Masters of Illusion
1st September, 2003
Janine Roberts describes how De Beers cons the world into paying so much for its cheap, plentiful diamonds and turns a blind eye to the eradication of the oldest culture on the planet.
Forever, as the diminutive pop star Prince once sang, is a mighty long time. But for the world’s largest diamond company De Beers forever is not about time. It’s about money. It was in 1948 that an advertising agency working for De Beers first came up with the line ‘a diamond is forever’. The slogan was not a comment upon the legendary indestructibility of diamonds. Rather, the underlying message was: ‘Once you’ve bought a diamond, never sell it.’ But the purpose of the campaign was not so much to encourage people to keep diamonds as heirlooms as to discourage the market in second-hand gems; the second-hand market might limit the profitable (for De Beers) trade in ‘new’ diamonds. For diamonds, in fact, are not for ever. They are brittle and can burn.
The eternity ring – a ring inset with several small diamonds – is not, therefore, so much a symbolic expression of love given to one’s long-term partner. It is a marketing device thought up by De Beers and its ad agency in the 1970s to sell a surfeit of undersized diamonds that had been recently found in Siberia.
Eternity and indestructibility are just two of many illusions in the...
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