Flashback Friday: “A Diamond is Forever.”

It’s coming up on June and the summer wedding season is ready to swing into high gear.

This Flashback Friday’s advertisement features the iconic slogan, “A Diamond is Forever.”

Created by N.W. Ayer & Son for diamond behemoth De Beers in 1948, the slogan has endured for over fifty years.  Not only is this campaign a classic because of its longevity, it’s a classic because it completely changed the way we think about diamond rings.

De Beers didn’t just advertise diamond engagement rings. They invented the tradition.

The father and son duo of Ernest and Harry Oppenheimer established, well, a pretty controversial diamond monopoly during the first half of the twentieth century.  [Really: Ernest shut down diamond mines to decrease supply and keep diamond prices high.]  But that wasn’t enough for the company.  As the United States emerged from the Great Depression, the Oppenheimers decided to start selling diamonds to everyone, not just the wealthy folks.  And how did they do that?

They created a diamond product that would appeal to the masses: a diamond engagement ring.

De Beers established the diamond engagement ring as a symbol of everlasting love, making it a sign of a religious commitment–not just an accessory.

Here’s what De Beers has to say:

“The diamond occupies a truly unique place in history. A dazzling fragment of eternity, it has shed its divine light through thousands of years, captivating mankind with its otherworldly beauty. De Beers pioneered the iconic positioning of diamonds in our contemporary culture, as a symbol of everlasting love because like true love, a diamond is forever.”

Short version: “We invented the diamond engagement ring. Keep buying them!”

Essentially, De Beers harnessed the power of advertising to invent a social expectation that required newlyweds to purchase an expensive diamond ring from, obviously, De Beers.  The company actually created social norms with its advertising. Wild.

So, here we are in 2011, six decades after De Beers introduced the “Diamond is Forever” slogan.  The concept behind the advertising campaign has become a part of American culture.

I know someone who has been invited to a whopping fifteen weddings over the next couple months.  I wonder how many of the brides have diamond engagement rings.

Year: 1948
Agency Credit: N.W. Ayer & Son

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