30 December 2009 “Forever” Stabilized the Diamond Market
In February of 1982, The Atlantic published an article by Edward Jay Epstein asking titularly Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond? As it turns out, I have tried to sell many diamonds. Nevertheless, while my stint at Diamonds International began with fairly extensive instruction in diamond history, it had never occurred to me to ask why people never sold their diamonds, only why people bought them in the first place — the latter question to perhaps be explored in a future post. Epstein answers the former in his article —
The diamond invention is far more than a monopoly for fixing diamond prices; it is a mechanism for converting tiny crystals of carbon into universally recognized tokens of wealth, power, and romance. To achieve this goal, De Beers had to control demand as well as supply. Both women and men had to be made to perceive diamonds not as marketable precious stones but as an inseparable part of courtship and married life. To stabilize the market, De Beers had to endow these stones with a sentiment that would inhibit the public from ever reselling them. The illusion had to be created that diamonds were forever — “forever” in the sense that they should never be resold.