“Diamonds are forever.”
Now that Kim Kardashian and her two-million-dollar engagement ring have announced details of her wedding to New Jersey Nets power forward Kris Humphries, we thought we’d examine that phrase a little. And it turns out that it is, in a word, bullshit.
Unless “forever” started in 1947, when that slogan was written by Frances Gerety, a copywriter working for an advertising agency called N.W. Ayer & Son. In an effort to reverse the falling price of diamonds in America and the lack of interest in their purchase, De Beers (the largest diamond cartel in the world), hired the ad agency to force feed the American public the idea that every man had to buy the biggest and most expensive diamond ring he could afford for his fiancé, that the size of the diamond was equivalent to how much the man valued the woman.
De Beers and their ad agency also created the false idea of the scarcity of diamonds to make the public think they were far more rare than they actually are. De Beers stored most of the diamonds they owned in vaults, circulating only a small percentage of their stock to nurture the illusion that diamonds were the most rare of all gemstones. Fun fact: they’re not. Rubies are.
N.W. Ayer & Son also worked tirelessly to influence popular mass media of the time. They convinced movie studios to include scenes of for diamonds and songs about diamonds, and they arranged countless public appearances for movie stars to show off the diamonds they were wearing. (Of course, they did all of this without alerting the public to the inhumane practices that were going on in virtually all of their diamond mines in and around South Africa.)
They whipped the public into a diamond-buying frenzy, and 60-plus years after the launch of that initial ad campaign, most American women wouldn’t consider a proposal of marriage complete without a big shiny rock in a little box. And most men will oblige.
Why this is silly
If being duped by a massively powerful cartel into shelling out thousands of dollars for something that is completely useless isn’t enough to stop you from buying a diamond engagement ring, then let’s take a look at the inequality of the idea itself.
De Beers suggests that a man looking to give the ultimate gift of eternal love to his sweetheart should carve out three months’ worth of his salary and hand it over to them. (Humphries and his 3.2-million-dollar salary, now in jeopardy thanks to the NBA lockout, must not have gotten the memo.) This is gross, not net. In 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau reported an average mean income for full-time workers, aged 25 to 64 of $39,509. Since that was five years ago, let’s round up to 40k because it makes the math easy. Three months salary is 10 grand.
That’s right, De Beers wants you to spend 10,000 dollars on one of their diamonds, and there’s a good chance that your lady wants the same thing. Let’s assume the brain washing worked. Let’s assume you can’t wait to write off the last three months of working a job you hate to buy a tiny, plentiful rock that some 12-year-old kid in Sierra Leone mined even though the process could easily be simulated in a lab. Fine. But what’s she getting you to celebrate the beauty and love that will no doubt last for the rest of your lives? Oh, right…not a goddamn thing.