PW-engagement-season

All your diamonds are made of lies, suckers

Dec 16, 2013

Nothing in the world makes me feel like more of a curmudgeon than watching one of those freaking diamond store ads. I loathe them. I loathe the fictional people in them, so smug about their crap mall jewelry. I hate that I hope their fictional engagement ends in a fictional disaster,  involving either adultery or fire.

I hate that hating them makes me seem like I must be bitterly jealous of the happy fake people and their happy fake lives. Which, for the record, I am not. In fact, I would never accept a diamond, period. After reading this, you might not want one either.

Diamonds are nothing but an elaborate marketing scheme

Baubles20 All your diamonds are made of lies, suckers

People like to think that when they’re giving someone a diamond engagement ring, they’re harkening back to some glorious tradition passed down through the ages. In reality, they’re harkening back to a “tradition” that began less than a hundred years ago. A tradition created, conveniently enough, by a diamond cartel.

You see, in the 1930s, exactly no one was buying diamonds–what with it being the depression and all. People were ostensibly too busy hoarding tin foil and living in Hoovervilles to shower anyone with sparkly, overpriced gemstones. The DeBeers Corporation realized this was going to be kind of a problem for them, so they had to figure out a way to still sell some diamonds, what with the fact that they owned 90% of the world’s diamonds at that point and all.

In 1938, DeBeers hired America’s first advertising agency, N.W. Ayer & Son, to create what ended up being the world’s most successful marketing campaign in history. The strategy, first and foremost, was to link diamonds inextricably to the idea of love.  Despite the fact that few Americans could afford such a luxury at that time, the firm insisted “It is essential that these pressures be met by the constant publicity to show that only the diamond is everywhere accepted and recognized as the symbol of betrothal.”

They put diamonds on the engaged hands of Hollywood celebrities, pushed stories in the gossip rags about how big so and so’s diamond was, got movie studios to include diamond engagement rings as plot devices, went to high schools to talk to young men and women about getting engaged and how very important a diamond engagement ring was to the future of their relationships. The bigger and better quality of a diamond, the more a woman was loved.

The campaign was more than successful. Whereas in 1939, only 10% of engagement rings were diamonds, by 1980, 90% of them were.

They invented the process of buying a diamond engagement ring. In America, they said the ring ought to cost two months salary–whereas in England, they suggested one month and in Japan, three. They invented the idea of the 4 C’s– color, clarity, cut and carats. They invented the scarcity of the gemstones, which were actually available in abundance. Thus, they were able to charge far more than they were ever worth.

Diamonds Are Forever?

Diamonds Are Forever soundtrack All your diamonds are made of lies, suckers

In 1948, Frances Gerety, a female copywriter at N.W. Ayers, created the slogan “A Diamond is Forever.” Not only is it one of the best known slogans of all time (and my favorite thing to sing at karaoke– I do a killer Shirley Bassey impersonation), it’s also one of the most successful.

You see, diamonds have no resale value, so, when you get one, it really is yours forever. Unless you want to take a big financial loss.

Part of this is because they actually have no intrinsic value. While there are diamonds that are “investment quality”–you probably don’t own one. If you were to try and sell a diamond, you’d actually have to sell it at less than wholesale. When you buy a diamond, it’s marked up 100% to 200%, so in order for the retailer to not take a loss on it, they can’t pay you too much for it.

The other part of it is due to more fancy marketing. You see, if a diamond is forever, if it is something to be cherished as a symbol of one’s undying love, no one wants anyone else’s old diamond. They want their own diamond. A new diamond, untainted by someone else’s failed love affair. Thus, everyone keeps buying new diamonds, and the market will never be flooded by the old ones. It’s an incredible marketing scheme, when you really think about it.

“Chocolate Diamonds?”

022665309 MV ZM JAR All your diamonds are made of lies, suckers

All of a sudden, we’re seeing a ton of commercials featuring fancy “Chocolate Diamonds.” What’s not to like, ladies? You like chocolate and also shiny objects! It is a match made in heaven!

Except it’s just more marketing bullshit.

Brown is the most common color of diamonds. For years and years and years, they were considered totally unsaleable. They were essentially worthless. No one wanted anything to do with brown diamonds. Then, someone decided to market them as “Chocolate Diamonds” and sell them for the same prices as other diamonds!

Oh, and also all the slavery

african diamond trade 3 All your diamonds are made of lies, suckers

While we have a ban on conflict diamonds in this country, unless a company is like Tiffany’s and actually owns their own diamond mines, it’s almost impossible to really know if your diamond was mined by a child slave or not.

Even if it wasn’t, it’s the demand for diamonds in general that keeps the blood diamond trade going–so whether or not you actually purchase a conflict diamond, you’re still kind of contributing to the problem.

So what’s your point here, lady?

To validate the nausea I feel when watching diamond commercials! Obviously.

I hate the way I think that the lady saying “He went to Jared!” is actually saying “He did not go to Tiffany’s.” I hate the smarmy soccer moms in those “Are you psychic? No, I just speak Pandora” ads. You know what? I speak Pandora too. What I can tell about you from the fact that you are wearing one of those bracelets is that you are the kind of person who likes to spend lots of money on hideous things and probably a closet full of Vera Bradley bags. Seriously. Those things are ugly as hell, and I don’t care what they’re made of, they look like a blind person strung them together from the bargain bin at Michael’s.

pandora bracelet e1387214067464 All your diamonds are made of lies, suckers

Why are you so smug about your ugly bracelets, ladies?

I hate the “Every Kiss Begins With Kay” ads. What? Are you trying to tell me that you only make out with someone when they give you diamonds? I hate that they are on constantly throughout the whole winter, first for Christmas, and then for Valentine’s Day, and I hate how much hating them makes me feel like a spiteful bitch.

Really?

Well, not exactly. It’s just that all you are buying when you buy diamonds is a cleverly designed marketing campaign. The only reason you equate diamonds with love is because some advertising agency said it was so, because they wanted to help a fairly evil diamond cartel sell some more diamonds to people who couldn’t afford diamonds in the first place. The amount that you love someone or that someone loves you cannot be measured in cut, clarity, color or carats.

If you want to blow two months’ salary on a diamond engagement ring, by all means, knock yourself out. But you shouldn’t feel like you have to just because some diamond company told you that was “the standard” or part of some grand tradition.

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