How Ancient Is The Tradition of Diamond Engagement Rings? The Answer May Surprise You

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Today, a guy offering a diamond engagement ring with his proposal of marriage seems so common as to give us the idea that this was always so, or is a tradition going way back in time. Not so. Would you be surprised to learn that this notion became prominent and marketed by the De Beers company in the 1930s? The idea was to sell more diamonds, of course. They were used sporadically in earlier times.

The De Beers company is a master of understanding how supply and demand effect price. By successfully starting a tradition involving diamonds, not rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, De Beers increased the demand for diamonds. De Beers has been legendary in their parceling out just so many diamonds each year thus limiting the supply.

De Beers cultivated a limited group of diamond wholesalers that were in the group by invitation only. Several times a year De Beers offered these dealers just so many diamonds at a set price. If a dealer failed to buy them, he was out of the coveted group, permanently. Less supply and more demand equate to higher prices.

De Beers went further than just supply and demand and promoted the idea that a man should spend about a month’s salary for a diamond engagement ring. Later, De Beers upped the ante and promoted spending two month’s salary. It was a brilliant plan because the lavish token indicated that the man made enough money to be a good provider and that the lady was worth it.

By the 1940s, the promotion was a success and diamond sales have never looked back. By the 1950s, the tradition was so well established that Hollywood made a movie starring Marilyn Monroe called “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds.” In the movie, the 1950s icon sings “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.” If that didn’t seal the deal on diamond rings then nothing would have. But, not to worry, by the 1950s, diamonds were indelibly associated with engagement rings for beautiful women.

By the 1960s, Richard Burton would buy Elizabeth Taylor a 33 carat engagement ring. But, in 1968, Burton bought Taylor the rock, a 69 carat pear-shaped rock that stunned the world. Other famous diamond rings include JFK and Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953, Prince Rainier of Monaco and Grace Kelley in 1956, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1980, and Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe in 1954.

By 1954, Marilyn Monroe could truly say: “These rocks don’t lose their shape; diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”

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