How Diamonds became Forever.
The four word sentiment that started out in 1947 as just a moment of inspiration is as iconic today as it was then. Marking 73+ years since the campaign, 'A Diamond is Forever' is one of the most recognizable signature lines of all time.
How Diamonds became Forever
Diamond engagement rings have not always been worn as a symbol of love. It was not until the 15th century, amongst royalty and aristocracy, that a diamond ring became the celebrated symbol of commitment, love and marriage.
It was in the 19th century, after the Industrial Revolution that diamonds became more accessible to the wider public. However, after the devastation of the two world wards, diamonds had lost their sparkle. Had it not been for a young woman working at the Philadelphia based advertising agency, N. W Ayer, diamonds may not have regained their sparkle.
Mary Frances Gerety was hired to write for women's products only, with De Beers being her main account. Four years into her career at N.W Ayer, and just like any other working day in 1947, Gerety would go onto change the attitude of females working in the advertising world with her spark of genius. Gerety was working late and had been on a series of journeys to create a signature line for a new De Beers campaign.
Finally, still determined and attentive, in a fleeting moment of inspiration Gerety wrote down those four, iconic words, 'A Diamond is Forever'.
The next morning, surrounded by her associates, she presented her signature line - a line that was initially met with hesitancy due to its unusual style. However, it was this line that would transform both the diamond and advertising industry.
Marketed the idea - not a diamond or brand.
Movie idols, the paragons of romance for the mass audience, would be given diamonds to use as their symbols of indestructible love. In addition, the agency suggested offering stories and society photographs to selected magazines and newspapers which would reinforce the link between diamonds and romance.
Stories wold stress the size of diamonds that celebrities presented to their loved ones, and photographs would conspicuously show the glittering stone on the hand of a well-known woman. Fashion designers would talk on radio programs about the "trend towards diamonds" that Ayer planned to start.
The agency had organized, in 1946, a weekly service called "Hollywood Personalities," which provided 125 leading newspapers with descriptions of the diamonds worn by movie stars. In 1947, the agency commissioned a series of portraits of "engaged socialites." The idea was to create prestigious "role models" for the poorer middle-class wage-earners.
The advertising agency explained, in its 1948 strategy paper:
"We spread the word of diamonds worn by stars of screen and stage, by wives and daughters of political leaders, by an woman who can make the grocer's wife and the mechanic's sweetheart say 'I wish I had what she has.'"
The Magic of Gerety
Determined and ambitious, Gerety was one of the few women working in advertising, in fact just working in general. The role of many women in the 1940's and 50's was one of a homemaker; staying at home, looking after the children and running the household. Gerety's, however, was one of empowerment.
Gerety's influence wasn't just in the advertising world. She has gone to inspire in music, TV and film.
Mad Men is a renowned TV series abotu one of New York's most prestigious ad agencies at the beginning of the 1960s and Gerety was the original Peggy Olson. Fearless and strong, the character Peggy Olson became a feminist icon. Like Gerety, she never became distracted from her goals and became the double signifies of change. She represents the change for women in the 1960s and an evolution of representations of women in modern media.
Gerety's powerful statement also inspired Ian Fleming's 1956, fourth James Bond Novel, 'Diamonds are Forever', and Shirley Bassey's song for the film in 1971.