Tracing Diamonds Through The 20th Century

2257 words - 9 pages

In the 1940s, DeBeers consolidated mines hired N.W. Ayer advertising to market their diamonds in America. During the depression, DeBeers had made the transition of from marketing the diamond as a good to marketing it as an emotion. Diamonds were marketed as an essential part of relationships, courtship, and proposals through their placement in Hollywood film scenes and carefully phrased advertisements (Ghilani, 232). Diamonds, which had been given value solely by DeBeers’ control of their supply, became the ultimate symbol of love and commitment – because, after all, love doesn’t experience recessions like commodities do.
As the Second World War continued, the goal was to influence consumer behavior with political movements, because a war ravaged Europe left the U.S. as the best possible market. But, in a time when the entirety of America was in a type of conservative war mode, who would be lining up to buy something as luxurious as a diamond? Ayer tried to the meld the values of patriotism, American citizenship, and luxury consumerism (Ghilani). DeBeers’ gems were no longer just diamonds, they were “Fighting Diamonds,” “Jewelry Jeeps,” and Diamonds that “go to the front” (Ghilani, 236). Thus, their ads juxtaposed the images of shiny diamonds on rings and industrial diamonds cutting the materials to build the machines that would lead the United States to Victory (235).
In 1944, DeBeers placed an ad in Life magazine that did just that. The ad, which can be found attached, shows a church with writing above it that describes a diamond as the treasured keepsake of any young woman in “the days of parting that so often follow” weddings – referring to the periods where young men had to go off to fight (DeBeers’ Advertisement). A blurb below the picture reports that the few precious gems that are found while mining for the industrial diamonds - “a key priority for high-speed war production” – finance the production for “fighting” diamonds (DeBeers’ Advertisement). The ad’s duality is actually brilliant. It simultaneously appeals to both the costumer’s personal emotions and their sense of civic duty. The diamond would be an irreplaceable comfort to the woman left behind at home and if you were going to buy, why not buy from a trusted company that was key in the victory effort? DeBeer was adamant about establishing itself as one of the “victory industries” (Ghilani, 234). Its diamonds, according to the ads, were being used to cut the materials that were rapidly being turned into Allied war machines. However, it was later discovered that DeBeers’ claims that wartime gemstone sales funded the mining of industrial diamonds were false, as the DeBeers vaults were already full and many mines had been temporarily shuttered (Roberts, 25; Ghilani, 235).
Still, there is another perspective to be examined concerning the DeBeers role in the U.S. war effort. During World War II, African diamonds supplied 90% of Allied force needs (Roberts, 24). The U.S. Justice...

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