women’s magazines to write about who wore what diamonds where and to instruct readers on the sentimentality of the gem. However, according to The New York Times, De Beers was not allowed to directly market its own name in the United States since they were a monopoly. However, they were the only company that processed and sold diamonds, so as long as the media inculcated the American people with the idea that diamonds were the only way to express one’s love, they would have to express it with De Beers.

Lindsay Lohan at DeBeers store opening, 5th Avenue, NYC
Lindsay Lohan at DeBeers store opening

Luckily, times do change.  More and more people are selling their diamond jewelry everyday.  Also quite fortuitous is the fact that Diamond Lighthouse was created.  We’ve helped numerous people find the absolute highest, best value for their diamonds.  Since we take a commission from the sale (10% on diamonds 1 carat and higher), our goal is the same as yours: to get you the most money possible for your precious gems.  A diamond may not be “forever” anymore, but our commitment to serving our clientele always will be.

Find out more!

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