Have you ever wondered how diamonds became the creme de la creme of gemstones? Yes, diamonds are the hardest mineral (with a Mohs score of 10), and they do have the unique ability to reflect light in the colors of the rainbow when properly cut (a quality known as fire). But it’s hard to deny that other stones are just as captivating, especially when we factor in different tastes. Plus, diamonds aren’t even particularly rare (in fact, they’re one of the most common gems on earth).
Yet, somehow, contemporary culture has maintained its adoration of the diamond. Since most of us can remember, diamonds have been the symbol of status, wealth, glamour, and even romantic love. While there are plenty of reasons to value diamonds, our generations-old fixation with the stone may actually be partially rooted in some clever marketing.
It all began in the 19th century. Thanks to what writer Edward Jay Epstein refers to as “the diamond invention,” marketers in the diamond industry were able to perpetuate the idea that diamonds are rare and incredibly valuable. This campaign, however, was born precisely because recently discovered large diamond mines threatened the profitable balance of supply and demand. Until 1870, diamonds were primarily found in a few riverbeds and in the jungles of Brazil, but a major discovery of diamonds near the Orange River in South Africa rendered diamonds more common—and therefore potentially less able to fetch a steep price.
In response, diamond investors combined their interests in De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd. in 1888. Although De Beers went by several names in different countries, its mission was singular—control the diamond industry and foster the illusion that diamonds were still rare and exclusive. To this end, the monopoly relied on a marketing scheme connecting diamonds to sentiment. In 1947, diamonds were cemented as a symbol of eternal love and high status through the famous “A Diamond Is Forever” ad campaign.
The heavy marketing behind diamonds doesn’t have to ruin the stone for anyone, however. Regardless of diamonds’ ubiquity, they can still feel incredibly special once they’re in a perfect setting—and especially if they’re a gift from a loved one. And let’s not forget the allure of vintage diamonds, which usually have an interesting backstory. Also, there’s plenty of opportunities to be a positive force in the diamond industry. By supporting artisanal diamond miners and working with your jeweler to ensure your diamonds are conflict-free, you’ll be contributing to a market that promotes fair treatment of workers. Learn more here.
Are you a diamond lover? What’s your favorite diamond piece?
More about diamonds:
Photos: Wikimedia Commons, De Beers, Barbara Michelle Jacobs
Reimaged engagement ring.
Our personal tastes change as we evolve and encounter new experiences. The thing you once loved in your twenties may no longer hold the same allure for you in your thirties or forties. A style that inspired you in your forties may lose its sparkle for you in your fifties, and so on.
This is a natural process that should be celebrated, not feared or regretted. As the poet Mary Oliver writes:
“We do one thing or another; we stay the same, or we change. Congratulations, if you have changed.”
Of course, your evolved tastes can pose a bit of a conundrum when a cherished piece or an investment piece (like an engagement ring or wedding band) no longer suit your current aesthetic. We may be faced with the choice of leaving it unaltered (but never gaining back the desire to wear it regularly) or altering it in some way with the hope of creating a new version of the piece that you’d enjoy wearing more frequently.
Needless to say, the choice to alter such a piece carries its own risks, so it’s important to take time to think through your idea and work with a jeweler you trust. You can even ask to see photos of similar projects the jeweler has worked on and inquire about their experience altering a pre-made or vintage piece.
There are several ways to begin designing alteration(s) to your jewelry. First, list the things you’d like to change—what no longer appeals to you about the piece? If it’s a ring, is the band too thick? What about the texture of the metal? Its color? Next, is there anything you’d like to see added? Would you like to include a stone setting for a new diamond? Would you like the band engraved?
If you’re feeling stumped, look at jewelry catalogs or scan Pinterest for fresh ideas. If a style leaps out to you, be specific about what appeals to you. You can even check our tips for couples designing their own engagement ring since many may apply to jewelry redesign.
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.
When Barbara Michelle Jacobs jeweler Barbara Polinksy found herself wanting to change the look of her engagement ring, she turned to a family heirloom for ideas (and then some).
Using her grandfather’s wedding band, Polinksy created a new (i.e. repurposed) band and included a tapered bezel setting for the diamond from her original engagement ring. This process could be replicated with a heirloom band of your own—or with a vintage piece from Etsy or Ebay.
Altering your engagement ring, wedding band, or any other significant piece of jewelry is not a DIY project (unless you’re a professional jeweler, of course!). Such important work should be handled by a jeweler that you trust and enjoy collaborating with.
Photos: Barbara Polinsky