This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Why a Diamond Means Forever: The Creation of the Diamond Engagement Ring Tradition in the United States, 1939-1996




Pequignot, Jennifer

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation




In 1947 “a diamond is forever” became the official slogan of the De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited and is to date one of the most recognizable slogans in the history of American advertising. This dissertation utilizes De Beers advertisements and N.W. Ayer & Son agency records from the Great Depression through the early 1990s to explain how diamond engagement rings became the symbol of love and commitment in American culture. “Why a Diamond Means Forever” also seeks to explain how the success of these campaigns was due to N.W. Ayer & Son’s ability to adapt its De Beers advertisements to changes in the American economy, courtship, and marriage. Consequently, these advertisements reinforced the changing gender roles of the period by portraying a domestic ideal of women as dependent consumers and men as providers. The fifty-seven-year span of N.W. Ayer & Son De Beers advertisements demonstrate not only the reflected and prescribed gender roles within marriages, they demonstrate American culture’s continual march to meet the male provider and female dependent consumer marriage model. Despite the rise of Second Wave Feminism in the late 1960s and early 1970s and an increasing social acceptance of wives working outside of the home to help support their families, this ideal family model of a male provider and a female dependent consumer lasted well into the 1990s and lingers into the present. Despite all the social changes of the last few decades of the Cold War, this vision of the nuclear family endured because it offered a sense of contentment and security in a seemingly insecure world.