Are Diamonds Really Forever?
In this video, Edward Jay Epstein is interviewed and asked about this very question regarding diamond being forever.
Back in 1980 you wrote a cover story in The Atlantic Called “Have you ever tried to sell a diamond?” which today is among the 12 best magazine articles in history. Why did a story about the diamonds industry have such a long lasting impact?
The impact that this cover story had was that people had the idea that diamonds would always increase in value. Hence why the famous line of “diamonds are forever” came to existence. In reality, the value of diamonds is not based on reality but on an advertising campaign.
You say the modern diamonds business was an invention of an international cartel. How was it created?
Going back to the late 1880s in which diamonds where truly a rare gem. Very few existed and were found in rivers by pure chance/luck. Later, prospectors in south Africa found a blue shape in the city of kimberley. So they began digging this blue earth. They found that there were diamonds by the ton within this material. They essentially dug out millions of diamonds. As a result of this some diamonds went from being rare to being the most common elements in the world. Simply mining them like you would coal or copper.
So people got together and put together a cartel to restrict how many diamonds would be able to come out of the earth per year and into the diamond market. First they figured out how many diamonds would need to be taken out and put on the market by first finding out how many people were going to be getting engaged per year. Young people being the main target market for these gems.
Once they had the number set. They controlled it. And the next thing was, to build the price up. This all took place between 1910-Present.
Are diamonds rare?
They were rare a long time ago. Now they are the second most item in America. The first being television sets.
How did De Beers create this illusion that diamonds are so scarce that they are forever?
The diamond cartel, when they became organized and were able to control supply. Which controlling the supply at that time wasn’t that difficult since there were only a few diamond mines in that time. They had to create demand along with keeping control of supply. One way was advertising, and another was basically product placement such as putting diamonds in movies and songs. Building a popular idea that diamonds and love are connected.
With the man chasing a woman and the only resort to catching that woman being; buying a diamond and presenting it to her in a fancy little box. This is the illusion that needed to be implanted into the minds of everyone in the U.S. then across the world.
In Hollywood movies, diamonds are associated with love. How did diamonds become part of the Hollywood mythology?
America is a country of immigrants. But everyone went through the same process of watching movies that were first silent movies and then the movies with sound. And in those movies they got a picture of how you get your woman.
All of these movies do a good job at portraying the illusion of how to get it done.
So basically these cartels would bribe producers into making the theme of their movies around diamonds in exchange for a diamond.
They would have the main character of a movie which of course needed to be a man, giving the woman a diamond that would surprise her. Showing that giving a woman a diamond would be the best form of captivating them and showing your love for them.
This essentially served as getting the message across that diamond and love went together just like ham and eggs.