Are diamonds really ‘forever’? – by Erin Blakemore (National Geographic – March 21, 2024)

Thanks to a modern marketing campaign, the not-really-rare gem became the iconic stone for eternal love.

When Gladys Babson Hannaford visited Florida State University in 1960, her lectures weren’t exactly part of the curriculum—and Hannaford, also known as the “Diamond Lady,” wasn’t your ordinary teacher. A diamond “expert” who gave hundreds of “educational” talks on the gems annually, Hannaford was actually employed by an ad agency with a simple, if ambitious, mission: Make American women want diamonds.

Diamonds aren’t rare, and their prices were set by at the time by the ad agency’s glittering client, global diamond conglomerate De Beers. Nor were diamond engagement rings a historic tradition in the U.S. Yet Hannaford preached that diamonds were precious gems with important emotional and historical resonance. “The enduring quality of a diamond is associated with an enduring love,” she told students, encouraging her female listeners to demand diamond rings from their future fiancés.

Hannaford’s lectures were just one facet of an ongoing, decades-long campaign to popularize diamond engagement rings. But the now-obligatory gifts were anything but traditional when De Beers began promoting the abundant commodity as a rare symbol of romance.

Royal love tokens

The Indian subcontinent and South America were the world’s primary sources of diamonds until the 19th century. But though the gems were long known in the ancient world, they only caught on in western Europe beginning in the 13th century.

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