In 1948, an Ayer copywriter penned one of the most famous slogans in advertising history: “Diamonds are Forever.” Alongside that, was another slogan: “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”
Back in the 1930s, De Beers had run a campaign that advocated men spend one month’s salary on their engagement ring (it’s unclear if this was Ayer or not). But by the 1980s, De Beers would run another, similar campaign — only this time, a proper diamond engagement ring should cost at least two full months’ worth of work. Together, the two campaigns were an astonishing success.
“These two achievements — making the diamond ring an essential part of getting married and dictating how much a man should pay — make it one of the most successful bits of marketing ever undertaken,” Dr. TC Melewar, professor of marketing and strategy at Middlesex University, told the BBC.
The onslaught of marketing, from the memorable slogans and getting Hollywood involved (Marilyn Monroe sang “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in 1953’s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”) made diamonds a major element of American wedding culture.
According to Proctor, “Whereas early in the century almost no one in the United States owned a diamond engagement ring, by 1950 about half of all brides would receive one. By 1960 the figure had risen to nearly 80 percent. Even working-class brides were expected to be able to display a diamond.”