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Just Brilliant: The Origins of “Diamonds Are Forever”

By Attireclub @attireclub
One of the most renowned slogans of the 20th century, which has grown way beyond its marketing purpose, "Diamonds are Forever" is one of the most known catchphrases of the world. This tagline is a strong part of the image diamonds have today in our collective mindset; where they are strongly connected not just with wealth, but also with devotion and love. However, despite its worldwide fame, not many people know the origins of this global phenomenon.

Diamonds are without question the hardest of all known gemstones. This is why, it comes only natural to associate them with durability and strength. However, how did diamonds also become a symbol of a strong connection between people and an indicator of strong commitment?

The story goes back to 1938, when Harry Oppenheimer, who was the son of the founder of De Beers Consolidated Mines had a meeting with N.W. Ayer & Son, a prominent American advertising agency. The purpose of the meeting was of course to discuss the ways in which diamonds can be sold better and reach the desired customer.

Thus, soon after the meeting, N.W. Ayer started to do extensive research into what makes people tick and soon realized that emotion is actually the key to the heart of their customers. Thus, the agency decided to link the material strength of diamonds with the idea of eternal dedication. To do this, they used jewelers, celebrities, magazines and even lecturers to express a connection between the physical and the emotional value of diamonds. Moreover, the agency even influenced movie scripts and managed to change entire scenes in order to have the characters want, buy or cherish diamonds.

While at the beginning of the campaign, diamond sales were declining, after just three years, the trend was not only reversed, but diamond sales were up by over 50%.

While diamonds were everywhere, they still did not have one slogan to express their quality and their psychological appeal.

Almost 10 years after the meeting between Oppenheimer and N.W. Ayer, in 1947, Frances Gerety, a copyrighter for the advertising agency, was working late one night and was in desperate need for a good copy. Tired and angry, she laid her head down on the desk and asked for help. Soon after, when she decided to finally go home, she scribbled the words "a diamond is forever" on a piece of paper.

The ideas wasn't new, as in Anita Loos' 1925 book "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes", we can read "So I really think that American gentlemen are the best after all, because kissing your hand may make you feel very very good but a diamond and sapphire bracelet lasts forever", but it was a stroke of genius to use this phrase so condensed and so directly associated with diamonds.

One year later, in August 1948, the company announced their newest campaign in the New York Times' Advertising News and Notes column. The piece read "De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd., owner of diamond workings in South Africa, plans a fall campaign in leading national magazines which will stress the engagement-ring tradition. Four-color ads will reproduce paintings by well-known artists and carry the slogan 'a diamond is forever.' N.W. Ayer & Sons, Inc., Philadelphia, is the agency."

And the rest is history. Today, 90% of Americans recognize this slogan and three quarters of American brides wear a diamond engagement ring, which now costs an average of $4 000.

Diamonds may not really be forever, after all they can be chopped and even turned to ashes, but the De Beers campaign managed to secure its place in the diamond industry for decades. The movies, the songs and the continuous use of the slogan are, well, the diamond of advertising: they create a mindset that is strongly associated with a strong product, which is placed so deeply in our global culture that it becomes a worldwide social phenomenon itself.

Fraquoh and Franchomme

Further reading:

Attire Club in interview with Raj Mehta, Director of Rosy Blue Attire Club in interview with Filip Van Laere, Event Director of CARAT+

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