By Published on .

In the late 1930s, perhaps as a result of the lean Depression years, diamond rings were rapidly losing ground as an integral part of the engagement ritual. Diamond sales were steadily declining.

In 1939, Sir Ernest Oppenheimer of the South African diamond mining company DeBeers asked N.W. Ayer & Son to reverse that trend. Ayer's initial campaign began by using fine art by Picasso, Dali and Dufy to convey a message of romance, permanence and investment. Copy that read like poetry provided information about diamond clarity, color, cut and carat weight.

The famous line didn't come into play until 1948, when copywriter Frances Gerety was given the assignment. Late one night, as she finished up ads to present to DeBeers, she realized she had forgotten to include a signature line. "Dog-tired, I put my head down and said, 'Please, God, send me a line,' " she recalled. Then she scribbled "A diamond is forever."

"The next morning I knew I had something good," Gerety said. She did. By 1951, 80% of American marriages began with a diamond. The line became so entrenched in American culture that many people never realized it was an advertising vehicle.

In the 1960s, when tradition was suspect and marriage was on the decline, "A diamond is forever" took on a deeper, more spiritual meaning.

Later, "A diamond is for now" celebrated avant-garde design in a high-fashion

Most Popular
In this article: