Have you ever wondered where the phrase “A Diamond is Forever”, comes from? It was originally written by Francis Gerety in hopes that it would secure the diamond market and create a new craze among women in the late 1940’s. Francis worked with another woman named Dorothy Dignam, for the De Beers Company, to ignite the diamond campaign after the Great Depression had an effect on decreasing sales drastically. Women during that time were more frugal with their money, especially when it came to purchasing engagement rings. They claimed that diamond rings were a luxury item and the money could be used for more important household items like a washing machine. It was not common for new couples to solidify their engagement with a brand new diamond ring. Often times, the new bride would have an heirloom that she would use as her engagement ring. They would then pass it down for generations to their daughters.
Francis and Dorothy collaborated on ways to make diamonds more appealing to the average spender. Before the 1870’s, they were formally known for their rarity and were very expensive for that reason. Once diamond mines were discovered in South Africa they became more readily available in the U.S. The De Beers Company was able to romanticize the idea of the man buying a diamond engagement ring in hopes that it would promise a lifetime of marriage to his partner. They would use slogans that would empathize with military couples and claimed a diamond engagement ring would signify an everlasting vow to the new bride that her soldier would in fact return to her to live a happy, married life.
Even though these two women copywriters never married, they were able to idealize the idea of purchasing a diamond engagement ring to signify a newly engaged couple. They were able to successfully increase sales in the diamond industry significantly. To further establish diamonds in the 1950’s, N. W. Ayer started a whole new advertising scheme. They would allow famous, Hollywood stars to wear expensive jewelry to their motion picture premieres, in hopes that this would cause more of a buzz for the diamond industry. They were then able to begin advertising diamonds in a way that made them seem almost irresistible to the average woman. They added the slogan, “How to Buy a Diamond”, to every ad that would create a legacy of parameters for finding the perfect diamond. The four C’s are what matters most in rating diamonds based on value: cut, clarity, color, and carats. Even years later this type of standard is still revered in the diamond businesses. Within 3 years, diamond sales were up by 50 percent due to the many advertising schemes in place.
Decades after the diamond industry established themselves as a key player in a capitalist society; diamond engagement rings are now the most popular rings in the world for couples getting married. The slogan: “A Diamond is Forever”, still symbolizes the need for a ring to seal an engagement. Years after the creation of this phrase, it still adds as much sentimental value to a diamond as it did when it was first coined. The diamond industry is still well-known today for its lead in the advertising world amongst female audiences.
Unfortunately, what most Americans do not realize is countries that mine and sell diamonds are in a constant state of conflict. Children are forced into labor; communities are pushed into further poverty and their government systems use the profits from diamond sales to rule the state with violent force. No one would have thought one gem could cause such controversy, considering it not as rare as the diamond industry makes it out to be. This natural resource is slowly causing more and more turmoil amongst communities that facilitate diamond mining, while creating huge craters in the earth from extraction. Policy makers around the world have tried to come up with ways to make diamond sales a more safe transaction.
In 2003, the Kimberly Process was established as a way to ensure the safe removal and transport of diamonds from around the world. But in places like Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Namibia, diamond sales cause a constant state of war for its population of inhabitants. For the most part, this policy has made a difference in the diamond trade process. The policy has 81 participating countries, which has allowed 99.8% of rough diamonds in the world to go through this safe process. Though, this regulation of diamonds only includes rough diamonds, many global leaders around the world believe it is a great improvement, considering there was no real policy in place before regarding trading diamonds.
There are no labor laws set in place in determining safe and fair practices for miners. Miners work for as little as one dollar a day and are often treated like animals. Government officials force children into labor that is usually the most dangerous job. They will often die in some extreme cases from the earth caving in on them. Communities suffer from being displaced from their homes and are not compensated enough for the abundant resource of diamonds that is taken from them. Not only are people affected, but so are the animals that live in these habitats. Apparently, the caribou is one type of mammal that is close to being endangered considering all the mining that is causing a shift in the animals’ homes.
Another controversy surrounding diamonds is in response to the environmental impact mining has on the earth. The outcome: huge, gaping holes that are left behind, which are useless considering the massive damage it does to one area. In fact, one crater known as the Alrosa mine, is the largest diamond producer in the world. It stretches one km wide and is five football fields deep. Who knew diamond mines caused such a dent in the Earth?
In conclusion, diamonds may seem like a ‘girl’s best friend’ on the surface, but in reality they are no friend, but rather to those who are making millions of dollars off of cheap labor and the hyper-consumption of diamonds. Unfortunately, it is hard to reprogram a society that has bought into the idea of needing to buy a diamond ring to solidify a marriage. Hopefully, with the use of technology many more will be able to pick an alternative gem, or even a synthetic-made diamond to stop the trend of extracting more diamonds from the earth.
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LABOR & COMMUNITY. (2015, June 12). Retrieved November 17, 2015, from http://www.brilliantearth.com/conflict-diamond-child-labor/
Rhode, D. (2014, October 11). The Kimberley Process is a ‘perfect cover story’ for blood diamonds. Retrieved November 18, 2015, from http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/diamonds-blood-kimberley-process-mines-ethical
Sullivan, J. (2013, May 3). How Diamonds Became Forever. Retrieved November 17, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/fashion/weddings/how-americans-learned-to-love-diamonds.html?_r=2