Diamonds are a part of most couples’ journey, starting with an engagement ring, through to the traditional diamond gift to celebrate 60 years of marriage. A diamond symbolises romance, devotion and eternal love, a traditional belief so successfully strengthened by marketing campaigns over the years that a diamond engagement ring has almost become a psychological necessity — a practice really, that is the result of a brilliant marketing campaign at the beginning of the 20th century which made us spend more on diamonds.

Wedding anniversary gifts

The tradition of wedding anniversary gifts is relatively recent, though two significant wedding anniversaries have been recognised for more than 1,000 years. Going back in history to the middle ages, a husband would present his wife with a silver wreath after 25 years and a gold wreath after 50 years.

It was during the 19th century that it gradually became popular to celebrate other wedding anniversaries, with symbolic gifts made out of different materials that grow in value over the course of the years in tandem with the investment that the couple have made in each other. By the early 1920s, the additional anniversaries that were celebrated most commonly were the first (cotton), fifth (wood), 10th (tin), 15th (crystal) and 20th (china).

It was at this time that businesses began to consider the profits that could be made from couples in love and celebrating their wedding anniversary. In 1937 the American National Retail Jewellers’ Association published a full list of wedding anniversaries, with modern variants arriving later. Anniversary gemstones, in which diamonds are listed for the 10th, 30th and 60th years and anniversary flowers, such as roses for the 15th and 50th anniversaries, were added later.

The 21st century

With the world changing, with women increasingly empowered economically and where there is a greater degree of equality, the place of diamonds is now part of a much more differentiated market when it comes to gifts to celebrate love, marriage and wedding anniversaries

Many are looking at alternatives that hold real value. Keeping with the tradition of gold wreaths dating back to the fifth century, couples are choosing to gift gold-dipped roses that last a lifetime as a symbol of warmth, affection, friendship and caring. These are usually specially grown red roses picked in their prime.  As a red rose symbolising true love, this gift is one that can be shared by both partners.

The diamond tradition is all down to marketing 

The brilliant marketing campaign for diamond engagement rings, which made us spend more, does not go back to some middle age pagan tradition, but rather to a successful marketing campaign by the famous diamond mining and trading company, DeBeers.

DeBeers, a business dominant in the diamond industry in the tw20th century, created and then manipulated demand for diamonds through consistently themed advertising over several decades, which ignored the comparatively low functional and financial value of diamonds to target affluent individuals to make large sums of money.

After probably the most comprehensive research ever conducted just before the first world war in 1914, the core idea of the De Beers marketing campaign was to link diamonds to being symbolic of love. The company focused on making the purchase of a diamond ring compulsory for an engagement, even though this served no practical purpose.  This led to the launch of the concept ‘a diamond is forever’ symbolising love, commitment and marriage. The message is still being pushed today with the company introducing in the latter years of the 20th century a ‘sweet 16’ pendant, a diamond anniversary ring for a 10th wedding anniversary and a 25th wedding anniversary necklace.

DeBeers was clever enough to broaden their initial research to include men. The results led the company to provide a system to help them buy a ring, introducing industry terms such as carat weight, colour and clarity, which had not previously been necessary. DeBeers got around the issue of the true value of a diamond ring by referencing a diamond ring to the wages men earned, with the slogan ‘How can you make one month’s salary last forever?’ Surprisingly, the expectation of spending a full month’s wage on an engagement ring still remains today for many.

Brilliant marketing campaign

The price ticket of a diamond has never really been related to its actual value, but to the pride, status validation, bragging rights and other emotional benefits that it offers. Marketing to these values and aspirations rather than marketing the product for its actual value has created far more profit for the DeBeers than would otherwise have been the case, which is what makes this a brilliant marketing campaign.

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