One of my favorite shows on TV is ESPN’s series 30 for 30. They are mini documentaries about important historical moments in sports, with the tagline “What if I told you…” The directors proceed to present a story the audience believes they know, only to reveal there is more than meets the eye. I’ve always felt the jewelry industry should come up with an tagline about engagement rings: “What if I told you, diamonds weren’t always a girl’s only best friend…”
The trend of diamonds in engagements rings is fascinating because it’s assumed in Western culture that diamonds are what people are supposed to use. But as history teaches us, there is always another side. While the presence of diamonds as the most popular engagement stone is impossible to ignore, jewelers may not realize the usage of diamonds is a young and more modern movement in the West.
“Diamonds are forever.” “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” These are two of the most popular catch phrases that increased diamond sales. De Beers and Marilyn Monroe did for diamonds what Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign did for sports products. These catchy slogans were designed so that consumers would never forget. It was brilliant. The money and sales poured in, as customers could not live without the popular choice for jewelry. In a classic case of “keeping up with the Joneses,” everyone needed a diamond to show their affection for each other. In a relatively short period of time, diamonds escalated to the most popular gemstone on the market.
While diamonds held their place throughout history amongst royalty and aristocrats, it wasn’t until the discovery of the Kimberley Mine in the late 1800s that sales in the West began to explode. This discovery coincided with Europe’s reinvigoration with diamonds and the United States’ first foray onto the scene. It was the perfect match: new money, new upper class, and a new fine gem to appease the spending appetite. As advertising began to increase, so too did popularity. As a results, diamonds became the number one gem used for engagement rings.
As advertising for diamonds increased sales, they left in their wake the other gemstones. Throughout history, emeralds, rubies and sapphires all held a special place amongst royalty and aristocrats. Being able to purchase these stones showed a sign of status. In many cultures, they were used as engagement rings and signs of affection. However, it was not something that continued in the nouveau riche United States or with Europe advancing out of its older royal ties. But as trends continue to drive popularity, breaking the norm becomes the next popular phase. The new tradition is standing out from the crowd.
The most recent trend can be seen in the influx of color stones in engagement rings. Whether it is color diamonds or the ever-present emerald, ruby and sapphire, color is in vogue. From Princess Diana and Kate Middleton’s sapphire to Mark Zuckerberg’s ruby, there has been a rush of color. Consumers want to mimic the popular Hollywood stars or the Royal family. It is this kind of publicity that put diamonds on the map as the go-to gem. Now, color stones are receiving the same boost to regain their popularity from centuries ago. Once forgotten and over-looked, color is rising in engagement sales and looking to remain popular alongside its diamond counterpart.
Konrad Darling is the sales and marketing director for Darling Imports, a color gemstone wholesaler offering genuine and synthetics as well as lapidary services and stone identification. For more information contact Darling Imports at 800-282-8436 or www.darlingimports.com.