With this combination of qualities, it is easy to see why it has been an object of obsession, ever since its discovery. However, I have come to believe that throughout our recent history of the gem, its cultural significance out weighs its functionality. Since, their discovery, diamonds have meant many things to many people. It has always been of the same beauty as it is today, but it started out as an evolutionary tool. The supreme hardness of the diamond makes it a fundamental industrial material that affects everyday life.
According to the Museum of Natural History, It has three primary roles in industry: it is used as a cutting tool, it is imbedded in another material and used as a tool or abrasive, and it is also turned to powder or paste for grinding and polishing. It is selected for such use where its hardness and resistance to abrasion its long working life and fast cutting action outweigh its cost(AMNH). For any type of stone or masonry, as well as all types of metal that requires drilling, shaping, or polishing, diamonds may perform the task.
In fact, diamonds are in such demand that, four times the amount produced naturally is grown synthetically for industry alone. That amounts to over 500 million carats or 100 metric tons (AMNH). As you can see, there are many functional uses for diamonds. They have created options, never thought possible, with previous technologies. Some of these things include; shaping eyeglasses, other gems, computer chips, and even blades used in critical surgeries. Record needles have used diamonds in for producing music for about fifty years. Unfortunately, due to ruthless marketing and advertising, the diamonds path soon changed.
[As I stated above] Diamonds have always contained the same beauty. However, before 1938, the value of diamonds derived primarily from their worth as a rare stone. In 1938, the New York advertising agency of N. W. Ayers(r) was hired. Their job was to change the public attitude about diamonds. A company you might have heard of, DeBeers(r) the largest controller and harvester of diamonds in the world hired the agency. These two companies wanted to transform diamonds from a financial investment, to a symbol of committed and everlasting love.
Finally, in 1947, an Ayers(r) advertising copywriter came up with the slogan a diamond is forever and the rest they say, is history (IBC). DeBeers'(r) new slogan revolutionized the diamond market. With their new symbol of love and faith, the diamond came to represent many different things from earlier days. Today the diamond symbolizes wealth, durability, status, and peerless quality. Across time and cultures, diamonds have also been associated with invulnerability, lighting, magic, healing, protection, and poisoning (AMNH).
In the past, this beautiful nearly flawless gem was an extraordinary technological gain. However, today the combination of their beauty and near imperfection, makes the diamond the most sought after gem in the world. Due to advertisement and DeBeers(r) new slogan, diamonds became the cultural icon that they are. You see diamonds today in many forms: Earrings, necklaces, rings, watches and any other piece of jewelry you can imagine. I have even [personally] seen diamonds on a persons teeth. With all of these new places to put diamonds and the ever-growing demand to own them, it seems the views have changed.
Besides the status symbols diamonds deliver they also represent longevity. By pairing an intimate personal commitment and a gem that lasted forever, they gave the notion that this was the only gift that can symbolize commitment. The pressure for a man to buy his new bride a symbol of their eternal love and loyalty for each other is extreme. It almost seems absurd, in this day and time, that a man would not buy a diamond to offer a woman for her hand in marriage. There is even a diamond guide: The four Cs.
This guide helps a person understand these things: Cut, Color, Carat and Clarity of diamonds. This guide allows magnified inspection to prove purity of the gem. This also allows retailers to increase prices on gems that reach higher standards. Well, at least they last forever! Unfortunately, although a diamond lasts forever, after time companies suggest an upgrade to larger gems that represent stronger love. With this staggering support of logic, the diamond industry will forever boom. They have helped lead our culture, as well as many others, into almost idolizing the diamond.
In my opinion, human desire for diamonds shows how advertisers have done their job. We have allowed a company to decide what we think is valuable. The ads for diamonds appeal to our inner desires to have something rare and precious. It seems to be in us all, to want nice things, but diamonds have coerced us to want more. They symbolize power and success and for some, diamonds represent quality of life. They are our cultures only remaining treasures; with the help of DeBeers(r) and other diamond retailers, it will remain that way until the end of our time.