The diamond ring. What does it mean? What does the diamond reflect? Even for today’s generation, more focused on technology than gemstones, a diamond ring still means ‘love and marriage’. However, thanks to generational influences, the diamond’s deeper symbolism has significantly changed.
Diamond Ring: Changing Meanings
It is believed that the tradition of giving a ring to symbolize partnership began even in pre-historic times. Unpalatable to modern sensibilities, the giving of a ring has historically been a symbol of ownership. Of course, before the 20th century and the advancement of the feminist movement, the engagement and wedding ring were also a kind of insurance for a woman – with emotional as well as financial worth. But the diamond as a symbol of engagement and commitment only took hold in the late 1800s and early 1920s, after significant diamond deposits were found in South Africa and Brazil. Once, engagements were marked by simple bands or rings encrusted with more commonly available gemstones. Advances in diamond mining meant that diamonds were more accessible to couples wanting to commit to each other with a jewel.
Tough Times for Diamond Rings
Yet this was not to last. The Depression of the 1930s put diamonds into the ‘too expensive’ category. Amid the daily struggle for employment and basic needs, the diamond ring was just not an affordable option. It was only in the 1950s, when De beers launched its famous ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ marketing campaign that diamonds as a symbol of engagement really entered the popular consciousness.
De Beers didn’t rest with just the US market. The 1980s saw a huge marketing campaign in Japan that capitalized the booming industry based on ideas of romance. In the late 60s, less than 5% of Japanese women owned a diamond engagement ring. By the early 80s, the figure was a whopping 60%.
Millennials & Diamond Rings: A Love Story?
For millennials, tradition and romance are just not enough to sell diamond rings. Everything is new, from technology to self-expression, and this includes the symbolism of the diamond. Relationships in today’s generation are equal. It is more socially acceptable to remain single. Women are more independent, and are buying diamonds for themselves. The diamond has now become less about romance and more about the experience. Or the marking of a milestone, such as a promotion, graduation or beating cancer.
Today’s diamond marketers are trying to draw in the new generation of diamond buyers with a campaign to replace the iconic ‘Diamonds are Forever.’ The slogan to make millennials fall in love with diamonds is ‘Real is Rare’. It appeals to the millennials’ desire for authenticity, a deeper experience, and the diamond’s innate uniqueness,
The change in the meaning of the diamond has morphed to reflect the changing generational ideal. What’s more, the diamond is not only a reflection of the times, but of the people themselves.