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Diamonds and Love: The Story Behind the Sparkle

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Diamonds are symbols of rarity, luxury, and romance. But ever wondered what connects diamonds to love? This blog post uncovers the intriguing story of how a powerful cartel shaped the world's perception of diamonds as the ultimate symbol of love and commitment.

The Diamond Monopoly

The diamond market was once almost entirely controlled by one company, a scenario that raises questions about the supposed rarity of diamonds. Despite their perceived scarcity, diamonds are surprisingly common in marital jewelry. This contradiction points to a powerful narrative crafted by the diamond industry, particularly regarding engagement rings.

The Two-Month Salary Rule

A widely accepted 'rule' suggests spending two months' salary on an engagement ring. But who set this standard? Contrary to popular belief, it wasn't derived from science or tradition but was a clever marketing strategy crafted by the diamond industry.

Diamonds: From Rare to Ubiquitous

Initially, diamonds were incredibly rare, found only in India's Golconda region. The invention of the 'scaif' by Flemish jeweler Lodewyk van Berken in 1476, a polishing wheel using diamond dust, revolutionized diamond cutting, enhancing their allure. However, the discovery of diamonds in South Africa in 1867 by Erasmus Jacobs led to a diamond rush, significantly increasing their availability. Cecil Rhodes capitalized on this opportunity, eventually founding De Beers and gaining control over a vast majority of the world's diamond production.

Cecil Rhodes and De Beers

Rhodes had ambitions beyond mining; he aimed to control the global diamond supply. With financial backing from N M Rothschild & Sons, Rhodes expanded his empire, manipulating diamond prices and exerting significant influence in the Cape Colony. His actions laid the foundation for what would become a powerful cartel in the diamond industry.

De Beers and the Diamond Engagement Ring

In the 1930s, a small market for jeweled engagement rings emerged in the U.S. Seizing this opportunity, De Beers hired the advertising firm N.W. Ayer to create a campaign that would link diamonds with love and romance. The firm's strategy included product placement in movies, stories in media featuring celebrities with diamond rings, and educational campaigns in schools, culminating in the iconic slogan "A Diamond is Forever" in 1948. This campaign was remarkably successful, transforming diamonds into a symbol of love and commitment.

The Antitrust Laws and De Beers

Despite De Beers' dominance, antitrust laws in the U.S. and European Union eventually caught up with the company. De Beers faced numerous lawsuits and, in the early 2000s, agreed to settle and renounce its anti-competitive practices, shifting its focus to jewelry manufacturing.

The Ethical Shift and Lab-Made Diamonds

Controversies like the blood diamond crisis led to an increased demand for ethical sourcing and lab-made diamonds. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, introduced to reduce conflict diamonds, marked a significant shift in the industry. However, the allure of diamonds continues, fueled by celebrity culture and ongoing marketing efforts.

The story of diamonds is complex and multifaceted, intertwining with themes of love, power, and marketing genius. While the diamond industry continues to evolve, the narrative created by De Beers remains deeply ingrained in our culture.

Further Reading and Engagement For those intrigued by the diamond industry's fascinating history, I recommend exploring Edward Jay Epstein's article "Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?" Additionally, stay tuned for more insightful content by subscribing to our blog.

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