At the time, engagement rings were considered a luxury and when given, they rarely contained diamonds.
Leading diamond experts at UK retailer Steven Stone have revealed how luxury jeweller De Beers changed that.
In 1938, De Beers engaged N.W. Ayer & So – the first advertising agency in the United States – to change the image of diamonds in America.
In 1938, the ad agency suggested a clever ad campaign to link diamonds to romance in the public’s mind.
To do this, they placed diamonds on the fingers of Hollywood stars and suggested stories to newspapers on how diamond rings symbolised romance.
The ad agency even targeted high school students, by outlining a subtle program that included arranging for lecturers to visit high schools across the country. The lectures revolved around diamond engagement rings and reached thousands of girls in their assemblies and classes.
In 1946, the agency organised a weekly service called ‘Hollywood Personalities’ which provided 125 leading newspapers with descriptions of the diamonds recently worn by Hollywood stars, as well as wives and daughters of political leaders – creating prestigious role models for the poorer, middle-class members of society.
In 1948, an N.W. Ayer copywriter named Frances Gerety, had a flash of inspiration and came up with the slogan “A Diamond is Forever” – a fitting slogan that reminds people that a diamond is a memorial to love, and as such, must stay forever in the family, never to be sold. Ironically, Gerety never married and died a spinster.
Equating diamonds with romance wasn’t enough and toward the end of the 1950s, N.W. Ayer found that the Americans were ready for the next logical step – making a diamond ring a necessary element in betrothal.
Since the agency first linked diamonds to romance in the late 1930s, a new generation of young people had grown to a marriageable age, and they’d been taught that a diamond ring was a necessity when it came to engagements – to the extent that those who couldn’t afford one at the time of their marriage, would defer their purchase rather than forgo it.
Of course, the agency were clever and managed to take things one step further. After noticing that women were involved in the selection of their engagement ring and had a tendency to pick cheaper rings, De Beers introduced the surprise element, which would see a man pick the diamond on their own – pushing the message that the more expensive the stone, the better they’ll look in the eyes of their partner.
Even a set of guidelines was provided for men – differing by nation, they stated that American men should spent two months of their salary on an engagement ring, whereas men in the United Kingdom should spend one month and those in Japan should spend three months.
Was it really the most brilliant advertising campaign of all time, you ask? Well… in 1939, when De Beers engaged N.W. Ayer to change the way the American public viewed diamonds, its annual sales of the gem was $23 million. By 1979, the ad agency had helped De Beers expand its sales to more than $2.1 billion.
If you’re looking for a diamond of your own, why not take a look at our stunning selection of engagement rings, wedding rings, and fine jewellery. We have showrooms in Manchester, Cheshire and London.
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